Karl Marx Philosophy and Revolution Shlomo Avineri

Jewish Lives
Publication date:
10 Sep 2019
Yale University Press
240 pages: 210 x 146 x 22mm
1 b-w illus.
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From the prizewinning Jewish Lives series, a new exploration of Karl Marx's life through his intellectual contributions to modern thought

"A perceptive and fair-minded corrective to superficial treatments of the man."—Jonathan Rose, Wall Street Journal

Karl Marx (1818–1883)—philosopher, historian, sociologist, economist, current affairs journalist, and editor—was one of the most influential and revolutionary thinkers of modern history, but he is rarely thought of as a Jewish thinker, and his Jewish background is either overlooked or misrepresented. Here, distinguished scholar Shlomo Avineri argues that Marx’s Jewish origins did leave a significant impression on his work. Marx was born in Trier, then part of Prussia, and his family had enjoyed equal rights and emancipation under earlier French control of the area. But then its annexation to Prussia deprived the Jewish population of its equal rights. These developments led to the reluctant conversion of Marx’s father, and similar tribulations radicalized many young intellectuals of that time who came from a Jewish background.

Avineri puts Marx’s Jewish background in its proper and balanced perspective, and traces Marx’s intellectual development in light of the historical, intellectual, and political contexts in which he lived.

About Jewish Lives:

Jewish Lives is a prizewinning series of interpretative biography designed to explore the many facets of Jewish identity. Individual volumes illuminate the imprint of Jewish figures upon literature, religion, philosophy, politics, cultural and economic life, and the arts and sciences. Subjects are paired with authors to elicit lively, deeply informed books that explore the range and depth of the Jewish experience from antiquity to the present.

In 2014, the Jewish Book Council named Jewish Lives the winner of its Jewish Book of the Year Award, the first series ever to receive this award.

More praise for Jewish Lives:

“Excellent.” – New York times

“Exemplary.” – Wall St. Journal

“Distinguished.” – New Yorker

“Superb.” – The Guardian

Shlomo Avineri is professor emeritus of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. A leading Israeli political scientist, he is the author of The Socialand Political Thought ofKarl Marx and The Making of Modern Zionism.

"Besides being approachably succinct, Avineri’s sympathetic account is distinguished by its appearance in the highly regarded Jewish Lives series."—James Miller, New York Times

"Mr. Avineri’s treatment of Marx is a perceptive and fair-minded corrective to superficial treatments of the man. . . . [H]ere lies the central strength of this short biography: It tells us what Marx actually wrote."—Jonathan Rose, Wall Street Journal

“The biographer cuts through his subject’s [prose], distilling its underlying theory of man’s alienation from the work of his hands by the commercialization of labor in far simpler terms than the writer himself.”—Sara Jo Ben Zvi, Segula 

“Shlomo Avineri [. . .] presents a beautifully clear introduction to Marx's thought and its Hegelian origins”—Vernon Bogdanor, Jewish Chronicle

“Fascinating”—Colin Shindler, History Today

"[A] brilliant biography that drags Marx, kicking and screaming, back into the Rhinish Jewish community that shaped him. One can respect Marx’s desire to renounce his cultural heritage and to be judged as a cosmopolitan, global thinker. But Avineri deserves our gratitude for placing Marx in the context he chose to leave behind, not least because, beyond the purposes of yet another reinterpretation of Marx’s thought, this perspective yields new insights pertinent to today’s global challenges."—Yiannis Varoufakis, Project Syndicate

“Shlomo Avineri has written a wonderfully perceptive and nuanced biography of Karl Marx--paying all due attention (but no more than that) to Jewish interests, Marx's and ours. His book is both intellectually and politically engaging--and a pleasure to read.”—Michael Walzer, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