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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Get this to go with David Harvey's lectures or books
Fascinating and world-view affecting reading.

If you're buying a copy of Capital to go with David Harvey's book "A Companion to Capital" or his phenomenal free lectures go with this one, rather than the Oxford World's Classics abridgement.

True, this version is intimidatingly fat, and the OWC's version seems to be a more readable translation, but it...
Published on 10 Oct 2010 by mrstuie

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Great book but no page numbers on kindle version!!!
This kindle version, aside from being a really great translation, is so frustrating as it has no page numbers! How are you supposed to reference from it?

This keeps happening with the kindle books i purchase and their customer support services have been useless.

But the book is great.
Published 18 months ago by C. Peacock


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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Get this to go with David Harvey's lectures or books, 10 Oct 2010
This review is from: Capital: Critique of Political Economy v. 1 (Classics S.) (Paperback)
Fascinating and world-view affecting reading.

If you're buying a copy of Capital to go with David Harvey's book "A Companion to Capital" or his phenomenal free lectures go with this one, rather than the Oxford World's Classics abridgement.

True, this version is intimidatingly fat, and the OWC's version seems to be a more readable translation, but it (the OWC version) is missing lots of the detail (sometimes several paragraphs at a time), colour and footnotes to which Harvey refers.

Hope this review doesn't seem superfluous but I bought the other version because it was all I could get hold of at short notice and spent hours finding and reading missing sections in a .pdf version as a result!
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54 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Karl Marx, surprisingly relevant, 17 Feb 2009
By 
Aly Gator "muslie" (Newmarket, Suffolk) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Capital: Critique of Political Economy v. 1 (Classics S.) (Paperback)
Having never read Karl Marx but heard him quoted; usually in a derogative way I thought that I should find out what he said for myself.
The downside of Marx is that he over explains to the point of sometimes stupifying the reader and never uses one word when six will do!!
The up side more than makes up for it and if you can persevere, given the current climate his writings are almost prophetic in several major and aposite ways.
I was surprised to find that he was not particularly political in the way that he is usually portrayed and was writing very specifically about the future of industrial capitalism as it was practised in America and the uk. No wonder the "masters of the universe" both then and now sought to shut him up by demonising him; they may have been rumbled before they made a packet otherwise! I don't agree with everything Marx wrote, but I do believe that his ideas should be more widely debated than they are. This was an excellent book for adding to my world perspective and I can thoroughly recommend it.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tangled Threads, 15 Jan 2014
This review is from: Capital: Critique of Political Economy v. 1 (Classics S.) (Paperback)
Capital is Karl Marx's systematic exposition of the 'capitalist mode of production'. First published in 1867, the book has the dubious distinction of being often cited yet rarely read. That, however, has much to do with its heft, and the present Penguin Classics edition comes in at 1141 pages, although a large chunk of that is down to its scholarly bookends. Ernest Mandel, the renowned Marxist populariser, gives an illuminating yet incredibly partisan Introduction to Capital's revolutionary theories, while the book's Appendix contains Marx's 'Results of the Immediate Process of Production', an excision from Capital rediscovered in the 1930s. Both add to our understanding of Marx's work, and as Mandel has written the Penguin Classics Introductions to Volumes II and III - compiled and released by Friedrich Engels after Marx's death - there is a thankful element of continuity to the whole enterprise, albeit parti pris.

The book itself is commonly viewed as the culmination of Marx's thought, his cast-iron masterpiece. But why is it so little read? Why is it eclipsed by its slim and fiery sibling, the Communist Manifesto? Well, apart from issues of size, a lot of it has to do with the dialectical complexity of Marx's thought, which, in Capital, endlessly unpicks the tangled threads ever present in the generation of surplus-value. Where the Manifesto is quotable and concise, Capital is its ugly opposite - or so it seems. Some view the book as a sprawling and prolix expansion of the Manifesto, or at least of its main points, but it is far more patient and discerning, and less enamoured of its own rhetoric. Yet there are times when Capital cannot help but explode with angry and thunderous prose, its prophesying stance matching anything in Marx and Engels's seminal 1848 pamphlet - it just takes a while to get there.

