The Working Class and the Birth of Marxism
The theory of historical materialism makes it possible to situate Marxism itself—just as much as market economics or normative sociology—in relation to capitalist development and the bourgeois revolution. Historical materialism emerged in the second half of the 1840s, in the heartlands of industrial capitalism. Its birthplaces were the major economic centres of Brussels, London and Manchester, and Paris—storm centre of the bourgeois revolutions of 1789 and 1830. It is true, of course, that Marx and Engels themselves were Germans, and the German determination of Marxism cannot be ignored. But it was only outside Germany that the new theory could come into being. All but one of the formative works of historical materialism were written outside Germany, the sole exception being Engels’s study of The Condition of the Working Class in England, the product of a 21-month stay in Manchester. After The Holy Family, the first product of the collaboration between Marx and Engels, written in Paris but published in Frankfurt in 1845, it was not until 1859, with the appearance of A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, that a crucial work of historical materialism was even published in Germany. The German Ideology found no publisher; Marx wrote The Poverty of Philosophy in French and had it published in Paris and Brussels; Engels’s Principles of Communism were not sent for publication, the Communist Manifesto appeared in London, and The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte was written for a German-American periodical published in New York.
’My institution subscribes to NLR, why can't I access this article?’
By the same author:
An Age of Progress?
Contradictions of social evolution: climate change, stagnant incomes and social exclusion entwined with rising per capita GDP and lengthening life-spans, challenges to racism and sexism, and a mounting capacity for the human species to take control of its destiny.
What social forces are likely to challenge the supremacy of capital in the coming decades? An assessment of potential bases of resistance—from traditional communities overrun by the global market to factory workers and an expanding yet amorphous middle class.
Class in the 21st Century
From São Paulo to Beijing, a rising middle class has been hailed by liberal commentators as a bulwark for consumption and democracy in the decades ahead. Taking stock of these claims, Göran Therborn offers a magisterial overview of the global class landscape and the still prodigious numerical weight of manual workers within it.
Göran Therborn on Heinsohn, Söhne und Weltmacht. Political demography of the Mid-East youth bulge as threat to Western power.
The dramatic trajectories of Tbilisi, Baku and Yerevan, and differing roles in the present. Göran Therborn tracks the fortunes of Georgia’s capital, seat of monarchs and Mensheviks, through alterations in its physical fabric, setting these alongside the metamorphoses of its Caucasian counterparts.
Göran Therborn offers a panoramic survey of left social theory since the fall of Communism. The vicissitudes of modernity as contested temporal narrative, and the divergent thematic paths—religion, Utopia, class, sexuality, networks, world-systems—that are emerging in the new landscape.
A Liberal Provoked?
Is patriarchy a structure of power in the family or something wider? Is it largely a pre-capitalist phenomenon? What have been the principal forces dissolving it—commodity relations, liberal ideas, or radical political action? Where are negative rates of reproduction in advanced societies likely to lead? A sharp exchange of ideas beween Nicky Hart and Göran Therborn.
Capital's Twilight Zone
Göran Therborn on Robin Blackburn, Banking on Death. The fate of pensions in the future of capitalism, as political struggles over them escalate in North and South alike.
Into the 21st Century
States, markets, firms, classes, movements—how are they inter-related and where are they moving in the new century? Göran Therborn offers a panorama of global politics that amounts to a powerful and original alternative to all existing readings of the state of the world.
Göran Therborn on Noel Parker, Revolutions and History, and Fred Halliday, Revolution and World Politics. Two new contributions to the literature on revolution—where does it stand today?