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Capital: A Critique of Political Ecomony,…

Capital: A Critique of Political Ecomony, Vol. 1: The Process of… (1867)

by Karl Marx

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I have to admit I didn’t come to this work unbiased. My best childhood friend was a “red diaper baby” and her family struck me as much more fanatical than any Christian (or Muslim) Fundamentalist. I also got my fill of Marxist ideology from my college professors. But exactly because I do think this ideology has done tremendous harm is exactly the reason not to ignore Marx--hate him or admire him--his ideas have had a profound impact in the culture, history and politics of the last 150 years.

But there’s another problem. Whatever I think of the ideas within it, “The Communist Manifesto” is a lively rip-roaring rabble rousing read (and short). Das Kapital on the other hand, is impenetrable, turgid, truly painful reading. And it’s no pamphlet. It’s long. Mind you, I don't mean that in and of itself is a refutation of Marx's claims. Human Action, the magnum opus of Ludwig Von Mises, the economist arguably most revered by free market advocates, is easily as impenetrable and painful to read. Sometimes it's just the case that some subjects (such as the Theory of Relativity) are inherently difficult and not to be understood without a lot of work. Even the book that recommended Das Kapital as an important work had this to say about it:

The most important critique of capitalist society ever written--but enormously difficult. Marx’s categories, grounded in classical political economy and German philosophy, often prove elusive for the general reader. A reading of the work by Mandel [The Formation of the Economic Thought of Karl Marx] may be a more realistic way to approach Marx

Ernest Mandel is “a leading French Marxist.” I chose instead a former Marxist and free market advocate, Thomas Sowell. His book Marxism is lucid and cogent. After giving it a read I tried Marx again. He’s in the public domain and it’s possible to find free English translations online as well as free ebooks for download of the first volume.


I tried this one. And you know what? It doesn’t seem to matter from what source I get my Marxism--my professors, on the street, from Sowell or the real thing. It still strikes me as noxious crap. Really Marx? The value of a commodity is the labor put into it? Not supply and demand? So if it is more labor intensive to make a product it’s inherently more valuable? And the labor of managers, entrepreneurs, inventors and those who finance an enterprise doesn’t count? So a worker should make enough to buy back the product. So the wages are fine if you can buy back a paperclip if that’s what you make? But they’re unfair if you can’t buy the private jet or emerald necklace you’re helping to make? Really, life is too short to keep reading this to the end. ( )
  LisaMaria_C | Sep 27, 2013 |
This was one of many books I read as part of my education n economic history. In it Marx describes his economic point of view which, surprising to me at the time, agreed with Adam Smith on at least one point. They both shared the "labor theory of value" which simply put argues that the value or cost of an item is based on the amount of labor necessary to produce it. This was supplanted by the subjective theory of value in the nineteenth-century which argues that the value of any item is determined by the value the consumer is willing to place on it. This in turn is interrelated with the scarcity of the item. Beyond this similarity the views of Marx departed from those of Smith. I was not impressed with theses views on my first reading in college and subsequent reading reaffirmed the arbitrariness and contradictory nature of much of Marx's work. ( )
  jwhenderson | May 27, 2013 |
esp Parts One, Two, and Four

esp Chapter on Cooperation ( )
1 vote dagseoul | Mar 30, 2013 |
Book Description: Foreign Languages Publishing Moscow 1961. Translated from the third German edition by Samuel Moore and Edward Aveling and edited by Frederick Engles. Very light shelf wear outside. Fine white tape used to repair forward edge of spine. xii & 807pp.
  Czrbr | Jun 7, 2010 |
Two years after the American Civil War ended and nearly two decades after revolutions ravaged the European continent, Karl Marx, a secular Jew living in exile in Great Britain, published the first volume of Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Two more volumes would follow. The plan involved an outline for six volumes, a monumental undertaking even to someone as prolific as Marx was. Friedrich Engels would go on to edit and compile the second and third volumes in addition to editing future editions of Volume 1.

Volume 1 of Capital can be seen bookending Marx’s fecund writing career. He began his career writing about German philosophers, became involved in politics and worker emancipation, and eventually penned The Communist Manifesto in 1848 with Friedrich Engels. The revolutionary fires were quashed and Marx ended up in Great Britain.

Capital analyses the economic system known as capitalism beginning with the commodity, the cellular unit of the structure. One can see the analysis in both biological and architectural terms. From the commodity – the thing one sells to a buyer – to labor to the working day to the factory and finally to mass production, Marx builds an analytical critique of the entire system. The critique is emblematic of Marx’s overall philosophy and the Victorian zeitgeist. Marx’s revolutionary communism represented part of an overall historical continuity in the progress of human relations. He defends capitalism in its removing the shackles of feudalism. It was his hypothesis that the communism would emerge as the next stage of mankind’s economic development. (I use the word “hypothesis,” since Marx’s critique is heavily indebted to economics as a science, in addition to the discipline functioning as a philosophy.)

Volume 1 builds a foundation for this critique. Marx weaves a tapestry of economic theory, historical evidence, and polemical rhetoric. The early sections are dry and slow going, although he leavens the abstract concepts with real-life examples. The sections on the working day, the factory, and the rise of mass production use historical evidence to forward his assertions. Finally, the last chapters focus on “primitive accumulation” (i.e. the economic relationships prior to capitalism proper) and the genesis of specific social classes. Through this long, methodical analysis, Marx asserts that capitalism extracts surplus labor from the worker.

http://driftlessareareview.wordpress.com/2010/05/02/capital-volume-1-a-critique-... ( )
3 vote kswolff | May 2, 2010 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Karl Marxprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Aveling, EdwardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Engels, FrederickEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moore, SamuelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The wealth of those societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails, presents itself as "an immense accumulation of commodities,"[1] its unit being a single commodity.
In the United States of North America, every independent movement of the workers was paralysed so long as slavery disfigured a part of the Republic. Labour cannot emancipate itself in the white skin where in the black it is branded. -- Chapter 10
Capital is dead labor, which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks. -- Chapter 10
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140445684, Paperback)

This 1867 study—one of the most influential documents of modern times—looks at the relationship between labor and value, the role of money, and the conflict between the classes.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:07 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Abandoned as an infant, Tom Jones grows into a lusty, imprudent young man who, after promising to mend his ways, competes with his abusive rival for the affections of a wealthy squire's daughter and learns the truth about his identity.

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