The Last Years of Karl Marx

An Intellectual Biography
Stanford: Stanford University Press
xiv + 194 pages

In the last years of his life, Karl Marx expanded his research in new directions—studying recent anthropological discoveries, analyzing communal forms of ownership in precapitalist societies, supporting the populist movement in Russia, and expressing critiques of colonial oppression in India, Ireland, Algeria, and Egypt. Between 1881 and 1883, he also traveled beyond Europe for the first and only time. Focusing on these last years of Marx's life, this book dispels two key misrepresentations of his work: that Marx ceased to write late in life, and that he was a Eurocentric and economic thinker fixated on class conflict alone.

With The Last Years of Karl Marx, Marcello Musto claims a renewed relevance for the late work of Marx, highlighting unpublished or previously neglected writings, many of which remain unavailable in English. Readers are invited to reconsider Marx's critique of European colonialism, his ideas on non-Western societies, and his theories on the possibility of revolution in noncapitalist countries. From Marx's late manuscripts, notebooks, and letters emerge an author markedly different from the one represented by many of his contemporary critics and followers alike. As Marx currently experiences a significant rediscovery, this volume fills a gap in the popularly accepted biography and suggests an innovative reassessment of some of his key concepts.


"Marcello Musto, arguably the greatest connoisseur of Marx’s life, offers us one revelation after another. Whereas many had understood the period after the Paris Commune as a time of divulgation and implementation of his already established political doctrine, Musto instead brilliantly demonstrates that Marx spent these years opening new and important theoretical horizons upon which we must meditate in order not to remain “Marxists” against Marx himself!".
– Étienne Balibar
"Marcello Musto’s work is essential for his analysis of Marx’s life and thought. In this book, Musto focuses on Marx’s inquiries in his final years. The anthropological manuscripts, the studies on the transformation of property and the criticism against colonialism written in this period are striking. Musto takes us by the hand and invites us to discover a new Marx".
– Antonio Negri
"This volume is a major contribution to the study of Marx and revolutionary thought. Beautifully written, constructed through an insightful examination of thousands of pages of Marx’s unpublished writings and notes, this book represents a timely contribution to the contemporary Marx revival. It is a gift to the many who still look to Marx for political inspiration".
– Silvia Federici

Table of contents

Note on Sources ix
Note on the English Edition xi
Introduction 1

Prelude: “Struggle!” 7
1. New Research Horizons 11
2. Controversy over the Development of Capitalism in Russia 49
3. The Travails of “Old Nick” 77
4. The Moor’s Last Journey 105

Chronology, 1881–1883 127
Notes 131
Bibliography 177
Index 189