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A Spectre Haunting Europe

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In 1848 a strange political tract was published by two émigrés from Germany. Marx and Engels's apocalyptic vision of an insatiable system that penetrates every corner of the world, reduces every relationship to that of profit, and bursts asunder the old forms of production and of politics, is still a picture of a recognizable world, our world, and the vampiric energy of th In 1848 a strange political tract was published by two émigrés from Germany. Marx and Engels's apocalyptic vision of an insatiable system that penetrates every corner of the world, reduces every relationship to that of profit, and bursts asunder the old forms of production and of politics, is still a picture of a recognizable world, our world, and the vampiric energy of the system is once again highly contentious. The Manifesto is a text that shows no sign of fading into antiquarian obscurity. Its ideas animate in different ways the work of writers like Yanis Varoufakis, Adam Tooze, Naomi Klein and the journalist Owen Jones. China Miéville is not a writer who has been hemmed in by conventional notions of expertise or genre, and this is a strikingly imaginative take on Marx and what his most haunting book has to say to us today. This is a book haunted by ghosts, sorcery and creative destruction.


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In 1848 a strange political tract was published by two émigrés from Germany. Marx and Engels's apocalyptic vision of an insatiable system that penetrates every corner of the world, reduces every relationship to that of profit, and bursts asunder the old forms of production and of politics, is still a picture of a recognizable world, our world, and the vampiric energy of th In 1848 a strange political tract was published by two émigrés from Germany. Marx and Engels's apocalyptic vision of an insatiable system that penetrates every corner of the world, reduces every relationship to that of profit, and bursts asunder the old forms of production and of politics, is still a picture of a recognizable world, our world, and the vampiric energy of the system is once again highly contentious. The Manifesto is a text that shows no sign of fading into antiquarian obscurity. Its ideas animate in different ways the work of writers like Yanis Varoufakis, Adam Tooze, Naomi Klein and the journalist Owen Jones. China Miéville is not a writer who has been hemmed in by conventional notions of expertise or genre, and this is a strikingly imaginative take on Marx and what his most haunting book has to say to us today. This is a book haunted by ghosts, sorcery and creative destruction.

52 review for A Spectre Haunting Europe

  1. 5 out of 5

    Alexandra

    This book was sent to me by the publisher, Head of Zeus (via Bloomsbury), at no cost. It’s out now. It’s a joke some people make to say that I’m basically a Communist. I’m not; I’m not dedicated enough. I am happy to wear ‘vaguely socialist’; there are a lot of things within the ideals of socialism – and, yes, communism, depending on how you talk about it – that I absolutely subscribe to. And yes, of course I know that the whole concept of communism is now utterly tied up with the various 20th ce This book was sent to me by the publisher, Head of Zeus (via Bloomsbury), at no cost. It’s out now. It’s a joke some people make to say that I’m basically a Communist. I’m not; I’m not dedicated enough. I am happy to wear ‘vaguely socialist’; there are a lot of things within the ideals of socialism – and, yes, communism, depending on how you talk about it – that I absolutely subscribe to. And yes, of course I know that the whole concept of communism is now utterly tied up with the various 20th century versions that claimed to putting it into practise. I am a history teacher. Mieville, too, is open about his context. In the introduction he explains that he’s trying to present the historical aspects in such a way that a reader of any political persuasion will be able to read it (without frothing in a rage is, I think, the subtext). He is clear that the final chapter is much more subjective but again hopes that people will be able to engage thoughtfully. I deeply appreciate that he’s not pretending to be neutral, which is something that would be impossible (and that anyone who knows his background wouldn’t believe anyway). All of that is context around the fact that I think this book is incredible and anyone who wants to make any claims for or against communism in the 21st century absolutely needs to read it. First, it contains the entire text of the Communist Manifesto. I’ve read bits and pieces but I don’t think I’ve ever sat down and read the whole thing from cover to cover (it’s an honours thesis in length! Only 12,000 words!). And every paragraph is numbered and every time Mieville refers to something from the Manifesto, it’s right there for you to refer to. I present: integrity. Bits that shook me: reading about workers being alienated from the products of their labour while watching Severance; also that the bourgeoisie / capitalism “has resolved personal worth into exchange value” and nothing else. Second, I am deeply appreciative of Mieville giving the historical context not just of Marx and Engels, and not just of Communism (not completely comprehensive, which Mieville acknowledges) but also the context of manifestos as a genre. That’s pretty great and something I’ve not seen before. He also examines various criticisms of the Manifesto, from different times and perspectives, and discusses their validity or not. Mieville is in no way suggesting that the Manifesto is perfect, and accepts some of the problems quite readily; those he doesn’t, I think he deals with thoughtfully. Finally, the bit that may well have some people frothing at the mouth and that particularly struck me is the chapter in which Mieville examines the utility of the Manifesto for the 21st century. And the important thing here is that Mieville comes across as angry. Really quite angry about the piles and multitudes of inequality and despair and awfulness in the world today. I can’t adequately give an overview of this chapter, because he has several points and I haven’t entirely decided whether I agree with all of them. But what I am is convinced that this rushed (although still missing its deadline), somewhat incomplete, more than 150 year old document still has something to offer – even if it’s largely as a starting point, and it’s definitely not perfect.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Theo Logos

