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1: Capital: A Critique of Political Economy (Penguin Classics)
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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"Capital" is by no means an outdated book - it is a book about the economic system we live in and about how this economic system came into being.
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am 25. November 1999
Marx was not attempting to contribute to economic theory. His book was a *critique* of political economy (as economics was called back then).
Marx shows that politics--struggles over power, oppression and resistance--is the real substance of economics. In the 3 volumes of Capital, and the notebooks of the Grundrisse, Marx shows the categories of economic analysis for what they are: relations of force. Capitalism is a system of antagonism. In 'Marx Beyond Marx: Lessons on the Grundrisse', the Italian theorist Toni Negri states: "There is not a single category of capital that can be taken out of this antagonism, out of this perpetually fissioning flux."
For instance, the central concept of Marx's 'Capital', surplus-value, both conceals and points to this antagonistic tension. The very duality of the term testifies to this. As does the meaning of the term. Buy 'Capital', then read it as a critique of economic categories, and you may see this. For help, consult Marx's 'Grundrisse', the writings of Antonio Negri and Louis Althusser--and check out the exciting new journal, 'Rethinking Marxism'.
Marxism has gained a fresh life, free from the dogma of socialist states, infused with the insights of post-structuralism. Read Marx anew. And work for a better world. The revolution is here and now, here and there. Communism is not a utopia of the future; it is found in creative resistance and radical alternatives to capitalism today. Eventually perhaps, the communist efforts--the efforts which express the values of communism, as described by Marx and by writers like Negri and Derrida--may just gain hegemony in the world.
Marx's 'Capital' is no historical artifact; it is a great resource in the ongoing struggle under capitalism--a struggle inherent in capitalism. And what is this struggle over, exactly? It is a struggle to diminish the suffering in the world, the suffering of the world.
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am 7. Dezember 1999
For all those proponents of capitalism, this book will not interest you much. Marx writes to expose capital (money, interest, profit, value, etc) as a relation between people, as a relation of domination and exploitation. The central defense of capital by political economy meant a critique of political economy as the rational expression of a mad world.
What does it mean to try to give a rational explanation of a mad world, a world built upon exploitation/domination and the insubordination of that exploitation/domination (good, old class struggle, like in that bastion of U.S. power, South Korea)? Certainly not a text book on how it works, but a critique of the madness of calling exploitation/domination 'rational', 'moral', 'free', etc. Marx exposes the inherent fragility of capital's power because capital only exists as alienated labor power, the creativity of workers turned against themselves. All the wealth of all the rich and powerful is the product of the labor power of the workers.
Marx's ultimate message is that the capitalist needs the worker, but the worker's only need is the overthrow of capital and the establishment of a humane society: "The free development of all depends on the free development of each." (Marx, 1844 Manuscripts)
As for 'empirical' matters, capitalism has impoverished the vast mass of human beings for the vast wealth of a few. To see the misery, hunger, disease, and human debasement created by capital's thirst for profit and then to say 'capital has nothing to do with this' is to tell lies. To say that capital does not give rise to all the dictatorships of the world is telling lies. To say "Let the market sort it out." is to say "Let things stay as they are." With all our wealth, all our productive capacity, only capital prevents a world of abundance, and therefore a liberation from 'things', a liberation from exploitation/domination. The defence of capital depends on moral bankruptcy, class privilege, and inhumanity being the standard of human conduct.
I suggest a look at John Holloway, Werner Bonefeld, and Richard Gunn, among others, for an intelligent, impassioned and insightful reading of Marx. And happily, Amazon carries their 3 vol. set, Open Marxism.
