Published Humanitas, Volume VII, No. 2, 1994

For better or for worse, Karl Marx’s countless hours of lonely labor in the British Museum proved not to have been in vain; he is indisputably one of the most influential thinkers of the modern era. How ironic that Marx, for whom philosophy and the life of the mind were mere epiphenomena, mere by-products of more or less autonomous material forces, should so clearly demonstrate the power and force of intellect and imagination.

Why did Marx so move the world? Did he shed new light on the human story, plumb its mysteries to previously unsounded depths? Marx himself viewed his contribution as “real positive science,” as the dissemination of objective truth; he had the utmost scorn for those content with mere “illusions of speculation.” Yet mountains of books have been written refuting his critique of political economy and his philosophy of history, and few people today would concur in Marx’s self-characterization.

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