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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

versus
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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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surplus value, 17 Nov 2006
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This review is from: Capital: Critique of Political Economy v. 1 (Classics S.) (Paperback)
The most important issue in economics today is an evaluation of Marx's theory of surplus value. If corporations were getting smaller, if labor's lot overall was improving, if peace was breaking out all over, we might well conclude Marx was wrong. Marx must be dealt with. It is incredible that most economics PhD's have never read Capital.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be read despite what Marx got wrong, 7 Mar 2010
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This review is from: Capital: Critique of Political Economy v. 1 (Classics S.) (Paperback)
This review covers all three volumes of Mark's Capital in the Penguin edition.

This Penguin edition is exceptionally good value in terms of pennies per page. It's hard to find anything cheaper.

As regards the edition itself, the introduction lets it down a little, being written by a largely uncritical Marxist. Within the text there are copious footnotes and a good bibliography at the end. On balance, for students of Marx this edition is arguably better than English translations published in the former Soviet bloc countries.

As regards what Marx says, modern economics has comprehensively refuted the labour theory of value on which much of the critique of capitalism is based. Also capitalist economies have proved much more adaptable than Marx envisaged in mitigating their worst effects on the poorer members of society. This is not to say, of course, that much of what Marx expected is not still with us: Today we have not a small bourgeoisie and a large proletariat but an open-ended middle class and a substantial and often desolate underclass - at least within the typical Western economy. If reading Marx makes you remember how the underclass fares under modern capitalism, it will have been more than worthwhile.

The abiding significance of Marx's work is that it is unique among those of the classical economists - traditionally those from Smith to Marx - in the depth of its analysis of the micro-dynamics of the economy. You can find in Capital many ideas that modern neoclassical economics has still not taken account of. Indeed, one can safely say that Marx's Capital (along with Smith's Wealth of Nations and Keynes's General Theory) should be read by any modern student of economics to fill gaps that persist even in modern texts.

The only thing that I would seriously criticise in Marx's Capital is it's reliance on a quasi-Hegelian dialectic method. Hegel's approach to philosophy is now, rightly IMO, regarded as having produced an incomprehensible metaphysical ramble. Sadly much of Capital is aptly descibed in similar terms and the essence of Marx's standpoint could have been set out in about a third of the volume of prose. (On the other hand, verbosity was common among economics writers at the time and Marx's contemporary John Stuart Mill is even worse.) The real problem with the style is that it makes it extremely difficult to tease out the logical inconsistencies in the text and if you're serious about understanding Marx, you'll do well to read Capital with a modern critical commentary to hand.

Finally, and this comes as a surprise to many who are unfamiliar with what Marx wrote, Capital speaks only of capitalism and says hardly anything about socialism. It fell to Lenin and Trotsky to describe the world's first sustained attempt at a Socialist state and even that never got beyond the stage of state capitalism. Indeed the economic failure of the Soviet bloc could largely be attributed to the fact that autarkic state capitalism was not generally better and often much worse than free-enterprise capitalism.

Criticisms aside, Marx's Capital remains one of the founding political documents of the modern world and it still deserves to be read by anyone interested in politics or economics.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read it for its footnotes, 11 Feb 2013
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This review is from: Capital: Critique of Political Economy v. 1 (Classics S.) (Paperback)
This (in)famous book needs no introduction, it is a masterpiece of historic research and economic thinking. As an economist, I appreciate Marx' attention for the basics, which are too often taken for granted. He's a smart and witty writer, but he also has done an enormous effort to gather so many detailed discussions of labour conditions and a thorough reading of economic theory at the time. When you go through the text, make sure not to skip the savvy footnotes: this is referencing as it should be.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More relevant than ever., 17 May 2010
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This review is from: Capital: Critique of Political Economy v. 1 (Classics S.) (Paperback)
I've not got much more to add to the other reviews that praise 'Capital', other than to say that, although it is difficult to read and it does involve hard work, it is not beyond the averagely intelligent person to get to grips with.

Given that we are now well into another massive global crisis of capitalism, the book that explains the system the best deserves to be read again and again.

The Penguin edition is the best one to get because it's the edition which ties in with the best guide/companion to 'Capital' which is David Harvey's 'Companion to Marx's 'Capital''. The introductory essay by Ernest Mandel is also useful for discussion on some of the subsequent objections and criticisms of 'Capital' and whether such critiques are valid.

Only criticism? Cheap paper which yellows rather too soon.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A very readable translation of a true classic, 16 Jun 2014
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N.Fred (Helsinki,Finland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Capital: Critique of Political Economy v. 1 (Classics S.) (Paperback)
What can you say about such a book? I spent at least six months reading it, it's not an easy one, but that said, it isn't as cryptic as many people seem to think. If you have, like myself, been working for wages your whole life, then you'll find countless things here you already know to be true in life (in the capitalist society), although you probably haven't been able to put your finger on them by yourself. Marx was writing to workers, he wanted Capital to be used as a manual in the struggle to free the proletariat. It's something completely different than what I expected the book be, and in a very positive sense so. As a companion to reading this, I heartily recommend David Harvey's "Reading Marx's Capital", it's provides insight to the more difficult passages, as well as providing historical and political background.

