In the last year of his life, Karl Marx had his beard shaved off by a barber in Algiers. He couldn’t stand the African heat. But he made sure that a photograph was taken beforehand of him in his world famous hirsute visage — the last photo of him. Keeping up appearances — that’s what history’s greatest dialectical materialist understood very well at that stage of his career as a revolutionary. Beards stood for bravery, manliness and, above all, wisdom. Marx knew by then he was none the wiser after a lifetime of writing tomes — he had not yet begun the second phase of his investigation of political economy, had not yet thought through where the state fit in. Much as he revolutionised human thinking, he died before Freud discovered what really motivates us, before antitrust laws easily defeated monopolies and before John Maynard Keynes worked out what the state should do and not do to run an economy. The pretence of wisdom had always animated Marxists and communists, the intellectual ...

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