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Classical Work about the Roots of Capitalism
am 25. November 2004
This book was the bible of the recently collapsed east-European communist dictatorships - as few read there as the real bible is by the majority of Christians. But the main point, that the reviewers who refer to the millions of victims of communism are missing, is: "Capital" is not a book about how to mechanically accomplish communism, it is a book about capitalism. Marx was a philosopher and an eminent historical thinker, not a cynical practitioner of power like Lenin.
"Capital" brings a lot of strictly formal logic (Marx knew his Aristotle quite well), but the larger part of the first volume - the only one edited by Marx himself - is a vivid and compassionate description of early capitalist world as it were: A world in which slavery in America, serfdom in eastern Europe and 12-hours labour (without interruption for food or rest) for nine year old children in England coexisted as integrated parts of the emerging world market. A world in which millions of Irish and Indians starved to death due to economic changes imposed to them by their colonial masters. A world in which the English made the Chinese buy opium by military force. And a world whose leading economists argued that things were all right as they were - Marx's quotations are a rich source for the cynicism of the better off. All this makes me wonder if the reviewers who mutter about alleged flaws in Marx's Value Theory have ever read more than the first few chapters of "Capital". Certainly academic economic theories have changed a lot since Marx's days, but their baseline remains: things are ok as they are - and if they are not this is only due to the fact that there are still too many market barriers and obstacles for the free flow of investment. Here is the point where critique comes into play. Enter Marx.
"Capital" is by no means an outdated book - it is a book about the economic system we live in and about how this economic system came into being.