And the translation is really, really good and readable. I'm a native Finn, and I tried reading the Capital in Finnish at first, but the Finnish translation was so bad and felt so cryptic, that I changed to this Penguin Classics edition, and it's true: it read a lot better than the one in my native language! I also have researched into the translation's critical quality, and have learned from many very respected sources that it's supposed to be very good, too.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Why fifteen pounds?!, 27 Mar 2013
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Dan Coin (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
Fabulous book and I want a proper edition for my Kindle but why does a book more than 150 years old (and the translation itself also several decades old) cost fifteen pounds? Sheer greed on the part of Oxford Press.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Classics, 25 Mar 2013
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A. Tetere (Edinburgh, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Capital: Critique of Political Economy v. 1 (Classics S.) (Paperback)
Must read! Very good translation. Karl Marx writes so elegantly. I cannot get enough of him.
The book has comfortable paperback binding.
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9 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Overreach of a genius, 21 Nov 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Capital: Critique of Political Economy v. 1 (Classics S.) (Paperback)
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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1 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Masterful Force of Logic Going Nowhere, 25 April 2013
By 
Dean M. Jackson (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Capital: Critique of Political Economy v. 1 (Classics S.) (Paperback)
It should be stressed for the novice to this subject, all three volumes of Capital provide a scientific explanation, as Marx put it, of how the Capitalist system works from the perspective that labor is the underlying essence of all value. If one accepts the basic assumptions made early in Chapter 1 of Capital, Volume 1--that abstract labor is the source of value(1)--Marx's logic flows well, not only through Volume 1, but all the way through Volume 3.

If one is looking to fault Marx's economics based on the works of Capital, one will come up empty not only because Marx's logic is flawless, but as economist and former Marxist Thomas Sowell says, " ...Marx considered the idea of proving a concept to be ridiculous. Moreover, Engels had asserted...that one only proves one's ignorance of dialectics by thinking of it as a means by which things can be proved."(2)

However, there was one instance where Marx let his dialectical guard down, allowing for an empirical objection that would consign all of Marx's works for naught. Sowell himself touches upon the specific passage where Marx cornered himself, but doesn't appreciate the full ramifications of Marx's observation.

In the "The Poverty of Philosophy" (1847) Marx says, "In acquiring new productive forces men change their mode of production; and in changing their mode of production, in changing the way of earning their living, they change all their social relations. The handmill [a productive force] gives you society with the feudal lord, the steam-mill [a productive force], society with the industrial capitalist."(3)

Sowell argues regarding Marx's handmill/steam-mill analogy, "If read literally, these words suggest a one-way causation and explanation of given states of being rather than of transformation. But that is clearly inconsistent both with Marx's and Engels' own treatment of history and with the dialectical conception of reciprocal interaction. These words are perhaps best read as epigrams-and of the dangers of misunderstanding inherent in that writing style."(4)

Is Sowell correct? Was Marx merely being terse with his handmill/steam-mill analogy?

While Sowell is indeed correct that Marx and Engles viewed the unfolding of history as a "dialectical conception of reciprocal interaction", that observation does not answer the question: What comes first? The machinery, or new social relations, derived from machines, that interacts with the old social relations to produce the new hybrid social relations? Marx was emphatic that machines came first, then all else followed them. In his retort to Pierre-Joseph Proudhon's observation that the use of machines was a consequence of the division of labor, Marx writes:

"Thus it is slapping history in the face to want to begin by the division of labor in general, in order to get subsequently to a specific instrument of production, machinery.

Machinery is no more an economic category than the bullock that drags the plough. Machinery is merely a productive force. The modern workshop, which depends on the application of machinery, is a social production relation, an economic category."(5)

The problem with this empirical observation is that before there was a steam mill there already existed a capitalist society that not only contained the requisite capitalist mode of production that manufactured the necessary constituent parts that went into the creation of the steam mill (there were many companies involved in the problem-solving for and manufacture of components that went into a steam engine), but this pre-steam mill society also contained a capitalist labor force that made the constituent parts for the steam mill, not to mention built the steam mill itself. In other words, the steam mill presupposes an already functioning capitalist society! Marx's rebuke to Proudhon is a tautological response that also fails to recognize that a steam engine is made up of independently manufactured parts that predates the manufacture of a steam engine with those independently manufactured parts! Marx fails to mention this double inconsistency with his material "productive forces" empirical observation.

Simplified, Marx is speaking of the root cause for industrial Capitalism...the steam mill, but that beginning of industrial Capitalism only exists to the extent of (1) the division of labor that manufactured the component parts going into the steam-mill; and (2) the capital/producer goods industries that manufactured the constituent parts that went into the construction of the steam-mill.

