Susumu Takenaga, The History of Economic Thought

Review of Another Marx: Early Manuscripts to the International and Last Marx

As  Ehara  specifies  in  the  “Afterword  of the Translators,” this Japanese version en- titled  Another  Marx is a translation of two books by the original author (p. 390): Another  Marx, published by Bloomsbury Academic,  London,  2018; and Late Marx, for which the publication data is not available.

The former book corresponds to the first nine chapters in  the Japanese translation, and the latter corresponds to the last three chapters and the epilogue. In the original version  of  the former, the nine  chapters are  grouped into  three  parts:  “Intellectual  Influences and   Early   Writings,”  “The Critique   of Political  Economy,”  and  “Political  Mili- tancy,” in  chronological  order.  Hence, the latter book can be virtually regarded  as the following fourth and concluding part of this biography of Marx, which allows us to read this Japanese version not as a combination of two  different  books  but as  one  consistent book.  Yet,  it  is  a pity that  the  “Bibliography”  and “Index” sections in the original first book are not reproduced in the Japanese translation.

One of the most important charac- teristics of this biography of Marx, published in the bicentenary year of his birth, is that the author incorporates the results of the publication of the second MEGA volumes. In particular, it incor- porates the volumes belonging to its Part IV including the excerpt  notes  Marx took  during  his  scientific  activities. This particularly   applies   to   Marxʼs   intensive study during the first  years  of  his  exile in London at the beginning of the 1850s, as discussed in the  first  chapter  of  part 2, and to his extensive study of natural sciences and anthropology during his last years at the beginning of 1880s as concisely described in the first chapter of part 4.

Marx is one of the few figures in the history of economic thought, of whom a considerable number of biographies have been written, from the classic biography authored   by   Franz   Mehring in 1918(English translation: Karl Marx: The  Story  of  His  Life,  Routledge,  2003) to the recent voluminous work by Gareth Stedman Jones entitled Karl Marx: Great- ness and Illusion, Allen Lane, 2016, leaving aside the other numerous banal ones published in the ex-Soviet  Union.  The author of the present biography attempts to  present  “Another  Marx” to  his  readers, -one  that  has  never  been seen in these foregoing biographies. Marx is, of course, not only an economist; he is a philosopher or social thinker in the broad sense of the term, and above all, a communist revolu- tionary. However, it is also incontestable that in all of his wide range of political and scientific activities during his life- time,  his  economic  research  occupied  a key place. From the very early times, one of his most important objectives was to achieve a systematic work on political economy.

Traditionally, the three Books of Capital were considered as such. In contrast to Capital, the early economic writings of Marx, represented by the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts  of 1844, published for the first  time during the 1930s as byproduct of the editorial work of the first MEGA in Moscow,  were  regarded in such a tradition as  “immature or pre-Marxist  writings.” In opposition to this view, some biographers of  Marx   described his manuscripts of 1844   rather   as   embodying a  “newly discovered,  true Marx”  who had been overshadowed  till  then  by  the  “scientifi- cist, objectivist” understanding  of his theory  and  thought.  The  author of the present biography criticizes both of these views, predominant until recent times, to bring   forward   the   gradual evolutionary process  of  Marxʼs  economic  research. According to the author, the essential links  between  the  “young”  and  “mature” Marx  consist  in  the  excerpt  notes taken during the early years of the 1850s, known as the “London notes” published for the first time as second MEGA-volumes; and the first   manuscripts  of  Marxʼs  critique of political economy from 1857 to 58, well known  today  as  “Grundrisse.”  Therefore, the author examines the former material in   detail,  to  connect  Marxʼs  economic research and its results, from the mid-1840s to the late-1860s. Considering Marx as an economist, this may be the most remark- able point in this book. Another important contribution  of this biography is the vivid description of Marxʼs  activities  in  the  General  Council of the International from 1864 to 1872  and of his continuing conflicts with Bakunin and Proudhon. The author emphasizes  the  fact  that  Marx  and  his partisans were rather a minority in this organization, and that Marxʼs view on the labor movement and its objectives underwent important  changes  during these years. Simultaneously, Marx was very busy drafting the manuscripts of all the three Books of Capital. He eventually published its first Book in 1867. The  final,  fourth  part  of  ʻLast  Marxʼ lively depicts how he struggled, till the end, to complete Capital and extend his intellectual curiosity to an ever wider range. Although the analytical part of Marxʼs main economic works(Capital to begin with, and including The Poverty of Philosophy, Wage Labor and Capital, Contribution  to  the  Critique  of  Political Economy, and other manuscripts)still leaves something to be desired, this is certainly a novel biography for the new and younger generations.

Published in:

The History of Economic Thought

Date Published

1 February, 2020


Susumu Takenaga