For those of us who have read around Marx, or the works of his modern progeny (i.e. Fredric Jameson, Terry Eagleton, Slavoj Zizek et al), all the ideas regularly attached to his name are addressed to the nth degree in Capital. As such, we learn about the commodity's use-value and exchange-value, the labour theory of value, the fetishism of the commodity, base/superstructure (in a footnote), the metamorphosis of the commodity (C-M-C), the general formula for capital (M-C-M'), constant capital and variable capital, the rate of surplus-value (s/v), the rate of profit (s/C (where C = c + v)), the industrial reserve army, primitive accumulation, etc, etc. To give even a brief overview of these theories would increase the size of this review tenfold. Rest assured, though, that while the formulae look alarming, Marx's painstaking analyses make them clear, and he gives numerous examples to substantiate his findings. Whether they are persuasive is for each reader to decide, but before they do so, they must patiently reapply Marx's ideas to the contemporary world, turning them this way and that, uncovering their relevance and teasing out their dialectical nuances. It is a revelatory experience, even if you don't wholeheartedly agree with the views being expounded.

The book, then, is a masterly synthesis of philosophy, politics, and economics. It is also a great work of literature. Marx has packed the book with quotes and allusions, their implementation qualifying the unfurling ideas, while his terrifying erudition dances in the footnotes. And, contrary to what most people think, Capital has its memorable sayings. For instance, when discussing commodity fetishism, Marx compares it to religion, as there, too, 'the products of the human brain appear as autonomous figures endowed with a life of their own, which enter into relations both with each other and with the human race'; capital is described - among many other things - as 'dead labour which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labour'; and, when addressing primitive accumulation, Marx suggests that it plays 'approximately the same role in political economy as original sin does in theology'. Of course, these are only a handful of pertinent quotes, for the book is absolutely teeming with them, and each reader will find their own.

Despite the prevailing injustices depicted by Marx, the book still carries an air of optimism, which is a surprise. By 1867, the revolutionary fervour that swept Europe in 1848 - the year of the Manifesto - had been pegged back by a period of intense reaction. Marx, however, and this stems from his historical-materialist approach, still held faith in the proletariat, and in the 'inevitable conquest of political power by the working class'. Capitalism was a transient phase in man's history, and sure to be blown away by the rise of the workers, for didn't the bourgeoisie produce their own 'grave-diggers'? But Marx knew the adaptability of capitalism, and the ways in which its perpetual motion escaped the clutches of the working classes, who could only crumble as their nemesis came back bigger and stronger. Even so, Marx paints the working class as a 'class constantly increasing in numbers, and trained, united and organized by the very mechanism of the capitalist process of production': they are a force that has 'become incompatible with their capitalist integument'. And this integument, Marx believes, is soon to 'burst asunder', therefore ringing 'The knell of capitalist private property'. Then, and only then, will the revolution spring forth, its feverish aftermath ensuring that 'The expropriators are expropriated'. So what we have here, on page 929, is a 'negation of the negation'.

This is obviously heady stuff, and miles away from the dry economics that most people feel Capital represents. But the book carries a rather large problem. In his 'Preface to the English Edition', Engels states that 'Capital is often called, on the Continent, 'the Bible of the working class''. Now when this English edition was first published in 1886, education and literacy rates were certainly on the rise among the labouring classes, but were they high enough to match the theoretical density of Marx's dialectical processes? I'm unsure. So the book fell into the hands of his acolytes, who, as their master's exegetes, used the book to advance their own ends. And those same thinkers have spent years building an impenetrable citadel, forever surrounding themselves with academic texts the working classes cannot understand. They rarely seek to engage with those they wish to emancipate, and waste far too much time driving down theoretical cul-de-sacs. It is an eternal and unforgivable conundrum, and one that further explains the newcomer's reliance on the Communist Manifesto, the book that continues to ensure Marx's popularity.

Capital takes time - in the present reviewer's case, about four months - but it repays the effort. All good philosophy should help you see the world in a different light, if only for a moment. Whether you subscribe to Marx's thought is a personal decision based on numerous different factors and ideological predilections. But he is still here, and he shows no sign of going away. And why should he, especially when the outrageous excesses of capitalism are again on the increase. For Marx, the methods of capitalism 'distort the worker into a fragment of a man, they degrade him to the level of an appendage of a machine, [and] they destroy the actual content of his labour by turning it into a torment; they alienate...from him the intellectual potentialities of the labour process in the same proportion as science is incorporated in it as an independent power; they deform the conditions under which he works, subject him during the labour process to a despotism the more hateful for its meanness; [and] they transform his life-time into working-time, and drag his wife and child beneath the wheels of the juggernaut of capital'. In short, an 'accumulation of misery [is] a necessary condition, corresponding to the accumulation of wealth'.

