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The Condition of the Working Class in England (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – 29 Apr 1999

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; New edition edition (29 April 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192836889
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192836885
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 1.8 x 13 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 744,358 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


"This is a very nicely-produced edition at a price practical for course use. David McClellan's introduction is clear and useful."--J. Boyden, Tulane University

About the Author

Friedrich Engels was born in Germany in 1820, the son of a textile manufacturer. After his military training in Berlin he became Manchester agent of his father's business, and soon became immersed in the problems of the urban proletariat newly created by the industrial revolution. In 1844 he wrote this famous book and by 1848 he was a firm friend of Marx. Their ideas were incorporated into The Communist Manifesto, although the writing of the Manifesto itself was solely Marx's work. Engels provided Marx with money, and after 1870 spent all his time assisting him in his research and in supplying ideas and leadership to international socialism. After Marx's death Engels continued to work on Das Kapital, and completed it in 1894, a year before his own death. He also wrote The Peasant War in Germany, The Origin of the Family, Socialism, Utopianism and Scientific, and much else. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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First Sentence
WORKING MEN! To you I dedicate a work, in which I have tried to lay before my German Countrymen a faithful picture of your condition, of your sufferings and struggles, of your hopes and prospects. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By M. A. Krul on 11 May 2009
Format: Paperback
Friedrich Engels' classic "The Condition of the Working Class in England" was written when he was only twenty-four, and had but recently abandoned his Calvinist upbringing for a more critical, socialist, point of view. Yet this book reads as if it were written by an experienced political commentator or a radical sociologist, without actually at any point becoming melodramatic or dense.

Engels' main purpose is to confront the bourgeoisie with the reality of their mode of production and to contrast this with the rhetoric of "free choice" and "civil liberties", as well as the capitalist apologia of the political economists of his day, in particular Andrew Ure. With great insight into both the causes and effects of the capitalist system, Engels catalogues the endless want, filth, despair and misery experienced by millions of labourers every day in 19th century England. He pays attention to housing, to factory safety, to unionism, to the physical condition of the workers, to alcoholism, the state of the Irish underclass, to prostitution and disease; in short, all the ills attendant on industrialization.

What gives this book such power is that Engels on the one hand proceeds in an analytical manner, making use above all of sources from the bourgeoisie itself and from Parliamentary reports, in explaining the functioning of the capitalist system and the competition between capitalists and between labourers. On the other hand, he writes in a particularly readable manner and at no point bores the reader with the mere summing-up of statistics.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas Dunn on 12 Mar. 2004
Format: Paperback
This book is interesting as an historical peice of journalism and scientific investigation. It is equally interesting because it provides such a fascinating insight into the lives of ordinary, working class people living in and around Manchester, Stockport and Stoke in the mid-Nineteenth Century.
It's often cited in modern discussions of complex systems as the book also gives an idea of the interactions between social, political and economic factors and their results in the real world. The origins of these much more modern ideas, how social and economic conditions interact, taking the holistic view etc. are all visible here.
It gives some ideas of what Engels must have been like and his compassion for the suffering of the people described is clear throughout the book.
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52 of 56 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 11 Oct. 2001
Format: Paperback
This was the first book written to describe the lives of the working people in Victorian Britain. It paints a shocking picture of poverty, exploitation and the utter despair of the working class as they work themselves slowly to death without any reward, in a society where those in power do everything they can to make as much profit from the workers while denying them the most basic principles of human rights and dignity.
I had always been aware that Victorian Britain was well known for the poverty of its masses, but nothing prepared me for the detailed, horrifying descriptions of living and working conditions, starvation, disease and a stagnant existence of poverty in which there was literally no way out of except suicide.
For all its justified power, I do feel that Engels does tend to drift from being a critical and detatched observer in favour of spectacular tirades championing the case of the working class. Though this is clearly understandable as a result of what he saw and experienced in the numerous cities of England and Scotland in the twenty-two months he spent in Britian for the material of the book.
The first book to give the working class a voice in a society which entirely suppressed it, and a damning study of the cruel and exploitative nature of capitalism, which proves to be as relevant now (with the imergance of globalisation) as it was when first written in 1844.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By CM Weston on 22 Jun. 2009
Format: Paperback
Engels wrote this book between late 1842 and early 1845. While still in his very early 20s, he had already written extensively as a journalist for both English and German newspapers. At the time, England was undergoing significant political and economic changes - the Chartist movement was pushing, inter alia, for universal suffrage and the country was just coming out of a deep slump in economic activity, which had lasted from 1837 to 1842. Meanwhile the country was undergoing a massive wave of industrialisation that would see it soon become "the workshop of the world". Engels had moved to Manchester at the behest of his father to learn to be a businessman and Engels used the opportunity to write a report for his fellow radicals in Germany on the state of the working class given the massive upheavals taking place - a sort of prior warning what to expect should industrialisation take place in Germany - the original was published in German and an English version would only be released in 1886 for an American audience.
Engels vividly describes the working and living conditions of the working class predominantly, although not only, in Manchester, and links this to the economic developments taking place. This is based on researching Factories Inspectors reports - a method that was to be copied by Marx in Volume 1 of "Capital" and contemporary newspaper articles as well as his own eyewitness reports garnered by walking around the affected areas and interviewing locals. It is a very professional and accomplished work of investigative social reporting, and no less than UNESCO has included it on its list of most influential works of sociology.
There is no 'call to arms' here in this book - this is still to wait until "The Communist Manifesto" in 1848 but there are shades of "A specter is haunting Europe" particularly in the final chapter.
Marx was to compliment Engels long after for its passion and incisiveness. It is a classic of its times.
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