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  • Writer's pictureBen Thomas

Literature Review: Introducing Marxism: A Graphic Guide by Rupert Woodfin

Introducing Marxism is one of a collection of small guidebooks published by Icon Books. The Introducing series offers a selection of pocket-sized illustrated graphic guides on various topics. Subjects include religion – where looks at Hinduism, Buddha, Islam are included, political or philosophical thinking – with topics such as Jung, Capitalism or and more general studies such as linguistics or ethics. Each guide is penned by a different author but usually has a regular illustrator and provide layman – yet in-depth - looks at complicated issues.

This issue in the series about Marxism is written by Rupert Woodfin and was published in 2009. Woodfin has written various guides on Marxism – along with some also on Aristotle – and has also contributed to A-Level revision guides on philosophical thinking. Aside from his input in these guides, not much information is available about Woodfin as an author. The book itself also doesn’t include a biography about the author – which is probably due to the corporate identity behind the series taking more of the claim to the books than their authors. On the other hand, more information is available online about Oscar Zarate – the book’s illustrator who has contributed to numerous issues in the series. Zarate is Argentine born and has a background in architecture studies. He moved to Europe in 1971 and began his illustrator career shortly after. Alongside illustrating numerous books in the Introducing series and other similar philosophy books, Zarate is known for being the illustrator for A Small Killing - a successful graphic novel by renowned comic writer Alan Moore.

Introducing Marxism – like many others in the Introducing series – is designed to be an introduction to the prominent theories and theorists that make up the “ism”. Between the two of them, Woodfin and Zarate use illustrations and small paragraphs of text to explain Marxist theories and documents such as historical materialism, the dialectic and the Communist Manifesto. The book also delves into the history of Karl Marx’s youth, upbringing and rise to prominence. His meeting of and subsequent friendship with Friedrich Engels and their creation of the Communist Manifesto and how they were influenced by fellow philosopher Hegel are strong topics throughout the early chapters. The roots of Marxism and how it was influenced by various philosophers over history was eye-opening reading for me, as it mirrors my previous thought process of how psychogeography has followed a similar chain of influence. The theories Marx brought forward – that were explained by the author in a clear, interesting manner – about the dialectic and it’s links to contradictions and anthesis for example were areas I had no previous knowledge on but can now be brought into my studies and thinking towards my own topics. Psychogeography like much other practices and theories has succumb to the dialectic over time.

As I have previously mentioned in previous literature reviews – my knowledge of Marxism is something I wish to strengthen over my PhD studies. The influence Karl Marx had on the Situationists and Guy Debord cannot be ignored – so at least a basic knowledge of Marxist theory and history is needed for me to truly understand the roots and philosophy within the practice of psychogeography. I do intend to now move on to more in-depth, academical – and perhaps more professional – pieces of writing and analysis to continue to reinforce my basic knowledge on Marx, but I found this book – with its illustrations helping to break up some otherwise comprehensive theories – a great starting point. I do however have no doubt that once I have read some more scholarly texts on Marx that I will see the potential downfalls and pitfalls in this guide.

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