If you feel this is a fair representation of the current situation, then there will be much for you to feast on here; if not, then the book is worth reading anyway, because it is a profound and humanitarian work. As Terry Eagleton has said elsewhere, Marxism is not a murderous ideology, and it doesn't decree death and destruction on an industrial scale, for 'what perished in the Soviet Union [and it is in its Russian and Chinese manifestations that most people condemn Marxism] was Marxist only in the sense that the Inquisition was Christian'. It is about trying to understand the inequalities and contradictions inherent in capitalism. But mostly, it is about creating an awareness of where the excessive wealth comes from, i.e. the exploitation of the workers, and questioning why it has to be this way. So the inevitable question arises: does it have to be this way? Whether you call for reform or revolt doesn't really matter, for it's the awareness that is of crucial importance. Marx merely wants the reader to open their eyes and see the world anew, to see where money and greed wheedles its way into every transaction, every thought, and every idea. Mostly, though, Marx wants to make us think, and think hard, about the capitalist mode of production.
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122 of 135 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Doors of Perception, 23 Jan 2007
This review is from: Capital: Critique of Political Economy v. 1 (Classics S.) (Paperback)
If :

- Your mum has taught you lots of valuable things (eat your vegetables, be nice to old people and little dogs, don't be late to school, keep a clean nose) but she was never really able to explain why you had to WORK for a living - instead of, you know, just living;

- Your teachers packed your head full with all kinds of useful knowledge (about prepositions and adverbs, mineralogy and astrophysics, the reproductive organs of plants, x+2-y=0) but they never told you how exactly PROFITS are made - and why anybody would want to make them anyway;

- Your friends and lovers can spend hours yakking about various interesting topics (the latest music machine, videogames, designer shoes, imitation leather sofas, blockbuster movies, pink underwear and cherry flavoured bubble-gum) but they call you a bore and a nitpick whenever you wonder why you're all surrounded by so many COMMODITIES and publicity ads promising you bigger, better and faster useless things.

- You often have the impression that some greater truth is lacking in your life (and you've tried all the legal/illegal drugs, exciting TV shows, gurus and psychoanalysts, help-yourself books and bestsellers about kid sorcerers)...

...Then the time may have come to have a long talk with good old Uncle Karl - the black sheep of the social sciences, the guy nobody likes to mention at social occasions (except in the form of a joke: "have you heard the one about Karl Marx in Las Vegas?"), the most misquoted and misinterpreted modern thinker.

In "Capital", he kindly invites you to break on through to the other side (that's how countercultural he was) and check out what's really happening behind the glitzy appearances of everyday life. You don't even have to be a genius to understand him (it will be enough if you can count to ten without choking). And you might be surprised about how obvious some things will seem after he explains to you about the cage you're sitting in.

Of course, mum will probably be broken-hearted and fear that you'll join the next anarcho-pinko-terrorist organization down the block. Your teachers might refer to a vast list of successful anti-Marx books and charity organizations. And your friends and lovers will find you an even greater bore than before.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Great book but no page numbers on kindle version!!!, 14 Feb 2013
By 
C. Peacock (London) - See all my reviews
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Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This kindle version, aside from being a really great translation, is so frustrating as it has no page numbers! How are you supposed to reference from it?

This keeps happening with the kindle books i purchase and their customer support services have been useless.

But the book is great.
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56 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars why you should read marx, 12 Jan 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Capital: Critique of Political Economy v. 1 (Classics S.) (Paperback)
In Marx' economic works and above all in "capital" we find the deepening of the classical economists' theory of value, an understanding of the origins of crises as the text develops throughout 3 volumes, a superior method in the way of treating economic problems, and an historical background to the theory generally. All the criticisms of Marx are well-known by now and have been effectively discussed by other marxist writers such as David Harvey in "The Limits to Capital" and Guglielmo Carchedi in "New Frontiers in Political Economy". If one looks throughout history violence is almost always committed when poltical/economic systems change. To blame Marx for a 100 million deaths is complete idiocy as one could likewise blame Nietzsche for WW2 or George Washington for the death of all the original inhabitants of the US plus all the deaths attributable to US meddling around the world. As someone with substantial knowledge of world history Marx was aware of the necessity of violence when society was split between irreconcilable forces and didn't shrink from pointing this out. Those who still advocate neo-liberalism and free markets are those in power who have benefited from their pre-existing superior strength and have little concern for the deteriorating environment and the awful labour conditions in most of the world. Marx is still relevant in these times (the neo-liberals still invoke Adam Smith, an 18 century political economist), so if all we have to look forward to is the "mutual ruination of the contending classes" I'll see you all on the barricades!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Five months well spent, 30 May 2011
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This review is from: Capital: Critique of Political Economy v. 1 (Classics S.) (Paperback)
This is a surprisingly enjoyable book to read. Not only does it give a disturbingly vivid (albeit skewed) account of capitalist history and working conditions, but much of the discussion revolves around industry in the UK (which then included Ireland), making it very close to home for British readers. Next time you whine about your long hours in the office, think of your poor ancestors toiling sixteen hours a day for poverty wages!

