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Revolutions and the Making of the Modern World

From Peter the Great to Karl Marx

James Cracraft

Edited By William Benton Whisenhunt

Professor James Cracraft is an established specialist on early modern Russian history, particularly the era of Peter the Great (1682-1725), tsar and first Russian emperor. This volume gathers some of the many key articles and reviews published by him over the last forty years and more in a wide variety of scholarly venues, some of which are not readily accessible. They constitute in sum important contributions not only to Russian history broadly understood, but also to the study of history itself. The collection will include a preface by the editor and an introduction by the author, where he will sum up his decades of historical work and point to new avenues of needed research, all the while emphasizing that "history" properly understood does not exist somewhere on its own but is the creation, however imperfect, of professional historians (as "chemistry", say, is properly understood as the work, however imperfect, of professional chemists).

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15 The Specter of Marxism


Revolution is the driving force of history—

also of religion, of philosophy and all other types of theory.

Karl Marx, The German Ideology1

History’s Locomotives: Revolutions and the Making of the Modern World.

By Martin Malia. Edited with Foreword by Terence Emmons. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006. Pp. x, 360.

Keywords: Karl Marx, Marxism, socialism, Alexander Herzen, Russian Revolution, Cold War, Alexis de Tocqueville, Michel de Certeau

Martin Malia’s first book, originally a Harvard doctoral dissertation (1951), was devoted to the ideological prehistory of the Bolshevik Revolution. The book was “a study of ideologies much more than politics,” ideology defined as the outcome of various “pressures” on the psyches of certain individuals, in this case, of Alexander Herzen, the bastard son of a rich Russian landowner who left him the means to spend the bulk of his adult life in a comfortable exile in western Europe. There, as the paradigmatic eastern European “gentry revolutionary,” he ←237 | 238→elaborated his theory of a peculiarly Russian form of socialism based on the peasant commune as it had been described not long before by a visiting German sociologist, August von Haxthausen.

The commune’s revolutionary potential was to be unleashed by the cajolings of a radicalized, gentry-origin intelligentsia: radicalized by their reading of German romantic idealism and their understanding of the parallel development of socialism in western Europe, and spurred on by Herzen’s privately printed revolutionary incitements smuggled into...

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