Friday, October 08, 2010
But men are men; the best sometimes forget.
Thinking about Dialectical Materialism while waiting for the bus. New Town Road, August 2010.
Today is Book Club Friday, my name is Kris and I have a confession to make: I am an Engels Man.
Friedrich Engels used to be a name that was known throughout the world. Cities, towns and streets bore the name. Ships, railway engines and tanks. You don’t see so much of that these days…
The book that I am currently halfway through (it’s a biggun) is Tristram Hunt’s exploration of the man, The Frock-coated Communist: The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels. If you are not familiar with Engels, perhaps you’ve heard of his more famous philosophical collaborator, Karl Marx.
It seems to me that – with this book – Hunt is seeking to recover Engels’s reputation from those who have portrayed him as responsible for Stalinist excesses and chosen him as the fall guy for the failures of Marxism. In this (at least halfway through the book), he’s partly successful. I’ll reserve judgement on that when I’ve finished!
For now, I can say that Hunt has achieved much in constructing with some flair the intellectual, cultural and economic milieu that helped form Engels the man – businessman, armed revolutionary, philosopher, and pants man. The years surrounding preceding and following the tumultuous events of 1848 are full of the kinds of tales to keep a good biography ticking over (despite the necessary deviations into political philosophy).
Money, spies, revolution, bullets whizzing past, busty wenches, tempting maids, theories of surplus; so far this book has it all. It's well worth a look, particularly if you'd like to bone up on your socio-economic history.
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