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How To Read Marx

How To Read Marx [Kindle Edition]

Peter Osborne
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Product Description


A commodity appears at first sight an extremely obvious, trivial thing. But its analysis brings out that it is a very strange thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties' Karl Marx

Product Description

Emphasizing the Romantic heritage and modernist legacy of Karl Marx's writings, Peter Osborne presents Marx's thought as a developing investigation into what it means, concretely, for humans to be practical historical beings. Drawing upon passages from a wide range of Marx's writings, and showing the links between them, Osborne refutes the myth of Marx as a reductively economistic thinker. What Marx meant by 'materialism', 'communism' and the 'critique of political economy' was much richer and more original, philosophically, than is generally recognized. With the renewed globalization of capitalism since 1989, Osborne argues, Marx's analyses of the consequences of commodification are more relevant today than ever before. Extracts are taken from the full breadth of Marx's writings, from his student Notebooks on Epicurean Philosophy, via the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts and The Communist Manifesto to Capital.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 949 KB
  • Print Length: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books (3 April 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #285,336 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars compact, comprehensive, concise 7 Oct 2005
Osborne's contribution to the Granta 'How to Read' series is an excellent example of how brief theoretical introductions need not be (though sadly so often are) superficial, partial or patronising, and can instead be illuminating, intellectually sophisticated and genuinely informative.
Although a mere 120 pages, Osborne manages to cover an enormous variety of material, including some conceptually incredibly difficult ideas: commodity fetishism, the labour theory of value, the Asiatic mode of production, the rhetorical status of The Communist Manifesto, original accumulation, the breadth and aim of Marx's critique of political economy, etc.
The extracts selected to represent the myriad facets of Marx's career, and his complex relationship to philosophy, politics, and economics are delicately chosen, ranging from Marx's 1839 PhD to Capital, to Marx's controversial writings on India. The willingness to explore rather than to skim over some of the more problematic aspects of Marx's work (such as whether or not he is committed to a form of historical determinism, as his detractors so often opine) demonstrates not only the high regard Osborne has for his reader, but also his (rare) capacity to describe and critically assess a problem without downplaying its potentially intractable nature.
As a companion piece to Balibar's 'The Philosophy of Marx' (which shares Osborne's contention that with the spread of capitalism across the globe that 'Marx's writings have become more, not less relevant to the present'), 'How to Read Marx' works extremely well - and the reader, with a little patient work, will be well on his or her way to grasping the intellectual and political concepts and insights that make Marx such an indispensable thinker.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not an introductory text-badly explained 25 Nov 2011
This is not a book to introduce someone to Marx.It could more accurately be called 'How to read Marx if you're a middle class philosophy student who has some knowledge of Marx and Hegel'.I found his explanations of concepts like fetishism,ideology,universality etc to be inadequate for someone who wasn't familiar with German enlightemment philosophy.I also found that Osborne writes in a 'high brow' exclusory manner i.e. if I were to give this book to an average working person, I dont believe they would be able to understand that much of it.This is so despite it being quite possible for Osborne to explain his material in a manner which would be comprehensible to ordinary workers and retain his level of complexity.In the end one has to ask who is in the gallery he is playing to-not ordinary non academic workers that's for sure.Alas this is not unusual amongst so called Marx academics.They are often more interested in receiving a positive review from peers than producing a work comprehensible to ordinary workers.The rule seems to be dont make your work easier than you have to if you want to be seen as 'complex'.
I was disappointed that Osborne's knowledge of Marx didn't stretch very far into Marx's Capital.Reading this book you would be hard put to believe that Marx gave the most fundamental and complete explanation for the reoccuring economic crisis that have been a defining feature of the capitalist mode of production for the last 300 years.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Some introduction to Marx is necessary, and this is an excellent one 3 Feb 2009
By B. Parker - Published on
There are myriad little introductions to Marx on the market: as the above reviewer noted, the Peter Singer "very short introduction," but also writings on his individual works, illustrated introductions, guides for the perplexed, Marx for Dummies, the Complete Idiot's Guide To..., etc.

For my money, the best introduction to Marx will always be the Communist Manifesto, but looking at my own notes from high school, it is clear that, unless you are willing to read hundreds of pages of Marx thereafter, and return repeatedly TO the Manifesto, there probably should be an "introduction to the introduction."

The difficulties in reading Marx on on several levels: 1) those adopted from the Hegelian line of German Idealism, 2) extremely complicated and foreign-seeming economic analysis, and 3) the integration of these within a PRAXIS and also an -ism, a tradition which would be variously elaborated by later "Marxists."

Now, after the Communist Manifesto, the best place to see this at work is in Engels' "Socialism Utopian and Scientific" and Rosa Luxemburg's "Reform or Revolution." What is important in all these works is their COMMUNIST orientation--they are not merely "theoretical" introductions.

So, those recommendations aside, this introduction is superior to many on the market because of its close analysis of the Marxist TEXT. There are ten close-readings of passages from Marx's career, which solves many of the problems for the reader approaching Marx: preconceptions and the inherent difficulties of the work. Preconceptions are rendered false problems by diving straight into questions that have NO relation to bogus bourgeois ideas of, say, the Soviet Union's collapse. And the difficult passages and concepts are excellently illuminated by Peter Osborne.

Marx is his own best introduction, but since he is ALSO the most misread author in history (after Nietzsche), perhaps The Communist Manifesto should be supplemented by this superb book. I also suggest the entries in this series for Lacan and Sartre.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A nice second step in understanding Marx 27 Nov 2006
By Harry J. Williams - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a good book if you are looking for a more challenging introduction to Marx than, say, Singer's Marx: A Very Short Introduction. As advertised, this is a book about Marx from a philosophical perspective, but that should not scare anyone because Osborne does a nice job introducing terms from Kant and Hegel and helping the reader through the vocabulary.
3.0 out of 5 stars Too Difficult 6 Mar 2014
By Albrecht Ulbricht - Published on
I am a reasonably intelligent individual, but I found this work to be difficult and ponderous. I read and reread the chapter on commodity fetishism, and still don't know what it is. I would recommend an intro university course in Philosophy, or at least a decent knowledge of philosophy, particularly German idealism, to get the most from this work. The subject matter is inherently difficult, and that was the problem. I was looking for a general, simple introduction to Marx, and particularly Das Kapital, and I have yet to find one.
4.0 out of 5 stars Too much jargon 3 Jan 2014
By Karl G. Larew - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I thought this series was meant to make the authors understandable to the average intelligent person, i.e., cut through the jargon. There's still too much of it in this volume. Otherwise, after struggling through the jargon, I found the book to be wise and insightful.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great source of help for Marx! 12 Dec 2010
By ladafi - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book was excellent for getting across some of Marx's tougher points! It's medium sized, and an easy read for those in classes (or for fun) trying to shift their way through Marx's sometimes wordy articles and writings. I found it immensely helpful for the Communist Manifesto, On Freurbach, Capital, and even more of Marx writings!
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