Marx is popular? Let’s check at amazon

Posted: August 20, 2009 by datechguy in amazon reviews, internet/free speech, opinion/news
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How about that the New York Times says Marx is back in vogue.

Thanks to globalism’s discontents and the financial crisis that has spread across the planet, Karl Marx and his analysis of capitalism’s dark, wormy side are back in vogue. But what of Friedrich Engels, Marx’s best friend and closest ally, the co-author of “The Communist Manifesto” and the man who selflessly supported Marx while he wrote “Das Kapital”?

Oh really? Lets steal some stats from this post taken from After all I’m a top 1000 reviewer* there so that’s a good reference point:

Lets start with a non conservative book UPDATE: (in fairness Mr. Scarborough would disagree with my characterization so lets call it “conservative lite”) by Joe Scarborough. Sales Rank: #28,738 in Books

How about Mark Levin’s Liberty and Tyranny? Sales Rank: #31 in Books

That’s after 5 months, how about Dick Morris’ Catastrophe? Sales Rank: #47 in Books

How about Michelle’s Culture of Corruption? Sales Rank: #14 in Books

Her book is a month old, and finally how about Glenn Beck’ Common Sense? Sales Rank: #9 in Books

Those figures are all from yesterday, so lets see how they compare with Marx and some fellow travelers. Lets start with Das Kapital: Sales Rank: #301,437 in Books

Well that’s an expensive edition, lets try something else, how about The Communist Manifesto and Other Revolutionary Writings: Marx, Marat, Paine, Mao Tse-Tung, Gandhi and Others (Dover Thrift Editions) (Paperback) Hey that’s got a bunch of people and it’s in paperback too and a Thrift edition that must be selling right? Sales Rank: #76,448 in Books

Hey Marxism isn’t just Marx, lets try Essential Works of Lenin: “What Is to Be Done?” and Other Writings (Paperback). Sales Rank: #180,943 in Books

Well how about Trosky? Let’s try his book Marxism and Terrorism (Paperback) Sales Rank: #590,286 in Books

Well lets take a look at the actual book the New York Times was talking about; Marx’s General by Tristram Hunt, brand new book , favorablly reviewed by the times and Marxism is hot surely it can compete with all these guys who can’t stand Marx and Marxism? Can’t it?: Sales Rank: #1,317 in Books

Guess not.

Hey lets give Marx fans one more shot. How about a classic, like Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United states. After all it’s back to school and a ton of colleges are assigning it as required reading I’m sure it can crack the top 100 or maybe the top 150? Sales Rank: #171 in Books


Michelle Malkin who is #1 on the Times bestseller list again links to human events which says:

Book readers seem to care less and less about what the newspaper thinks of a particular book, he says.

“You can do very well without the imprimatur of the New York Times,” he says. “The dirty little secret is that the Times doesn’t matter anymore, or it matters less and less. Many other outlets beat the Times to the stories and provide much fuller coverage.”

A chapter in Harry Stein’s new book, I Can’t Believe I’m Sitting Next to a Republican, is dedicated to the culture wars flaring within the publishing industry. Republican recalls how mainstream publishing houses turned down future smashes like Bernard Goldberg’s Bias simply because they couldn’t relate to its themes — or preferred not to even try.

I guess NYT must stand for Not (worth) Your Time.

*Ok and I admit it I’m 746 under the old system and only 1010 under the new system but I’m working on it, can I help it if Doctor Who Audios are a niche market?

  1. apples and oranges…

    Marx’s general:
    #1 in Books > Biographies & Memoirs > Professionals & Academics > Philosophers
    #1 in Books > Biographies & Memoirs > Professionals & Academics > Social Scientists & Psychologists
    #33 in Books > Nonfiction > Philosophy

  2. rtambo says:

    What I find most egregious amongst many newspapers is the absence of objectivity. Opinions are encouraged, but should be placed onto the `opinion pages’, not enrolled in covering news events. The practice of incorporating reporter’s opinions into news coverage is merely providing the reporter’s feelings and possible desired outcomes, not facts. It is `inconspicuously’ designed to influence readers.

