New Category: Recommended Books

I’m adding a new category of recommendations of books that I feel merit the effort to seek them out and read them. The first selection in this category is an intellectual biography of Marx by Jerrold Seigel, a professor of history at New York University, now retired. Marx’s Fate: The Shape of a Life was first published in 1978 and was reissued in paperback by the Pennsylvania State University Press in 1993. Siegel’s most recent book is The Idea of the Self: Thought and Experience in Western Europe Since the Seventeenth Century.

Marx’s Fate is definitely an attempt at a psychoanalytic survey of Marx and his work, but Seigel has such an impressive grasp of the relevant philosophic and historic currents that even the psychological material is interesting. I don’t adhere to Seigel’s view of Marx’s economic critique, but, even so, I still strongly recommend the book.

Google Books has preview excerpt available.

Below is an interesting passage from the author’s preface to the 1993 edition.


In the aftermath of communism’s collapse, we need to find new ways to take seriously Marx’s insistence that the promise of modern life will not be fulfilled, nor its sickness cured, until we can establish a more harmonious relationship between what he called “the free development of each” and “the free development of all.” A second reason I hope readers may find interest in this book is its sustained attempt to see Marx’s life as a meaningful whole. The collapse of revolutionary expectations has fed those currents in modern culture that cheerfully turn their backs on meaning itself, sometimes even regarding the search for it as a tactic of oppression and identifying freedom with mere play and the undermining of stable personal identities and values. To say that Marx had a fate, that his life had a meaningful, even a tragic shape, it to side against these currents, to assert that human lives can be meaningful wholes even if human history can never be made to constitute one.

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