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Karl Marx and the Birth of Modern Society: The Life of Marx and the Development of His Work (Volume I: 1818-1841)


For over a century, Karl Marx’s critique of capitalism has been a crucial resource for social movements. Now, recent economic crises have made it imperative for us to comprehend and actualize Marx’s ideas. But without a knowledge of Karl Marx’s life as he lived it, neither Marx nor his works can be fully understood. There are more than twenty-five comprehensive biographies of Marx, but none of them consider his life and work in equal, corresponding measure. This biography, planned for three volumes, aims to include what most biographies have reduced to mere background: the contemporary conflicts, struggles, and disputes that engaged Marx at the time of his writings, alongside his complex relationships with a varied assortment of friends and opponents.

This first volume will deal extensively with Marx’s youth in Trier and his studies in Bonn and Berlin. It will also examine the function of poetry in his intellectual development and his first occupation with Hegelian philosophy and with the so-called “young Hegelians” in his 1841 Dissertation. Already during this period, there were crises as well as breaks in Marx’s intellectual development that prompted Marx to give up projects and re-conceptualize his critical enterprise. This volume is the beginning of an astoundingly dimensional look at Karl Marx—a study of a complex life and body of work through the neglected issues, events, and people that helped comprise both. It is destined to become a classic.

A fully new approach to the content and evolution of Marx’s multifaceted oeuvre and the theoretical originality of his mature writings.

—John Milios, author, The Origins of Capitalism as a Social System

A masterful work by one of the leading Marx scholars of his generation. Simply wonderful—analytical depth, critical knowledge, clarity of comprehension and presentation, grasp of theoretical and historical contexts, combine to create a most insightful Marx biography that will be an indispensable and lasting resource that scholars and researchers, activists and critics alike, should—and will—return to frequently.

—Werner Bonefeld, Department of Politics, University of York, UK; author, Critical Theory and the Critique of Political Economy

This first volume of Heinrich’s Marx biography is the most comprehensive presentation of the life and work of the early Marx (from 1818 to 1841) available in English. His deep knowledge of the young Marx’s initial forays into political theory and philosophy provides not merely a personal narrative but the biography of an idea, as we become witness to Marx’s effort to discover the idea of freedom that is immanent in reality. We finally have a Marx biography that does justice to the complexity and multi-dimensionality of its subject.

—Peter Hudis, coeditor, The Rosa Luxemburg Reader; author, Marx’s Concept of the Alternative to Capitalism

Marx has found his perfect biographer. The main reasons are two. Heinrich confronts Marx as the most profound and challenging polyhistoric and revolutionary analyst of modern capitalism, the society which is still with us, so that he is even today the thinker of our contemporary times. The other reason is that Heinrich’s attitude is the same as that of Marx: DOUBT EVERYTHING, even Marx himself. Only through this critical perspective Marx’s ambiguities and contradictions can be revealed, and his greatness and legacy be reclaimed.

—Riccardo Bellofiore, Department of Economics, University of Bergamo, Italy; author, In Marx’s Laboratory: Critical Interpretations of the Grundrisse

Michael Heinrich taught economics for many years at the University of Applied Sciences in Berlin and was managing editor of PROKLA: Journal for Critical Social Science. He has written in depth on Marx’s critique of political economy in his book, The Science of Value. His An Introduction to the Three Volumes of Karl Marx’s Capital is probably the most popular introduction to Marx’s economic works in Germany.

Alexander Locascio, translator of this biography from German to English, has been active in the U.S. labor movement. His other translations include An Introduction to the Three Volumes of Karl Marx’s Capital and Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century: An Introduction. He lives in Berlin with his family.

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Publication Date: June 2019

Number of Pages: 390

Cloth ISBN: 978-1-58367-735-3

eBook ISBN: 978-1-58367-736-0