  3. I agree that the NYT reporter made a completely unjustified statement. Even worse, he treated his statement as being so obvious that you can be forgiven for assuming that there would be a clear signal in the book sales data. At the least, the reporter (and his editors) should have specified what groups are showing renewed interest in Marx…because it obviously isn’t everyone.

    Still, it is absurd to compare the sales new books against the sales of old books, or to compare books from high-profile authors against books from unknown authors, or to compare current events books against books about obscure historical figures.

    The problem is that there aren’t any high-profile anti-capitalist authors in the US (maybe Zinn and Moore).

    Anyway, the list of popular philosophy books is interesting:

    It seems to be a pretty even balance of “right and left”, with a good bit of libertarianism thrown in.

  4. rtambo: I really like the Economist, in part because the DO make their opinions clear (as is typical of British newspapers). When American publications pretend to be objective, they are just lying to their customers. It is impossible for a person to be objective — the publishers need to make all types of decisions about what news is worth publishing (VERY subjective), what sources to consult (fairly subjective), and how to frame the story so that it engages the reader (VERY subjective). They should not pretend to be objective, they should just be clear about where they are coming from.

    Even scientists can only be objective in how they interpret results — not in constructing hypotheses or deciding what lines of research to pursue.

    datechguy: I realized that the above link does not show the ideological breadth that I said it did. Either the results changed since I looked at it a couple of days ago, or I referred to the wrong category. I looked around at different categories, and found that the results varied greatly based on category (I know you don’t think that categories are necessary, but I’ve explained my reasons for liking them).

    For instance, this one is dominated by leftist stuff:

    It seems like different political communities could show different biases for what types of books they like. There could also be issues of timing–book sales from 6 month ago probably would have been much different than they are now if only because the financial crisis was more recent and there hadn’t been time for a backlash to form against Obama.

    More fundamentally, book may be more popular among different demographic groups. For instance, I’d expect middle-age, middle-class people to be more likely to buy books, whereas younger (college-aged) or poorer people may be more likely to rely on libraries or the internet for reading material.

    Anyway, you’re right that the NYT reporter’s statement was either wrong or so vague as to be meaningless…but judging popularity of an idea is much more complicated than what you proposed (and I understand that you don’t have the time to write a properly researched book about this…I’m just thinking aloud and trying to refine your original research).

  5. rtambo says:

    There are several clear reasons why `conservative’ or `non-feeling’ authors have greater audiences than those who promote feelings. The first is that a majority of readers are, in fact, reasoned people who base many decisions on facts rather than the reporter’s or author’s `feelings’ or speculation.

    Karl Marx’s and Engels’ economic philosophy became popular in the mid 1800’s because it is based upon `wealth envy’ and since most people aren’t as successful as the `few’, resentment is the `candy’ that attracts many of today’s politicians to this under productive class. Unfortunately, many politicians find using the `class warfare’ approach to be the `golden rule’ of getting elected and re-elected. yet these who subscribe to this ‘candy’ usually remain in the underclass because they have been taught or believe that wealth distribution is owed to them.

  6. rtambo says:

    datechguy – I don’t think reading Marx or gaining a better understanding of his philosophy would necessarily benefit politicians or the general public. What I think would be a better approach is I would demand of all politicians, before they would be allowed to vote on any legislation having a direct economic impact on the American public, is mandatory attendance of macro and micro economics. These courses would be taught under the tutelage of Walter Williams, Department Head of Economics at George Mason University and Thomas Sowell, Department Head of Economics at Hoover Institution.

    All `students’ are given tests and must past final exams! Grades would be public knowledge.

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  8. WWRTC says:

    Good post DaTechguy….I also look for general data like book sales and comments on both Left & Right leaning publications as indications of public sentiment. Your Amazon ratings comps certainly do describe a rapid growth in right leaning book sales. I especialy enjoy going to bookstores and taking a measure of their displays and remainer tables as well as do a little counterinsurgency….thanks for your good work!