by Karl Marx

Paper Book, 1919


One of the most notorious works of modern times, as well as one of the most influential, Capital is an incisive critique of private property and the social relations it generates. Living in exile in England, where this work was largely written, Marx drew on a wide-ranging knowledge of its society to support his analysis and generate fresh insights. Arguing that capitalism would create an ever-increasing division in wealth and welfare, he predicted its abolition and replacement by a system with common ownership of the means of production. Capital rapidly acquired readership among the leaders of social democratic parties, particularly in Russia and Germany, and ultimately throughout the world, to become a work described by Marx's friend and collaborator Friedrich Engels as 'the Bible of the Working Class'.… (more)


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LibraryThing member a2theharris
Most of this book is dedicated to footnotes. For nearly every point he makes, he studiously supports it with extensive footnotes that almost require footnotes themselves. If you are having difficulty seeing the "logic" of his connections then you are not spending enough time with the footnotes.
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That is how he reveals his logic. You can disagree with his conclusions, but that's not the same thing as being "illogical". Personally, I think his central thesis is quite logical. Capitalism requires a person to sell his labor for less than the value of the product of his labor, otherwise the capitalistic enterprise cannot make a profit. Then he fills the gaps with his version of class struggle solidifying the inherent unfair relationship between employee and employer as the profit motive becomes so paramount. Illogical? No. It's a classic analysis of conflict of interest. Controversial? Of course.

This book is extensive, but it's easier to understand if you think of it as a model of capitalism at his time in history rather than some declaration of eternal truth. Karl Marx himself knew that this book was not capable of seeing the full expanse of capitalism. That's why he intended on writing three more volumes. His best friend and patron, Fredrich Engels had two more published based on Marx's notes and research since he died too early to make the other volumes happen.
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LibraryThing member jpsnow
I am stunned to learn that this... this "rigid scientific investigation" is the foundational idea that so dramatically affected recent world history. Marx makes a series of illogical leaps to build his theory of labor and capital, while claiming to follow the same scientific process used in
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chemistry and physics. As is frequently done in economic writing, he begins with one argument: "For simplicity's sake we shall henceforth account every kind of labour to be unskilled, simple labour; by this we do no more than save ourselves the trouble of making the reduction."

But he never comes back to show how the real-world violation of that assumption affects the relative market for each class of labor. He does a moderately successful job of showing the economics of "value add" but then creates another logical gap in the process of allowing free market exchange for each laborer's portion. (To summarize the argument, someone gets more for something and it clearly isn't the laborer.) It was interesting to see the reference to Robinson Crusoe (a frequent event in economics.) The closest he comes to that dangerous border of reality is his admission that compulsory labor is less productive. That is the point where an enterprising student could ask "because of lack of incentive?" In his own chapter on "contradictions" he himself makes a critical mathematical error in showing who gets the surplus value from exchange. Again, a whole argument is built on this to show the disparity that faces the worker. He bases the low living wage provided to workers as being similar to the ancient societies that bought from provinces with money taxed from them. In "The Labour Process" he references that the "way to Hell is paved with good intentions." He also quotes Benjamin Franklin. Summary: Due to monopoly power, the capitalist benefits from labor's surplus value without contributing anything to the process. Asserted but not proven.
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LibraryThing member Borg-mx5
An incredibly dense read, but so much is said about communism, so much propaganda has been heard. Here is the basic for the now defunct social and economic theory. Some of his ideas still live.
LibraryThing member scottcholstad
There are actually some pretty good, interesting and challenging ideas in what is arguably one of the most important works in history, yet it is far from perfect and there seem to be quite a few flaws, gaps, judgment calls, perhaps an over-emphasis on idealism while neglecting reality or
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pragmatism, which is what I always felt was its primary weakness. Still, simply to understand why the world changed so radically prior to 1900 through the present, this is the basic place to begin...
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