Book Review: Why Marx Was Right

By Terry Eagleton

Published by Yale University Press

Interest in Marx’s ideas has exploded recently due to a growing discontent with current economic thought, and the philosophy that goes neo-liberalism. Many are intrigued by the old wizard’s theories. What is a surplus profit? and why am I being exploited as a worker are all questions that seem more relevant now than when he first published the copy of the Communist manifesto?

Certainly, the Communist manifesto is Marx’s most prolific work, and often cited as the most debated book in the history of literature. Whilst this may be true, it is also only the tip of the theoretical iceberg of his work. Terry Eagleton takes his work further and looks at 10 misconceptions that shroud Marx in mystery. Misconceptions that cause many people to misplace his theories before even having heard them.

Eagleton makes it his mission to discredit these myths and explain Marx in a way that is understandable. Each paragraph starts with a claim about why Marx is no longer relevant today or was wrong in the first place. Eagleton takes each one on headfirst, and sometimes from around the sides, to discuss what these myths don’t discuss. He expands on how Marx has been misinterpreted due to misinterpretation, and the application in totalitarian states such as North Korea, China and of course the USSR.

Whilst it is an easy read to begin with Eagleton soon steps into Marxist and humanist philosophy within in the first third of the book. This can be disconcerting for the general reader and also anyone wanting to know a bit more about the history and misinterpretation by totalitarian states, such as the USSR, which comes much later in the book. I do feel that it would flow better if this was at the beginning, and that the philosophical debate around post-modernist ideas and humanism had been introduced properly and debated from both sides of the story at more length.

This book captures the essence of Marxist economic and societal theory well and explains them in an engaging but easy-to-understand language. The format of the book should also be praised as each individual concept is discussed to an appropriate level without making the reader feel stupid.

Every socialist should have some understanding of Marx, whether they like him or not, as he is an important part of the left’s history. His theories influence people the world over for bad and good just as religions do. Truth is, at least we know he existed.

A great book to read before coming out to your family over Christmas dinner as a Marxist. That way you will be able to battle off any arguments that Marx was a materialistic determinist who didn’t care about people, that is, if you have these types of conversations at Christmas. My family likes to argue about how to cook roast potatoes, just as controversial. Eagleton shows that Marx did care about people and that he is more relevant today than ever.

Here is the author himself giving a talk based around the book. Take a look here.


You can buy the book from here

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