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Representing Capital: A Reading of Volume One Paperback – 7 Jan 2014

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Verso Books; Reprint edition (7 Jan 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781681570
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781681572
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 1.3 x 20.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 702,108 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"This book is both an introduction to and an intervention in the history of Marxism ... one is glad he has written it, because it remains the case that no one in the academy has quite the same energy as Fredric Jameson, and that no one writes books with sentences quite as forceful as these."--"Monthly Review"

About the Author

Fredric Jameson is Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature at Duke University. He was a recipient of the 2008 Holberg International Memorial Prize. He is the author of many books, including "Postmodernism, Or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism"; "The Cultural Turn";" A Singular Modernity"; "The Modernist Papers"; "Archaeologies of the Future"; "Brecht and Method";" Ideologies of Theory"; "Valences of the Dialectic"; and "The Hegel Variations."

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By s k on 28 Feb 2014
Format: Paperback
Fredric Jameson's Representing Capital: A Reading of Volume One is an oddly enjoyable book. This in itself feels a strange formulation to make. Why? Well, because I usually find Jameson both illuminating and trying at the same time, his flair as a stylist destroyed by his penchant for theoretical gobbledygook and insanely convoluted sentences. Such an approach can leave his readership feeling dazed and depressed, as the boring job of untangling the sentences falls on the reader, who, after doing all the legwork, finds little to get excited about. Nevertheless, despite a torturously dense first chapter, that kind of opacity is rarely displayed in this short book. In fact, it is an invigorating experience, and the book is stacked with Jameson's signature erudition and unflagging enthusiasm for all things Marx. So while we may grumble about Jameson taking his whole career to write a treatise on Capital, it's certainly been worth the wait.

Jameson opens the book by stating that 'It should not be surprising that Marx remains as inexhaustible as capital itself, and that with every adaptation or mutation of the latter his texts and his thought resonate in new with new meanings'. He then goes on to make 'a scandalous assertion' (and one that he doesn't really tackle), because he wishes to prove that Capital is about 'unemployment' rather than politics or labour. But the only way to get to this conclusion, he assures us, is by viewing Marx's book as 'a series of interlinked problems or paradoxes, which...give rise to new and unexpected ones, of greater scope'. Each denouement is a new departure, and although this may seem like a never-ending task, 'the successive resolutions of the linked riddles...lay in place the architecture of a whole construct or system', i.e. capital itself.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 6 reviews
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Dialectical is as dialectical does... 11 Oct 2011
By Lost Lacanian - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In "Marxism and Form," Fredric Jameson claims (and I am paraphrasing here) that dialectical thought comes down to writing dialectical sentences. It follows that to reconstruct the dialectical movements of Marx's Capital, one must be willing, indeed able, to read the dialectical structure of his sentences well. So, even while Jameson claims his book is not a "literary" interpretation of Marx's magnum opus, thus resurrecting the tired and damaging debates among the people about base and superstructure, I would argue that only a literary scholar as brilliant as Jameson could have given us Representing Capital, as the issue comes down to dialectical reading.
I have read Capital, and I would advise reading Capital before picking up this book, but I have approached it from mainly two disciplinary points of view: sociology and philosophy. The argument Jameson gives us very much diverges from, say, Harvey's Limits to Capital, where the focus is very much on Marx's theory of society under capitalism. In this book, Jameson focuses on the very dialectical, thus totalizing, movement of Marx's thought, as he tries to grasp all of capitalism at once. So, for example, we learn that Machinery is one of the major plot points of Capital, and that the whole entire book is a meditation on the structural necessity of Unemployment. For me, these were very enriching thoughts. They added a new dimension to Capital, one that has been simply ignored by other theorists. I wouldn't claim Jameson's trumps, say, Harvey's interpretation, but that they both supplement something lacking in the other, and thus should be read together.
If you are dogmatically committed to Capital for its M-C-M' formula, then you will be annoyed by this work. But if you want to understand Capital in all of its dialectical richness, then I think you will benefit from supplementing your library with this book.
As a side note, I was skeptical about this book at first, not because of this issue of the literary (I think Marxism suffers in general for making this science v. culture/philosophy thing an issue in the first place), but because I felt that Jameson was in the twilight of his career, and was simply squaring unfinished business. He has never written a treatise on Marx, and so it made sense to me that after finishing two projects on Hegel, he would turn to Marx. But if it was perfunctory, then I was unsure of how strong the book would be. Let me say, this is a very strong book indeed--one of Jameson's best. It is very clear to me that far from the twilight, Jameson is entering his most productive phase yet. It is as if, the question of postmodernism side tracked him for a while, and now he is returning to questions that had been lingering for a long time. In any case, I think Representing Capital stands side by side with works like Postmodernism or Political Unconscious--a stunning example of dialectical thought.
10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Marx, the Second Great Economist 8 Dec 2011
By Gregory Alan Wingo - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Jameson has accomplished the rehabilitation of Karl Marx in our post-socialist world. Marx' immense contributions to the study of economics have long been overshadowed by his political writings. Dr. Jameson analysis of Capital Vol. I focuses on Marx the scientist and reveals how a scientific reading of the work provides a clearer understanding of the second era of globalization and the Great Recession.

