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IPFS News Link • History

What would Thucydides say?

• arclein

In the weeks after Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte seized power and declared himself Napoleon III, Emperor of the French, Karl Marx sat down to write a history of the present. The purpose of this work was straightforward. Marx wanted to understand how the class struggle in France had 'made it possible for a grotesque and mediocre personality to play a hero's part.' Much of The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852/69), as the work would be known, accordingly consisted of fine-grained political and economic analysis. But Marx opened in a more philosophical vein. After quipping that history repeats itself first as tragedy and then as farce, he reflected upon the role that historical parallelism played in shaping revolutionary action: The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living. And just when they seem engaged in revolutionising themselves and things, in creating something that has never yet existed, precisely in such periods of r


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