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am 18. Februar 1999
In this first volume, the only one the publication of which Marx himself supervised, the structurally contradictory, and hence dynamic and directional, "deep structure" of capitalist society is rigorously explored. Beginning with the commodity form, he unfolds categorially the historical logic of capitalism. In so doing, he criticizes excogitate philosophy by immanently encompassing and incorporating his own would-be excogitate exposition of the commodity form itself in the famous first chapter. He handles Hegel likewise by translating Hegelian historical dynamism within the logic of capitalism. And, of course, there are the truly brilliant sustained engagements, accountings for, and critiques of Adam Smith and David Ricordo which are the sites for the most impressive display of Marx's method. For therein he accounts for ideology as a structural feature of the system. The commodity form "projects" a mode of appearance determinately that is itself deceiving- for instance, that one confuse the labor of the flesh and blood laborer with the commodity generative of surplus value, labor power, etc. This is no functionalist class-based fact, a point often obscured by the unfortunate label Marx uses, "bourgeois economy." Briefly, just to pick up some typically conventional remarks made about Marx. This is Marx's masterpiece, his life's work, the only work that displays fully his delightfully caustic wit, profoundly penetrating analytical powers, and stylistic genius. Forget the utterly bogus crap that still floats in the American atmosphere like a miasmic stench arising from a McCarthyism that never really got flushed. Beuracratic collectivism, the agglutination of the individual into a mass heap, celebrations of industrial worker heroes, and all the rest of the distortions that have arisen out of Soviet-style or Western "democratic" advanced industrial states should be checked at the gate. Indeed, it is one of the few advantages of this brave new world that we can at least read Marx in peace and good conscience again (especially now that it seems that the system fears no enemies- we are free to pursue every vice and feed our fantasies out whatever utopia just so long as we make into work on time on Monday morning). Finally, this translation, though unfortunate at times, offers the advantage of including at the end an extremely worthwhile appendix of some 150 pages entitled something like "Results of the Immediate Process of Production", which alone would make it worth the price of the book. Of course, like everything else in Capital it cannot be read out of context. In fact, it would I think be worthwhile to read it in the position where it was originally intended to be, after chapter 5, I believe, instead of at the end. Regardless, it is crucial that one read the work as a whole. It simply cannot be understood from the first section. After having done so, should one seek some insightful commentary to unravel some of the many thorny problems of interpretation one cannot do better than to consult Marx's own notebooks, the Grundrisse, also available in an affordable Penguin paperback edition. The point is, all facile declarations of the "objective refutation" of Marx sloganizing aside (see Fukuyama's tendentious and second-rate piece of state propoganda, End of History and the Last Man), all serious criticism of the pathologies of modernity begin with Marx and even the best of the twentieth century often falls short of him.
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am 18. September 1998
Marx, in one of the greatest works in the history of social science and philosophy, exposes the real basis for the capitalist class, other's labor! In a book that manages to put the capitalist era in its place, with mounds of empirical evidence, Marx also manages to outline a better future, a economically free, democratic society of producers, building a world more free from the kind of violence, exploitation, and destruction that marks this one. And to those that say this book is dated, or for those who have only read Marx "second-hand" through capitalist authors, read this book, investigate the world around you, and see that it hasn't come very far from the grim potrait presented here.
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am 7. März 2000
This book is one of the most important treatises ever written - the logic contained in these volumes has justified the senseless slaughter of more than one hundred million living, breathing fellow human beings. Love it or hate it, "Capital" must be taken very seriously.

This book is essentially a conflation of Ricardian economics and Hegelian philosophy - two systems with obvious epistemological flaws which had been discovered before the book was ever conceived. Ricardo advanced a theory of value which was producer-driven, that is, the effort which the producer invests in the creation of a good (be it labor, money or other goods) determines the value of a good. This is inherently fallacious - the value of a good is clearly determined by the price someone is willing to pay for it, in other words, value is consumer-driven; an obvious truth to anyone who stops to reflect upon it - but so is the advantage of the wheel over the sledge, which took millenia to discover. Ricardo's original mistake (an unexamined one which he inherited and amplified) was the producer-driven or labor theory of value. Marx was unskilled in economic analysis and he accepted Ricardian theses unthinkingly - even though many other economists had been puzzling over their inconsistency for years. Four years after the first volume of Das Kapital was published, an Austrian named Menger solved the problem by formulating the theory of marginal utility. By the time Marx published the second volume in 1885 his economic principles were already in shambles. One of the reasons why so many of his "examples" are either fabricated or contain clear mathematical errors was Marx's need to invent foundations for his increasingly insupportable theories. Any reader of this book should track the golden thread of the labor theory of value which winds through it - this fundamental error colors and tinges every economic argument.

