Friedrich Engels is one of the most intriguing and contradictory figures of the 19th century. Born to a prosperous Prussian mercantile family, he spent his life working in the Manchester cotton industry, riding to the Cheshire hounds, and enjoying the comfortable upper-middle-class existence of a Victorian gentleman. Yet Engels was also, with Karl Marx, the founder of international communism, which in the twentieth century came to govern one-third of the human race. He was coauthor of The Communist Manifesto, a ruthless party tactician, and the man who sacrificed his best years so that Marx could write Das Kapital.
His searing account of the Industrial Revolution, The Condition of the Working Class in England, remains one of the most haunting and brutal indictments of the human costs of capitalism. Far more than Marx's indispensable aide, Engels was a profound thinker in his own right---on warfare, feminism, urbanism, Darwinism, technology, and colonialism. With fierce clarity, he predicted the social effects of today's free-market fundamentalism and unstoppable globalization. Drawing on a wealth of letters and archives, acclaimed historian Tristram Hunt plumbs Engels's intellectual legacy and shows us how one of the great bon viveurs of Victorian Britain reconciled his exuberant personal life with his radical political philosophy.
Set against the backdrop of revolutionary Europe and industrializing England---of Manchester mills, Paris barricades, and East End strikes---Marx's General tells a story of devoted friendship, class compromise, ideological struggle, and family betrayal. And it tackles head-on the question of Engels's influence: was Engels, after Marx's death, responsible for some of the most devastating turns of twentieth-century history, or was the idealism of his thought distorted by those who claimed to be his followers? An epic history and riveting biography, Marx's General at last brings Engels out from the shadow of his ...
©2009 Tristram Hunt; (P)2010 Tantor
Hunt's Marx's General is a well paced and sympathetic account of Fredrich Engels. Hunt explores the contradictions and contributions of Marx's "second fiddle." Engels was the son of a mill owner and one of the founders of modern socialism. He was a bon vivant with a puritanical streak. He was a man who was able to live with the dissonance caused by living off of stock dividends while promoting the workers' revolution. Hunt's biography may have a little too much detail about Hegelian thinking and the various contributions and confrontations of different Hegelian and socialist thinkers of the 19th century for people who don't have a deep interest in this era. However, overall the book is a great pleasure. The narrator is satisfactory. His German pronunciation is far better than his French and he makes occasional mistakes with names (for example, early in the book he gives us Tony Judt as if he was Spanish). However, these are small distractions in an otherwise very nice narration.
The biography itself is probably the only such study of Engels in print, and certainly the only one available as an audio recording -- so not like anyone interested in the subject has much else to choose from. But, as so often with Audible, the reader, Norman Dietz in this case, is almost unbearable and clearly knows NOTHING himself of the subject of the book he reads out loud. Topping all other proofs of his ignorance: his total mispronunciation of "Engels," in which the hard "g" sound of the letter "g" is omitted so that the name of the subject of this biography ends up sounding almost unrecognizable, with the hard "g" glottal stop sound omitted as, say, it is in the final consonant sound of the word "hang." Engels was, after all, a German, and his name is known, universally, to those who know even just the first thing about him as "en-Gels"? (Think of how the "g" sounds in "Bengals," for example --that's more or less it.) Dietz's ignorance almost makes listening to this valuable book impossible.
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