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Marx's Das Kapital: A Biography

Marx's Das Kapital: A Biography - Francis Wheen I had to read Das Kapital when I was studying political science for my undergrad degree. That was during the Cold War, and so politics was of course colored by Soviet/American relations, so it was necessary to understand communism and socialism in order to understand the politics of the time. I liked Das Kapital and The Communist Manifesto, and I understood them when I read them. This book gave me much more insight into Karl Marx and told me the story of what the man went through when he was trying to write Das Kapital. He was a character, that seems to be for sure, and I sure don't envy his poor, long-suffering wife!

I enjoyed the bits in this book that threw light on Karl Marx and his messing about in getting this book to the publisher. I could have used more about him, but I suppose reading a proper full biography would solve that need. I also enjoyed learning about foreign reactions to the book, and even learning about how different socialist and Marxist groups interpreted the book and twisted it to fit their own world view. Apparently, not all socialists and Marxists see their ideology in the same light--who'd have guessed?

The book fell short for me, though, when it began rehashing what Das Kapital said. I know what Das Kapital said, I've read it, and I'm going to go out on a limb and say that most people who pick up this book, will also have read it, and probably gone over it in fine detail in a course. Naturally some rehashing is going to be necessary in order to prove a point, or to illustrate something, but at times, this felt like the Cliffs Notes version of Das Kapital. I can just read Das Kapital if I want to know what it said (this would make an excellent companinon piece, to that book, however).

I'd probably give this book 2.5 stars (more if you're a student having to study Das Kapital--I think it could provide good insight, and when you're a student and don't have lots of time on your hands, this does hit the high points). While I'd like to give this book 2.5 stars, I'll round this up to 3 for Marx's creativity. Oh, not for his creativity in writing Das Kapital--no, I'm giving 3 stars for his creativity in coming up with excuses as to why he couldn't get this work done on deadline. You see, he'd been doing too much sitting while reasearching this work, so he got carbuncles on his butt, and it was just too painful to sit and write. That's procrastination at it's finest, and in my mind, Marx is now the king of creative excuses!