Very often modern-day Marxists, like Chris below, make the claim that Das Kapital is not at all crippled by the clear logical and economic flaws that pervade it - Marx did not set out to write a book about economics only, but a work of moral philosophy. Although this is misleading and disingenuous (Marx certainly thought of his book as a rigorous economic treatise) it contains an element of truth. Marx intended his economics to be a concrete realization of Hegelian philosophy. Hegel essentially believed that all History (to both Marx and Hegel history is not an academic discipline but a living force) is guided by a Spirit or Mind or Reason. The way History unfolds its purpose is by raising up (in Marx's version of Hegelianism) new classes to combat and destroy old ones. Thus Das Kapital sets out to show that the "proletariat" is a class created by History to destroy the "bourgeoisie" who in turn were created to defeat the "seigneurs". The flawed labor theory of value is adduced by Marx as proof that the "proletariat" is favored by History and must destroy the "bourgeoisie" to bring about Progress. Any argument made by anyone against the "dictatorship of the proletariat" is thus a dishonest "reaction" against the clear intentions of History. Such reaction is, in Marx's view, the ultimate in moral evil and, as Chris says in another review, it is perfectly acceptable to kill such reactionaries (as well as the infant children of such reactionaries).

Since Marx and Marxists believe themselves to be the chosen avatars of History, any disagreement with their arguments or methods can never be honest or logical. Instead of an intellectual engagement, the Marxist is more inclined to answer with a fist or a bullet. They have the final word, History whispers in their ears and their ears alone. This infantile insistence on the rightness of their cause at all costs resulted in the torture and murder of millions of Russians, Chinese, Cambodians, Poles and others who dared disagree with the outmoded ideas of this poorly argued mishmash of economics and transcendental German philosophy.

Read this book, and read it carefully - it is a lesson in how the power of a few fixed thoughts can wash a world in blood. Academic mistakes often carry far higher costs than the untalented student imagines.
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am 21. November 1998
Marx was an extraordinary analyst of economics. He was a serviceable philosopher, but the problem is that he tried to play prophet. Capital is worth reading for its insight into the workings of early, unrestrained capitalism and its recognition of the importance of the trade cycle. On the other hand, the prophecies that Marx made were farreaching and illogical. It is only in the ambitiousness of his project that Marx fails to reach the heights of a Hume or a Smith. Personally, I could not agree less with the tenets of violence and collectivism laid down by Marx, but even I cannot ignore the huge contribution that Marx has made to today's world.
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am 25. April 1999
The book that spawned the deaths of over 100 million people in the 20th Century is, ironically, only a boring litany of economic fallacies. The poverty of the labor theory of value, the absurdity of economic progress without a price system, and the necessary terror that accompanies socialism are all exposed in detail in George Reisman's CAPITALISM. All of you poor proletarians with computers out to read how effortlessly a real economist dismantles your dogma.
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am 2. April 2000
It is really fun to observe that Das Kapital still creates such a turmoil on its well educated! well-intended,great! economy-politic observers.
There is nothing to worry about. Under capitalist system we are all happy. Yes Mr Fukuyama is right!We have arrived to the end of the history;THE NEW WORLD ORDER. Such a great order that has left over 80 million american credit card holders with their 'happy' depths. Happy school kids machinegunning their fellow friends. Yes, this is the end of the history;85 percent of total US GNP is held by only 15 percent of the nation. This is such a great system that we had two great world wars within only the first part of the this century end left very happy millions of deads behind us the sake of the private property. A few words for poor Karl; *He could never see that a revolution could occur in Russia. In any of his writings, there is no such prediction.(A premature birth delivered by Mr Lenin. Poor Marx can not be held responsible for such an action) *Poor Karl was axpecting a 'happinnig' either in England or in Germany *Poor Karl called what human kind has exprienced so far as 'PREHISTORIC' and every minute we realise under capitalist relations is proving this.
People who had a little history reading please WAKE UP;There were other econo-politic systems poeple lived under and changed them profoundly.
You like it or not there will be another one as well and hopefuly a bit more 'humanitarian' than capitalism
If you have not read Das Capital, give it a try. It may help you understand what you have illusioned with.
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am 1. März 2016
It looks like a second hand, as it is damaged during transport. This is not the quality that I expected
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