    A caveat before beginning. My reaction to and rating of this book were hugely affected by the expectations I had going in, and your own particular mileages may vary greatly from mine. As a writer of speculative fiction, China Miéville is unique and unparalleled. He is one of my favorites. His work is challenging, bizarre, and thought provoking. I knew that he was a noted political philosopher as well, so when I heard he was writing this book I was full of anticipation. I waited two year for it t A caveat before beginning. My reaction to and rating of this book were hugely affected by the expectations I had going in, and your own particular mileages may vary greatly from mine. As a writer of speculative fiction, China Miéville is unique and unparalleled. He is one of my favorites. His work is challenging, bizarre, and thought provoking. I knew that he was a noted political philosopher as well, so when I heard he was writing this book I was full of anticipation. I waited two year for it to be published, and grabbed it up at my first opportunity. I was expecting to see something of his crookedly original vision applied to this examination of the world’s most consequential manifesto. Well, I was massively disappointed. Yes, this is a well researched, tightly reasoned critique of the manifesto, and it definitely contains real value. But it is mainly a straight up scholarly work. Miéville left all of his unique weirdness home in his fiction cabinet when he was writing this. Where I was hoping to find an outrageously original work of political philosophy I found just another dry text. My reaction to the book was almost certainly also effected by the narrator of the audiobook. The narration wasn’t quite a monotone, but was delivered in a disengaged, exaggeratedly clipped accent that did no favors to the text. The work definitely has value, as you can ascertain from reading some of the other reviews here. The most useful information I gathered from it came in the first chapter, where Miéville details its particular genre, what a manifesto actual is, how it works, and what we should expect from it. He explains that much criticism it has received over the years springs from a fundamental misunderstanding of what the genre actually is and what should be expected of it. This was a particularly strong start. I felt bad giving this book only two stars, because its information is solid. But the first criteria that I have for giving three stars is that I liked the book. Probably because of my disappointed expectations, I couldn’t honestly say that about A Spectre Haunting.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Neal Spadafora

    Having now read many of the classic introductions to communism and Marxism, I’m convinced that A Spectre, Haunting is not only unparalleled in its historical work and contextualization of the Manifesto and Marx, but in its ability to read Marx and the Manifesto with 21st century eyes. While many Marx scholars have recently turned their attention towards Capital (Heinrich and Harvey, for example) and others have focused on Marx’s political writings (such as Mike Davis), Miéville excavates that of Having now read many of the classic introductions to communism and Marxism, I’m convinced that A Spectre, Haunting is not only unparalleled in its historical work and contextualization of the Manifesto and Marx, but in its ability to read Marx and the Manifesto with 21st century eyes. While many Marx scholars have recently turned their attention towards Capital (Heinrich and Harvey, for example) and others have focused on Marx’s political writings (such as Mike Davis), Miéville excavates that oft under appreciated work: the Communist Manifesto. Indeed, Miéville’s form and content alike are noteworthy; his style fluid and florescent, his content rigorous and researched. There are few books on Marxism, A Spectre Haunting being one of them, that neither read like a 16th century census nor obfuscate 19th century issues for 21st century issues. Miéville presents Marxism at its best: self-reflexive, attentive to criticism, quick to delineate between essentials and non-essentials, and cognizant of reason’s limits. Miéville is able to sublate many dead debates on race, climate, neoliberalism, and more. While the book could have benefited from further inspection of different readings of Marx (e.g., value-form criticism, falling rate of profit, to name a few), it more than fulfills its hope of illustrating the Manifesto’s lamentable applicability. A Spectre, Haunting will be the first book I recommend to new and seasoned readers of Marx alike.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Brendan

