Wednesday 2 December 2020

Marx, Karl "Capital"

Marx, Karl "Capital. Critique of Political Economy" (German: Das Kapital. Kritik der politischen Ökonomie) - 1867

For my classic non-fiction November read I chose a book I wanted to read for ages. "Capital". When I first joined Facebook, I used to take part in some of their "games" and found that I am very liberal (not a surprise), "as far left as can be before heading into Stalin's backyard". That was a US American test, of course. (Compared to their Republicans, that is certainly true.) But I know Karl Marx would turn in his grave if he saw what has been made out of his ideas in many countries. The Scandinavians are probably the best examples of what he wished for the people. And I belong to those people who "believe" in public healthcare, free education for everyone, a decent minimum wage, a good retirement plan, everything people are against who think that brings "communism" to their country.

But enough of that, I think I've said it often enough and I know people who don't agree but don't come up with a better answer. They seem to think it's great that the super-duper rich get away with paying low income tax whilst others go hungry.

So, the book. When I announced at the classics club that I was reading this in November, I received a lot of comments like "tough read", "well done, you, would be too hard for me". Actually, at the beginning, I thought it was rather boring. My background is more or less business, at least I had to take a lot of classes in that direction during my education. So, I knew how demand and supply set the price, material and manufacture together are the basis for that.

But all in all, there is a lot in this book about the beginning of industrialism and what went wrong there for the "little man", weirdly enough, a lot of that still is wrong, the worker is still exploited by the employer. See minimum wage discussions. They have more rights nowadays (thanks to those "bl...y" trade unions, another idea most conservatives are against) but that doesn't mean that many employers won't try to circumnavigate them and, if they have to adhere to it, won't go one step further than they have to.

I am sure there are many books around who explain this better in a contemporary way even for the most die-hard opponents to understand that the world doesn't just turn around themselves, that it would be so much nicer if people gave up their selfish attitudes. But I doubt they would want to understand them. This book and ideology have been around for more than 150 years now and not much has changed. Unfortunately.

This also is a great history lesson.

Granted, the book has some drier parts but all in all, I believe it is very readable. I would love to discuss this with people who have read it and see whether their opinions have changed.

"Let us finally imagine, for a change, an association of free men, working with the means of production held in common."

From the back cover:

"Capital by Karl Marx is a foundational theoretical text in materialist philosophy, economics and politics. Marx aimed to reveal the economic patterns underpinning the capitalist mode of production, in contrast to classical political economists such as Adam Smith, Jean-Baptiste Say, David Ricardo and John Stuart Mill. Marx did not live to publish the planned second and third parts, but they were both completed from his notes and published after his death by his colleague Friedrich Engels. Capital is the most cited book in the social sciences published before 1950. The Communist Manifesto (originally Manifesto of the Communist Party) is an 1848 political pamphlet by German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Commissioned by the Communist League and originally published in London just as the revolutions of 1848 began to erupt, the Manifesto was later recognised as one of the world's most influential political documents.

Wage Labour and Capital is an essay on economics by Karl Marx, written in 1847 and first published in articles in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung in April 1849. This essay has been widely acclaimed as the precursor to Marx's important treatise Das Kapital.

Value, Price and Profit was a speech given to the First International Working Men's Association in June in 1865 by Karl Marx. It was written between the end of May and June 27 in 1865, and was published in 1898. Karl Marx (1818–1883) was a famous German philosopher, economist, historian, political theorist, sociologist, journalist and revolutionary socialist."

This was instigated by our Classics Club reading challenge. I found them through Words and Peace. Thank you.

See also:
Marx, Karl; Engels, Friedrich "The Communist Manifesto" (GE: Das kommunistische Manifest) - 1848


  1. I'm happy to see that you read a book that strikes me as daunting. I thank you for sharing your genuine thoughts about the book as well.

    (And, don't tell anyone, but I'm a liberal, too!)

    1. Haha, okay, we'll keep that between ourselves. Mind you, I guessed that already, you hardly ever see Republicans quote Michelle Obama. LOL

      Anyway, thanks for coming by and commenting. I think you can only share genuine thoughts about a book like this. And I try to stand up for my thoughts. I always remember the quote by German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller:

      First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out - Because I was not a socialist.
      Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out - Because I was not a trade unionist.
      Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out - Because I was not a Jew.
      Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak for me.

      Next: The Communist Manifesto

  2. I will read this eventually and give my thoughts. Having just read the part about feudalism in Will Durant's The Age of Faith, I now see a longer history to the rich/powerful and the little man but I am interested in Marx's take on how industrial developments affected the situation. Thanks for your review.

    1. Thanks, Judy. I'm sure this will add a lot to that history. He really starts at the beginning, how a cloth is made into a piece of clothing and how that affects the price and how things change once nobody works for themselves anymore. So, even if you had no knowledge about commerce and industry, you can get into it. And if you have, that's even better, you can read over the easy bits quickly.

      Looking forward to hearing from you once you read it.

  3. Replies
    1. You're welcome. And yes, this is a very fascinating book. Even after all these years. Or maybe especially because it's been valid for so long.

  4. I always wanted to read this for myself as well. Just to see what he actually said. I don't think he would have liked the way his theories were used.

    1. That's the main reason I wanted to read him. "The Communist Manifesto" is also on my TBR pile now.

      In this book, he shows more what's wrong with society and especially capitalism in his lifetime. Nothing much has changed there, there are still people who exploit others. I always have to smile when my son (who lives in Sweden, as you know) uses his irony about capitalism and socialism. He loves the Swedish way and I'm very proud of that.

      I think Karl Marx would turn in his grave if he saw the situation nowadays, both of those who claim to follow his ideas as well as those who despise them.