Even among the world’s classics - in any field and of any genre - there are few texts that have been reprinted so many times in so many editions, and translated into so many languages (repeatedly), as the Communist Manifesto of 1848 by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. It is both revered and reviled, which has something to do with its phenomenal circulation. A text that inspires such disparate reactions is certainly intriguing. Whether the ideas are loved or hated, the Manifesto is a standard work both in popular political circulation and on academic reading lists. The hagiographical and debunking literatures on Marx (and his self-styled "second fiddle," Engels) are enormous, as are the rather more considered academic commentaries and - since the global financial crises of 2008 - respectable journalistic notices. Marx is back! And so is the Manifesto. There is an audio book, an illustrated comic and various animations on YouTube, including the incomparable "Communist Manifestoon."1 But while there are more readers than ever for the thirty-or-so pages that this short text usually occupies, there is surprisingly little commentary focused specifically on it, other than introductory essays, biographical run-throughs and bibliographical histories. The purpose of this collection, therefore, is to remedy this state of affairs, and to put the most famous and widely read work of the two iconic authors front-and-center throughout in a critical Companion. As with many, indeed most other manifestos, this one could easily have disappeared into the archive (and in this case, the police archive) and have had little influence or readership beyond its initial publication in the revolutionary years of 1848-1849. Its main public notice in that period was in the counter-revolutionary trials and tribulations of the 1850s. While it took a concerted political effort in the mid-1860s and finally in 1872 to make this document speak to mass audiences, the overwhelming truth is that the Manifesto communicates astoundingly well to this day, despite its obvious roots in a German-speaking political world long gone.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- General Social Sciences