As others have mentioned, Harvey's book A Companion to Marx's Capital is very good for shedding light on the intricate layers of argument in Capital. I would also highly recommend reading Capital alongside Emile Zola's Germinal (Penguin Classics), which is almost the fictional counterpart to Capital.

Like me, you may not sign up to Marx's vision of the future - Communism, government control, planned economy, abolition of property etc. - but you may be surprised (like me) at how much sense his 150-year-old critique of our current system makes.
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Influence Of Good on Evil, 7 Jan 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Capital: Critique of Political Economy v. 1 (Classics S.) (Paperback)
Criticisms of Marx arise mainly from reading this volume of "Capital", yet it is his whole body of thought that needs to be considered when assessing such a thinker, especially before one makes bold, unqualified statements. In that "Capital" is probably the most important and relevant economic text now, a century after he completed it, does it solely deserve to be read. Fellow reviewers have brought to attention the violence this book has caused - this has arisen from ignoring the whole body of Marx' work. I would recommend this, therefore, to only students of Marxian thought or economics - where, of course, its influence lies. It is certainly true that the historical part of the text is a little dry - but this is only to be expected of Marx's materialist approach. A work of genius from a genius, then, but for anyone wishing to see the main thrust of Marx's body of thought is better off starting with part one of "The German Ideology" or the weightier "Grundrisse", where he states his conditions for revolutionary violence - conditions which still haven't been reached today.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Understanding Capitalism, 4 Mar 2012
By 
P. Webster "Phil W." (Lancashire) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Capital: Critique of Political Economy v. 1 (Classics S.) (Paperback)
To many people Marxism is a dirty word because of its association with the bureaucratic tyranny of the Stalinist regimes of Russia, Eastern Europe, China etc. But these regimes had/have nothing to do with genuine Marxism, as anyone who reads this book will see. The so-called "communist" states were actually state capitalist systems controlled by a ruling class of bureaucrats who betrayed the aims of the 1917 Russian Revolution and turned on its head Marx's aim of a democratic workers' state and classless society.

Marx's humanism and democratic instincts shine out throughout this book. There are marvellous indictments of the alienating, exploitive and undemocratic nature of the capitalist system, as well as some remarkably vivid historical sections. But Marx's main aim in this book is not to set out a blueprint for a future socialist society, it is to lay bare the "law of motion" of the capitalist society we live in.

Marx shows that there are two key features of the capitalist system. Firstly, there is the fact that the capitalists make their profits by exploiting the working class. (The working class today includes ordinary white collar workers as well as manual workers.) As Marx writes, "Capital...vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour..."

Secondly, there is the competition between rival capitalists which drives on the exploitation and which leads to the anarchy of the market system, with its booms, slumps and crises, as we are seeing today.

I particularly like how Marx shows that people are alienated under capitalism, in the sense of their work being turned into soulless degradation, and also in the sense of having lost control of their lives to something they themselves have created - capital. "As, in religion, man is governed by the products of his own brain, so in capitalist production, he is governed by the products of his own hand."

"Capital" is not an easy read, and it is best tackled after reading a modern introduction to Marxism. On Marxist economics, I would recommend either Joseph Choonara's "Unravelling Capitalism" or Chris Harman's "Zombie Capitalism". On Marxism as a whole, Alex Callinicos's "The Revolutionary Ideas of Karl Marx" is a brilliant starting point.

As for this particular edition of "Capital", well I actually prefer the Oxford World's Classics edition, which contains the original English translation of Volume One, a much better translation as far as I am concerned. But I'm still giving it five stars - for Marx, not for the edition!

Phil Webster.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The book I'd recommend to read for everyone, 15 Mar 2010
By 
This review is from: Capital: Critique of Political Economy v. 1 (Classics S.) (Paperback)
Like Darwin's The Origin of Species, Marx's Capital is based on years of research and scientific analysis of economic, social, political lives of people. This is the book that changed history, present and future forever. Everyone with conscious mind MUST read the Capital.
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Capital: Critique of Political Economy v. 1 (Classics S.)
Capital: Critique of Political Economy v. 1 (Classics S.) by Karl Marx (Paperback - 6 Dec 1990)
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