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A Requiem for Karl Marx

A Requiem for Karl Marx

Frank E. Manuel

ISBN 9780674763272

Publication date: 09/01/1997

As Karl Marx the icon has fallen along with so many communist regimes, we are left with the mystery of Karl Marx the man, the complexities of a life that has profoundly affected millions. A Requiem for Karl Marx is Frank Manuel's searching meditation on that life, a learned and elegantly written engagement with the man and his work.

Manuel gives us a psychological portrait rendered with sympathy and critical detachment, a probing look at the connections between the private drama of Marx's life and his revolutionary ideas. Manuel pursues these connections from Marx's adolescence and education in Trier through his university studies, marriage to a German baroness, and early affiliation with French and German radical groups. Here we see Marx in moments of youthful rapture, in periods of despair, in maneuvers of blatant hypocrisy, in outbursts of self-mockery. We follow his involuted response to his status as a converted Jew, observe the psychic toll of debilitating bouts of illness, and witness the shattering effects of his aggressive, often brutal conduct toward friend and foe alike. Manuel analyzes in intricate detail the central role of Marx's enduring relationship with Friedrich Engels, which appears to transcend the bounds of friendship, and his changing behavior toward his wife, Jenny, the neurotic and tragic figure who shared his dismal London exile.

What becomes clear in this narrative is the link between Marx's personal life and his ideas about class struggle, revolutionary strategy, and utopia--as well as the impact of his personal vision and political tactics on the movements that followed him, down to our day.


  • Frank Manuel calls his wise and elegant study a requiem, but it is by no means clear that Marx is dead...[Manuel] is too fine a historian to suppose that a discredited doctrine exhausts its capacity to generate consequences...Manuel's book, part biography, part reflection on Marx's reputation and academic afterlife, is an excellent place to begin thinking about his largely nefarious impact. It is based on extended research into the Marx-Engels correspondence, and of course on Manuel's decades of study of the intellectual and political history of the West since the Enlightenment, its utopian traditions especially. The book is a calm yet scathing reckoning, dispassionate yet trenchant. The soul of the world's most famous materialist is not laid to rest, it is laid bare; and the result has the reader both admiring and recoiling...Manuel's biography is extremely powerful in explaining how much of Marx's analytical enterprise was driven by hatred...Manuel's book leaves us with a sense of wonder at the achievement and at its great cost; and this sense of wonder at the most familiar figure in the history of modern thought is a testament to the freshness, the candor and the intellectual tautness of this book.

    —Michael Ignatieff, New Republic


  • Frank E. Manuel was Kenan Professor of History, Emeritus, at New York University and Alfred and Viola Hart University Professor, Emeritus, at Brandeis University.

Book Details

  • 272 pages
  • 6 x 9 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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