Gareth Stedman Jones

Gareth Stedman Jones

Coleridge Lectures 2017: Rediscovering the Nineteenth Century Marx

Coleridge Lectures/
Wed 03 May 2017

Gareth Stedman Jones

Coleridge Lectures 2017: Rediscovering the Nineteenth Century Marx

Gareth Stedman Jones
Wed 03 May 2017,

As the nineteenth century unfolded, its inhabitants had to come to terms with an unparalleled range of political, economic, religious and intellectual challenges. Distances shrank, new towns sprang up, and ingenious inventions transformed the industrial landscape. It was an era dominated by new ideas about God, human capacities, industry, revolution, empires and political systems – and above all, the shape of the future.

One of the most striking contributions to this debate was made by Karl Marx, son of a Rhineland Jewish convert, prominent revolutionary in 1848, English exile from the 1850s and author of what was to become one of the most famous writings of the nineteenth century, Das Kapital in 1867. There have been innumerable studies and biographies of Marx. But what is most distinctive about the new book by Gareth Stedman Jones, Karl Marx: Greatness and Illusion, is firstly that it pays as much attention to Marx’s thought as to his life. Secondly, it assumes that this thought was addressed to his contemporaries and not to his followers in the following centuries. Lastly, it places both Marx and his contemporaries in a landscape larger than themselves. In other words, this work is not simply a biography. It is also a serious investigation of the sources, intention and effect of his ideas and activities as part of a larger reinterpretation of the 19th century as a whole.

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