Poor Marx

I have just finished Isaiah Berlin’s Karl Marx: His Life and Environment. I can’t say I recommend it.

Karl Marx: His Life and Environment by Isaiah Berlin

What's with the text for a face?

A short ways into the book it becomes apparent that Berlin is going to present the book primarily from a Communist perspective. Berlin is not a Communist but a left-liberal, known in Europe as a social democrat or (more honestly) as a communist. Given Berlin’s history of making spurious distinctions (negative/positive liberty, Fox/Hedgehog) it is not surprising that his views on Karl Marx are not tempered by theoretical criticism or even any kind of frank historical analysis. This is, instead, a book about a Communist by a communist for communists. Which means no criticism of Marx either personally or ideologically, and no touching upon anything which will reflect negatively; like the fact that he was an unemployable scum-bag who constantly begged money and refused to get a real job and take care of his family. These things are but minor personal foibles in someone Berlin sees as a grand ideologist and forerunner of the liberation of mankind.

As I read the book I can not help but be reminded of Lord Bertrand Russell, who was supremely uncharitable with anyone who didn’t tow the left-liberal line and essentially parroted the kind of meaningless democratic swill which one has come to expect from twentieth century liberals.

Don’t read this book. Not only is it an absurdly rosy and apologetic picture of Karl Marx and his work, it isn’t even informative.


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