cover image Old Gods, New Enigmas: Marx’s Lost Theory

Old Gods, New Enigmas: Marx’s Lost Theory

Mike Davis. Verso, $26.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-78873-216-1

Davis (In Praise of Barbarians) resuscitates myriad overlooked works of political and environmental history and theory in this insightful collection of four essays. The extended title essay traces the development of Karl Marx’s thought, attentive to how Marx never fully explicated a “theory of proletarian agency.” This survey contains a first-rate timeline of the evolution of the concept of class struggle and notes that technology today allows for the kinds of economic democracy and worker control that Marx envisioned over a century ago. The second essay critiques post-Marxist conceptions of nationalism, looking to recent work by Erica Benner and Marx and Engels’s writings on the revolutions of 1848. The third discusses the largely forgotten contributions to climate science of the renowned 19th-century anarchist geographer Peter Kropotkin. Davis closes with a debate between his pessimistic and optimistic selves about urbanism’s paradoxical role as both problem and solution to anthropogenic climate change. Throughout this thought-provoking volume, he seems less concerned with using history to provide answers to modern problems than with offering readers wide-ranging material to digest for the purpose of asking new and better questions. (July)