While he concentrates on Marx' theme of the inherent need for unemployment in the capitalist system Jameson also highlights Marx' discussions on the importance of technological innovation and market expansionism in our economic processes. Both Jameson's and Marx' critiques of the welfare state, social democracy, and imperialism are illuminating for students of the modern and postmodern periods.

Whether you have read Capital Vol I or not this is a must read for those of us searching for our place and role in the 21st century.
A must read... with caution 31 July 2014
By alzazello - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book is short but extremely dense. It is not an introductory text to Marx. It is not for the newbie. The overall argument is not always clear throughout the reading but in the last chapter the author brilliantly pulls together all the threads of the discourse. It is not a book about the meaning of representation (Darstellung) in Das Kapital (even if Jameson touches upon the subject); it is rather a book that dialectically tries to show how Marx's way of arguing is not analytical but, precisely, dialectical and what meaning this method has for contemporary scholarship. The book argues against a political interpretation of Marx intended in ideological terms. The political aspect is to be found in the way Marx challenges history through a series of negations that not always find a resolution in an Hegelian system.
The reader will find here tons of inspirational passages about alienation, dialectics, unemployment, the meaning of time, technology. A must read.
Five Stars 26 Sep 2014
By Herman Rapaport - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
Essential reading....
3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Do not understand what people see in this "represenation" of Marx 26 Aug 2013
By Daniel Karan - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I bought this when it first came out as I was curious to see what Jameson had to say about Capital. It is telling that it is now 2 years since I purchased and read the book and simply cannot recall a single important observation or contribution the book makes to the reading (and understanding) of capital (I had the exact same feeling after finishing the work).

One of the ironies I do remember reading the book is that for someone who seems to pay important attention to "the text" (and language more generally/broadly) I found myself thinking as I was reading that here is yet another so-called "Marxist" that seems to have completely missed the boat on what Capital is about (and what it's subject is) i.e., he sees it as Marx's take (for lack of a better term here) on capitalism. Had this been the case then why does Marx not title this work "Capitalism" and does Jameson not think that this is important or has any relevance for how we should read this work? Capital is Marx's take on Capital not capitalism as a system. Marx was very clear on this in his writing about his larger project and how Capital to be just one piece of this (e.g., Marx planned other volumes on the state, the market and world trade, etc). So, Marx is clear that one cannot understand "capitalism" as a system by just understanding capital (which for Marx is not a "thing" but rather a social relation). Also, while Marx is clear in Volume 1 about how unemployment is necessary for capital to maximize profit by helping to hold down labor costs to view the entirety of Capital volume 1 as essentially a work about this i.e, capital's need for unemployment is I think absurd at best. Were machines important for Marx and his analysis of capital? Sure, but no one needs Jameson to tell them so as it is clear from Marx's own text and Jameson does not add anything to what Marx says on this matter (which is pretty clear and self-explanatory). Are there obstacles that capital needs to overcome and are these important for Marx? Sure, but again, Jameson adds nothing to Marx's writing on this question nor on what I believe is most important in Marx and capital on this question which is precisely that there are fundamental internal contradictions that capital cannot overcome (it would have been interesting, for example, if Jameson had pursued the notion of crisis in Capital which Marx is not necessarily explicit about or at least the role of crisis in capitalism as a whole). So, in the end, I do not see what others find so attractive about this work or how it adds anything to a "reading" of Capital nor (perhaps more importantly) how it would actually interest anyone who has not read Capital to actually read it (which would in my view be a major contribution/achievement since Marx has all but been replaced in the academy in particular by post-structuralist / post-modernists who in my view come to serve the forces of reaction and not the forces for progressive let alone revolutionary change that Marx does).

As for other reading of Capital, while I have problems with David Harvey's reading of Capital (mainly that Harvey, like many other contemporary "Marxists" have completely jettisoned Marx's labor theory of value) I still find it far superior to Jameson's work particularly for those that are not familiar with Marx in general and Capital in particular and the same goes for Harry Cleaver's Reading Marx Politically even though it is only a reading of the first chapter of Volume 1 of capital but I think it is far "truer" to Marx and will engage people in a way that they will actually want know more about what's in the rest of Capital (by reading Marx for themselves).
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