Marx was of course a non-Jewish Jew, and Berman hails from the garment district of radical tradition. He shows a keen awareness of the displaced messianism that lurks in Marx's work-and which isn't the best part of it-but also of its specific appeal to secular Jews in the 20th century. A particularly lucid essay examines the work of the murdered novelist Isaac Babel, who was an early victim of Stalinism. And his chapter on the life and work of the Hungarian Marxist Georg Lukacs-model for the Jewish-Jesuit-Communist Leo Naptha in Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain-is the best treatment of the subject I have ever read. Berman's writing is scholarly but jargon-free, anchored in modern references but with a strong sense of history, and animated by a generous sympathy. He represents what's best in the Marxist tradition, which still has a chance of surviving the century of its catastrophic victories. Every time you read some facile article on "globalization" and reflect that capitalism has-well anticipated by Marx- created an economy but by no means a world society, you may want to reflect on your kinship with other sellers of labor power, in Timor and Bolivia, and consider what interests you have in common. You may have fewer chains to lose than they, but you may also be reminded of the famous slogan of 1848.

Marshall Berman’s Intellectual Life is—in the best sense—like Forrest Gump’s Box of chocolates.
photo courtesy of Verso
Marshall Berman’s Intellectual Life is—in the best sense—like Forrest Gump’s Box of chocolates.

Details

Adventures in Marxism
By Marshall Berman
Verso, 273 pp., $25

Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair.

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