Jacob Stevens on Gareth Stedman Jones, Introduction to The Communist Manifesto. Intellectual antecedents of the trumpet blast of 1848. Must today’s critics lower their political horizons?
EXORCIZING THE MANIFESTO
Canonized by the Penguin Classics imprint, the latest edition of the Communist Manifesto is dwarfed by a 185-page introduction, described by its author as ‘an excavation of the intellectual antecedents of Marxist thought’. Serious archaeology on such a scale is to be welcomed, although the forty-odd pages of the Manifesto may seem a slender basis from which to mount such an exercise; and indeed, Stedman Jones here shows little interest in the text itself. Though praising the invocation of capitalism’s prodigious revolutionizing and universalizing powers in the first section, ‘Bourgeoisie and Proletarians’, he sees a descent into bathos in the second, ‘Proletarians and Communists’, which advocates the overthrow of capitalist property relations, the abolition of the bourgeois family, the end of the ‘exploitation of one nation by another’ and the ‘radical rupture with traditional ideas’. The third part, ‘Socialist and Communist Literature’, is ‘arbitrary and sectarian’, while the fourth, outlining the communists’ position in relation to existing opposition parties, is ‘hurriedly jotted’ and ‘unfinished’.
’My institution subscribes to NLR, why can't I access this article?’
By the same author:
Prisons of the Stateless
Charged in 1951 with defending rights of asylum, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has been recast for an age of humanitarian warfare. From Operation Provide Comfort to Bosnia and the Rwandan massacres—a compliant advocate of repatriation at any cost.
Jacob Stevens on Steven Rose, The 21st-Century Brain. Complexity and plasticity of synaptic interaction, in a materialist challenge to neo-Darwinist models. Is it possible to account for the evolutionary heritage of the brain without compromising the autonomy of the social?
Jacob Stevens on Emma Rothschild, Economic Sentiments. Smith and Condorcet compacted into icons for the social market.
Jacob Stevens on Bjørn Lomborg, The Sceptical Environmentalist. Cost-benefit analysis of land, air and oceans yields a panglossian ecological forecast for the century ahead.
Barring the Doors
Jacob Stevens on Jeremy Harding, The Uninvited; Michael Dummett, On Immigration and Refugees; and Teresa Hayter, Open Borders. The blockading of Europe’s frontiers against the arrival of those in fear or need, and the reasons why ‘aliens’ should be welcomed.
G. A. Cohen's Revolution in Morals
Jacob Stevens on G. A. Cohen, If You’re an Egalitarian, How Come You’re So Rich? From Marx’s theory of history to lessons from Old Testament and New for today’s guidance.