October 18, 2002

· Books

I picked up a copy of Edmund Wilson’s To the Finland Station recently—- it’s a little hard to find, but very good. It’s absorbing material: Wilson is so well-read, and his prose is so limpid, that you quickly get drawn in. He can be funny, too. Here is Karl Marx just before getting run out of Cologne in 1848:

Marx put up a tough fight to the end. Cologne was full of soldiers that spring; and the authorities did their best to intimidate him. Berlin sent agents to watch him and to try to get something on him; but the Cologne government would not let them operate… Summoned to court for inciting the people to refuse to pay the taxes, he proved by one of his subtle disquisitions that all law was merely the reflection of social relations, that when the social relations were changed, the laws became invalid, and that, in consequence, it was not he who had broken laws that the Revolution had made obsolete but the government which had violated the rights that were to be guaranteed, according to its promise, by the imminent constitution: the effect on the jusry was so great that Marx was thanked on their behalf by the foreman for his “extremely informative speech.”

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I am Associate Professor of Sociology at Duke University. I’m affiliated with the Kenan Institute for Ethics, the Markets and Management Studies program, and the Duke Network Analysis Center.



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