In 1852, Karl Marx published an essay, "The Eighteenth Brumaire
of Louis Bonaparte," which begins with a reference to another great figure from the past.
We should resist the temptation to over-interpret Trump's election as an American Eighteenth Brumaire
In this and many other respects, Thompson owed a clear debt to Karl Marx, most particularly to Marx's insistence, in his 1852 essay "The Eighteenth Brumaire
of Louis Bonaparte," that "[m]en make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly found, given and transmitted from the past" (89).
Commending the grubbing of the revolutionary old mole in The Eighteenth Brumaire
of Louis Bonaparte, Karl Marx tacitly promotes an art of dirt alongside a practice of the dig.
Karl Marx, in his Eighteenth Brumaire
of Louis Napoleon (1852), broadly classifies his lumpenproletariat as the unpredictable, uncontrollable, and unruly dregs left behind by the revolution, and Reed similarly casts a rather wide net in his definition of the underclasses, including in that category servants and slaves, apprentices and labourers, artisans and mechanics, pimps and prostitutes, criminals and pirates, immigrants and women: 'The theatricalized lower classes emerge from social encounters and perceived differences as much as from material conditions and collective consciousness' (5).
Borrowing from Marx's The Eighteenth Brumaire
of Louis Bonaparte as elaborated in Walter Benjamin's theory of history, we may say that "the specters of history" in Fellini's Roma come back like a Freudian return of the repressed, yet all dressed up in self-parading garb.
In that regard, Marx, and particularly the Marx of Eighteenth Brumaire
, remains (paradoxically) the exemplary figure.
Taking his cue from Karl Marx's The Eighteenth Brumaire
of Louis Napoleon, in which Marx claimed that history repeats itself, but the second time around turns tragedy into farce, white asked who chooses these modes of tragedy and farce, is it history, revealing its true shape, or is it the historian who must have a story to tell and can only do so in the forms provided by culture?
Opening his 1852 study of "bourgeois revolution," The Eighteenth Brumaire
of Louis Bonaparte, Marx writes: "Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice.
Through labour, "Men make their own history, but not of their own free will" (Karl Marx, "The Eighteenth Brumaire
of Louis Bonaparte," in David Fernbach, ed.
As I'd mope over the defection of some girlfriend, he'd thrust a copy of the Eighteenth Brumaire
into my hand and tell me to cheer up.
1) I want to counterpoise that formulation with what I have come to see as a very different way of thinking, one which I think allows for a better understanding of the two-sidedness of the relationship between what Gutman might have called "power" and "culture," and one which I think helps me see the way to a better, more useful, and I'd even say more radical version of history: the formulation offered by Karl Marx at the outset of The Eighteenth Brumaire
of Louis Bonaparte: "Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past.