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The Historical Background of the Communist
George R. Boyer
Cornell University, firstname.lastname@example.org
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The Historical Background of the Communist Manifesto
[Excerpt] The Manifesto of the Communist Party, published 150 years ago in London in February 1848, is one
of the most influential and widely-read documents of the past two centuries. The historian A. J. P. Taylor
(1967, p. 7) has called it a "holy book," and contends that because of it, "everyone thinks differently about
politics and society." And yet, despite its enormous influence in the 20th century, the Manifesto is very much a
period piece, a document of what was called the "hungry" 1840s. It is hard to imagine it being written in any
other decade of the 19th century. The critique of capitalism offered by Marx and Engels in the Manifesto is
understandable in the context of economic conditions in Britain from 1837 to 1848, and it is not that
different, in places, from the conclusions reached by other social critics during the 1840s.
This paper attempts to place the Manifestos analysis of capitalist economic development in historical
perspective. I begin by summarizing the economic arguments of Marx and Engels. While the Manifesto-was
written by Marx, its economic analysis was strongly influenced by Engels's "practical experience of capitalism"
in his family's cotton firm in Manchester, England, in...