Cover of The Last Years of Karl Marx by  Marcello Musto
The Last Years of Karl Marx
An Intellectual Biography
Marcello Musto


208 pages.
from $25.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503610583
Paperback ISBN: 9781503612525
Ebook ISBN: 9781503612532

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Honorable Mention in the 2022 Eric Hoffer Book Award - Reference Category.

An innovative reassessment of the last writings and final years of Karl Marx.

In the last years of his life, Karl Marx expanded his research in new directions—studying recent anthropological discoveries, analyzing communal forms of ownership in precapitalist societies, supporting the populist movement in Russia, and expressing critiques of colonial oppression in India, Ireland, Algeria, and Egypt. Between 1881 and 1883, he also traveled beyond Europe for the first and only time. Focusing on these last years of Marx's life, this book dispels two key misrepresentations of his work: that Marx ceased to write late in life, and that he was a Eurocentric and economic thinker fixated on class conflict alone.

With The Last Years of Karl Marx, Marcello Musto claims a renewed relevance for the late work of Marx, highlighting unpublished or previously neglected writings, many of which remain unavailable in English. Readers are invited to reconsider Marx's critique of European colonialism, his ideas on non-Western societies, and his theories on the possibility of revolution in noncapitalist countries. From Marx's late manuscripts, notebooks, and letters emerge an author markedly different from the one represented by many of his contemporary critics and followers alike. As Marx currently experiences a significant rediscovery, this volume fills a gap in the popularly accepted biography and suggests an innovative reassessment of some of his key concepts.

About the author

Marcello Musto is Associate Professor of Sociology at York University. His most recent books are Another Marx: Early Manuscripts to the International (2018) and, as editor, The Marx Revival: Key Concepts and New Critical Interpretations (2020).

"Marcello Musto, arguably the greatest connoisseur of Marx's life, offers us one revelation after another. Whereas many have understood the period after the Paris Commune as a time of divulgation and implementation of his already established political doctrine, Musto instead brilliantly demonstrates that Marx spent these years opening new and important theoretical horizons upon which we must meditate in order not to remain 'Marxists' against Marx himself!"

—Étienne Balibar, author of The Philosophy of Marx

"Marcello Musto's work is essential for his analysis of Marx's life and thought. In this book, Musto focuses on Marx's inquiries in his final years. The anthropological manuscripts, the studies on the transformation of property, and the criticism of colonialism written in this period are striking. Musto takes us by the hand and invites us to discover a new Marx."

—Antonio Negri, author of Marx beyond Marx

"This volume is a major contribution to the study of Marx and revolutionary thought. Beautifully written, constructed through an insightful examination of thousands of pages of Marx's unpublished writings and notes, this book represents a timely contribution to the contemporary Marx revival. It is a gift to the many who still look to Marx for political inspiration."

—Silvia Federici, author of Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation

"[A] study that breaks new ground in our understanding of Marx between 1881 and 1883....Musto gives us a portrait of a thinker in his last years that challenges the representations others have imposed upon him."

—Daniel Whittall, Review 31

"Musto masterfully weaves together rich biographical detail and a sophisticated engagement with Marx's mature, oftentimes self-questioning writing."

—Nicolas Allen, Jacobin

"Marcello Musto is undoubtedly the rising star on the "marxological" firmament. The Last Years of Karl Marx is an innovative book that helps us, in a magisterial way, to discover Marx's intellectualactivity during the period 1881-1883."


"There has been a gaping hole in studies of Karl Marx leaving out the last few years before his death in March 1883. Despite the recent revival of Marx studies, this 'forgotten chapter' of his life has remained in the shadows, until now with Marcello Musto's informative and well-crafted book, The Last Years of Karl Marx."

—Robert Ware, Marx & Philosophy Review of Books

"Musto's book presents an overview of Marx's studies, debates, correspondence, affectionate relationships, diseases, sorrows, and journeys during the last years of his life. Pages cataloguing Marx's readings are very useful and informative... Such pages are... followed by stories of Marx's family life, correspondence regarding politics, and Marx's personal relations with his comrades. This rhythm of the prose leads the reader through the pages of this book, which is packed with detailed information."

—Paula Rauhala, Socialism and Democracy

"Musto clears up the many misunderstandings of Marx, conveying, for example, that Marx did not believe that interpretive frameworks based on Western European history should be slavishly applied to other contexts, and that he was not an economic determinist...Highly recommended."

—M. J. Wert, CHOICE

"Marcello Musto's combination of personal biography and intellectual appraisal makes for inspiring reading. He argues very well that Marx's ideas cannot be limited to a simplistic formula, but are living and dynamic."

—Barry Healy, Green Left

"Musto...makes a strength of what is usually claimed to be a liability of Marx's theory: that he does not sketch the communist future. Just as capitalism permeates different historical and geographical environments differently and at a different pace, albeit with some common features, Marx's nimble historical understanding means that we are more likely to confront communist futures rather than a single monolith."

—Amy E. Wendling, The Review of Politics

"Musto's study makes an invaluable contribution to our understanding of Marx in his last years, offering an angle from which to consider him that departs from the more usual focus on either the young Marx orCapital.(...)As it stands, this study by Musto fills a huge gap in our understanding of Marx."

—Kevin B. Anderson, New Politics: Journal of Socialist Thought

"By stitching together the unfinished work in progress and the whole range of disciplines Marx was preoccupied with in his last years, Marcello Mustopresents a systematically connected bold socio-political reading of Marx."

—Arkayan Ganguly, Critique: Journal of Socialist Theory

"Marcello Musto's The Last Years of Karl Marx: An Intellectual Biography provides an illuminating glance at the work and life of Karl Marx during the most unexamined period of his life. Musto's oscillation between Marx's work and life provides readers with both an intellectual allurement towards research in Marx's later years and with a warm image of Marx's intimate life sure to guarantee both laughs and tears."

—Carlos L. Garrido, Midwestern Marx

"In The Last Years of Karl Marx, Marcello Musto provides an affectionate and careful journey through the final two years of Marx's life."

—William Clare Roberts, Political Science Quarterly

"Musto combines a fascinating and detailed intellectual biography with an informativeaccount of Marx's life in hisfinal years. His book is exceptionally well researched. In a running commentary, much of it in footnotes, he provides a detailed account of the scholarly literature in all the main European languages on the topics he is discussing. He writes in a clear and pleasing style. His book makes a majorcontribution to our understanding of Marx's life and work.It is highly recommended."

—Sean Sayers, Emancipations: A Journal of Critical Social Analysis

"Musto is to be congratulated for adding to our awareness of Marx's continued deepening of his understanding of the world until his death and we can heartily agree with him that we continue to have much to learn from Marx."

—Paul Blackledge, New Political Science

"Making very good use of Marx's extensive late notebooks, Musto's important volume constitutes an excellent addition to the literature: it will provide insight and inspiration to all students of Marx and his work."

—Alex Miller, Capital & Class

"Marcello Musto's The last years of Karl Marx is an important addition."

—Branko Milanovic, Intervention

"Musto's is perhaps the most translated book on Marx as of late. This success is importantly due to the fact that, of the more than twenty-five books on Marx's life and/or work, few had really delved into the Moor's final years on the planet. Musto fills in this gap in a powerful, meticulously researched, and succinct manner, weaving the history of Marx's intellectual labor with his personal and activist life."

—Mauricio Betancourt, Monthly Review