In the twenty-four years since the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, a body of high-quality scholarship on socialism has slowly accumulated. Here I discuss two superb additions to this incipient post–Cold War canon, Mark Bevir's The Making of British Socialism and Jonathan Sperber's Karl Marx: A Nineteenth Century Life. Both authors take it as axiomatic that the socialist utopia, with its quasi-eschatological promise of complete human emancipation, is an idea whose time has passed. But Bevir and, to a lesser degree, Sperber discern a utopian afterglow that warrants our interest—and is still quite capable of providing inspiration.

“This book has been a long time in the making,” Mark Bevir admits in the preface to The Making of British Socialism. We should be grateful that it was. Every passing day takes us further from the Manichean logic of the Cold War, which made disinterested scholarship on this subject virtually...

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