    As always, Mieville proves his adaptability and capacity to make me think and reflect (especially the discussions/reflections on class reductionism and on hate). Mieville cannot be defined by genre, although this book definitely feels much more in line with something like Terry Eagleton's "Why Marx was Right" than anything Mieville has written before - it felt very different from October, and from his fiction, of course. I will hopefully do a more in-depth review later, but for now, in the words As always, Mieville proves his adaptability and capacity to make me think and reflect (especially the discussions/reflections on class reductionism and on hate). Mieville cannot be defined by genre, although this book definitely feels much more in line with something like Terry Eagleton's "Why Marx was Right" than anything Mieville has written before - it felt very different from October, and from his fiction, of course. I will hopefully do a more in-depth review later, but for now, in the words of the late great Ursula K. Le Guin, "You can't talk about Miéville without using the word brilliant." This was different, and I think I might need to do a re-read to digest everything...

  5. 4 out of 5

    Linnea Lucifer

    Whatever you do, don't buy the audiobook version! If it wasn't against my principles, I would return it for a refund, that's how painful it was to listen to. I really wanted to read this book because I like Miéville and I've been looking forward to this release. Unfortunately, I had to DNF it at the 50% mark, and I only made it that far because I genuinely wanted to read the book. I believe it is a great read that I'd probably rate four or five stars. If it wasn't. For. The fact that. The narrat Whatever you do, don't buy the audiobook version! If it wasn't against my principles, I would return it for a refund, that's how painful it was to listen to. I really wanted to read this book because I like Miéville and I've been looking forward to this release. Unfortunately, I had to DNF it at the 50% mark, and I only made it that far because I genuinely wanted to read the book. I believe it is a great read that I'd probably rate four or five stars. If it wasn't. For. The fact that. The narration. Of the audio. Book is. Atrocious. (Written, slightly over-exaggerated, example of narration.) For now, I'm giving it three stars because it neither adds nor detracts from the average. (As an audiobook it deserves 1 at best.) I'll come back with a proper review once I've read the e-book. Whenever that will be. There's a reason I primarily "read" audiobooks. So disappointed... =/

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ietrio

    Actually it would be okay if only Europe would have been haunted by the killing fields. Yet, the disease has long been exported: Asia, Africa, the Americas. At first I thought this is some sort of satire. But no, this is the thinking of Ingsoc: *War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.*

  7. 5 out of 5

    doseofsoma

    ree-hee-hee

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lira

  9. 5 out of 5

    Raizelle Erasquin

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tim Goodacre

  11. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Sinclair

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jon Lyndon

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ian

  14. 5 out of 5

    Eddie Clarke

  15. 5 out of 5

    Gb

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ioannis Touras

  17. 4 out of 5

    Doug

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mohamed Farah

  19. 5 out of 5

    Stuart Harrison

  20. 4 out of 5

    Charles Arden

  21. 5 out of 5

    Carol

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lora Hearst

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bill Crane

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tim Briedis

  25. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

  26. 5 out of 5

    Michael Joseph Schumann

  27. 4 out of 5

    libraryfacts

  28. 5 out of 5

    Neil

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ray

  30. 4 out of 5

    Fullcycle

  31. 5 out of 5

    Jacob

  32. 5 out of 5

    Eric

  33. 4 out of 5

    Deborah

  34. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

  35. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Brown

  36. 4 out of 5

    Luke DeWaal

  37. 4 out of 5

    Deablero

  38. 5 out of 5

    Allmimsy

  39. 5 out of 5

    Googoogjoob

  40. 4 out of 5

    Jack

  41. 4 out of 5

    Artem Yarmoliuk

  42. 5 out of 5

    Mark Stackpole

  43. 5 out of 5

    Chris

  44. 5 out of 5

    ErrBookErrDay

  45. 5 out of 5

    Guiltyofbeingmike

  46. 5 out of 5

    Danita L

  47. 4 out of 5

    Yenni

  48. 4 out of 5

    Wayong Weiss

  49. 4 out of 5

    Cam

  50. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

  51. 5 out of 5

    Dax

  52. 5 out of 5

    Riccardo

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