Peter Osborne, 'How To Read Marx'

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Peter Osborne, 'How To Read Marx'

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1andrewspong First Message
Edited: Apr 10, 2007, 2:28pm

Firstly, hello.

Secondly -- I am a sucker for attempts to distill some of the precepts of historical materialism into a slim (or not so slim) volume, and came across Peter Obsorne's How To Read Marx late last year.

I could barely bring myself to buy it as the cover is so unspeakably vile, but am I glad I did!

IMO, it has to be the best summary of why Marx's thought was, is, and will always be so important that I have ever read. Not only did it redefine the way I looked at a number of key ideas, it also managed to realign certain concepts that I now realise I'd completely misunderstood. I'll be rereading it every couple of years just to keep my hand in.

As much fun as Wheen's biography, but far more stimulating intellectually.

Sep 18, 2008, 11:06am

Marx for Beginners is an illustrated introduction to Marx's theories. I found it to be really helpful. It's amusing throughout and helpled me get a clear picture of basic Marxist thought and more importantly where Marx derived his ideas from. One can easily read it in less than a day. There is also a Trotsky for Beginners done in the same format which is also well put together.

And hello, this is also my first posting to this group. I'm glad there is a group like this on librarything.

Sep 24, 2008, 2:07am

Because Marx's ideas are identified with the failed project of socialism, they are simply ignored by most modern thinkers, which is a great mistake.

It would be wonderful if this Group could attract a critical mass of people knowledgeable about, and/or interested in, the ideas of Marx.

Sep 24, 2008, 5:52pm

I am interested in some of the ideas of Marx, what is appealing about them, and what can be done to solve the problems they engage. I am not interested in becoming a Marxist or a specialist.

I continue to recommend Main Currents of Marxism.


Oct 1, 2008, 5:52pm

Robert: I bought that book. I turned immediately to a section that I know something about (Trotsky and the period around the beginning of the Second World War) and it was not very good. Not very far from a hatchet job, and with little attempt to try to understand the arguments and views of the people he was writing about. He also comes close to falsifying Trotsky's views on the Soviet-Finnish war.

Now I can well believe that his other sections are better. But this sample made me distrust the whole product.

Feb 24, 2009, 6:59pm

Trotsky for beginners was very useful for me. I highly recommend it.

As far as Marx goes, I find it a bit harder. There are so many different Marxisms and then there are people writing about Marxism who are not Marxists.

If a writer is not a Marxist, I could see making an argument for an historical overview being useful if done objectively. But as far as theory goes it seems like you would really want to get it from the horse's mouth, so to speak.

Am I crazy to suggest reading the Communist Manifesto? In fact, you could just flip to the last few pages and read the ten point political program. That is a two minute crash course in Marx right there.

Another five minutes and you can work out where that program was politically for the time in which it was written.

Five more minutes and you could work out what a comparable program should look like today.

That would be my DIY Marx in twelve minutes. Theory can always come later after all. And for that, how about David Harvey's lectures on Capital. They are online and pretty popular.

Jun 5, 2009, 12:58pm

You are not crazy to suggest reading The Communist Manifesto. But I would argue the opposite: skip the last bit (the ten point program) and read Marx and Engels' brilliant analysis of how capitalism is re-shaping the world.

If you want to understand what is happening in the world today -- globalization and all that -- just read Marx and Engels, who foresaw it all a hundred and fifty years ago.

Aug 24, 2010, 12:37pm

Thanks for the recommendation.

Oct 17, 2010, 4:56am

The Communist Manifesto is an excellent read as well as a well thought out piece of political philosophy.

Many people think that Marxism is dead because of the ex-USSR. However Marx would be the first to tell you that Russia was not prime for revolution: it was not in an advanced capitalist state > a poor choice.

Oct 17, 2010, 6:09am

I think that most of the places on the planet where "communism" arose were not the ideal situation (usually agrarian, for one, as opposed to industrial), and so the ideology was corrupted and used to dupe the people into supporting a dictatorship with a cult of personality, as opposed to a true communist state.

Oct 18, 2010, 5:56am

> 10

I think this is why Guevara promoted revolution in the countryside: agrarian revolution in deficiently developed economies.

Oct 21, 2010, 4:26pm

These issues -- the contradictions involved in trying to build socialism in a country which had not yet experienced serious capitalist development -- were well understood by the Marxists of the time. But they did not have the luxury of going into Cold Sleep for a few decades. They had to act.

A nice description of their discussions of the problem, and the various approaches they came up with for dealing with it (Lenin's "democratic dictatorship", the Mensheviks' perspective of being the workers' champions in a post-Czarist democratic capitalism, Trotsky's "permanent revolution"), can be found in Bertrand Wolfe's very well-written Three Who Made a Revolution.

The problem is with us today. What, for example, should the Nepalese Maoists -- who, arguably, could take state power in this very backward country -- actually do?