When the first steam-mill was completed supposedly, according to Marx, 'giving' a society with industrial Capitalism, in fact there could be no 'giving' of such a society since the steam-mill when completed wasn't in operation. In fact, that which actually 'gave' a society with industrial Capitalism were those factors of production that produced the steam-mill!

Marx behaves like a child throwing a tantrum: Machines come first, then all else follows. Why? Because Marx said so, even though the historical record says otherwise!

Anyone after 1847 could have demolished Marx's materialist philosophy (which is where "productive forces" comes from) by noting the above objections to Marx's handmill/steam mill observation, thereby sparing us three volumes of Capital. In fact, someone did just that...Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, and Marxists (or whoever "Marxists" really are) pretend Proudhon didn't demolish Marx.
------------------------------
(see first comment for available links to titles cited)

1. Capital, Karl Marx, p.27.

2. Marxism: Philosophy and Economics, Thomas Sowell, p.109

3. The Poverty of Philosophy, p. 109 (takes into account the changes and corrections introduced by Marx into the copy presented to N. Utina in 1876).

4. Marxism: Philosophy and Economics, Thomas Sowell, p.56.

5. The Poverty of Philosophy, p. 138 (takes into account the changes and corrections introduced by Marx into the copy presented to N. Utina in 1876).
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Revised Addendum: Formulated on February 25, 2014, 10:30 AM EST

Proof that Marx's Law of Value (which posits that labor is the sole source of value, imputing that value into commodities) is in error:

If all the machines created throughout the history of man were to have been kept within the confines of the minds of their creators, that is never manufactured, would such machines be imputed with value in a Marxist sense? Yes, they should equal the POTENTIAL value of their labor.

Now, since actual labor is required for there to be potential value, and there is no actual labor to speak of, then the potential imputation of labor value into machines/commodities is zero, and therefore Marx's Law of Value is in error.

In fact, the proof affirms that imputation of a commodity's value can't be anything physical, it must be subjective...that is in the mind of the observer.
--------------------------------------
Addendum (July 18, 2014):

The following nicely illustrates how net (new) investment (productivity increases) took place before medium of exchange, while (1) also illustrating how such net (new) investments spurred trade between separated communities; and (2) clarifying Marx's confusion as to what came first to alter social relations, (i) machines; or (ii) something else preceding machines...

Tribe A saved more by looking for food less, placing that saved time into creating a net that would increase the catch of fish. We can say that Tribe A has a greater productive edge than does Tribe B, whose members are still using sharpened sticks to catch fish--very laborious and relatively unproductive.

Now Tribe A decides, due to its higher productivity/wealth, it can afford to save more time, adding this saved time to the saved time it used for making fishing nets, and build a boat that will allow their nets to catch even more fish. Being busy building boats, Tribe A allows Tribe B to build the nets--a less productive venture than the new boat-building venture is. Tribe A's greater productivity thanks to fishing boats (and greater wealth thanks to fishing boats) allows for more children, increasing the tribe's population, allowing for a larger labor supply in the near future that will be available for procuring other innovative, labor-saving inventions.

In the modern economy the money we save is the "saved time" that Tribe A used to construct nets/boats, but since the rate of interest is being intentionally kept low by the Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan, there can be no new capital formation (money that's used for new long-term productive investments) in Western economies (nor Japan) for new productive ventures, because the lure for such new investments--the higher rate of return that higher, market-based, interest rates offer--is non-existent; the central bank mandated low interest rate policy won't cover the loan on the massive outlay of capital that net (new) productive projects require.

By the way, notice what comes first in the above illustration, contradicting Marx's claim that the "material productive forces" (machines) are the INITIAL venue by which societies alter their values/relationships...people had to "save time" FIRST by curtailing their quest for food.* Now in the modern economy, where money is used, FIRST comes the necessity of market-based interest rates that allows for the accumulation of capital that THEN produces the labor-saving machines! The higher the market-based interest rate, the better for capital accumulation.
-----------------------------------
*Incredibly, Marx was unaware (or more likely, deluded himself into unawareness) of this critical sequence.
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0 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars GREAT PROBLEMS IN KARL MARX'S MODEL, 15 Jun 2014
This review is from: Capital: Critique of Political Economy v. 1 (Classics S.) (Paperback)
On Karl Marx I read enough on his own books to reach the conclusion that he created what seems to the superficial observer to be an impressive, integrated system of thought, explaining economy, world history, and even the workings of the universe. In reality, he created a veritable tissue of fallacies.
There are great problems in Marx' model. His theory implies that, since profits are only derived from the exploitation of labour, profit rates are necessarily lower in heavily capitalized than in labour-intensive industries. But everyone is forced to acknowledge that this manifestly does not hold true on the market. The tendency on the market is for rates of profits to tend toward equality in all industries. But how so, if profit rates are necessarily and systematically higher in the labour-intensive industries ?
Here is surely the most glaring single hole in the Marxian model. Marx acknowledged that, in the real world, profit rates clearly tend toward equality (or, as Marx termed it, and "average rate of profit"), and therefore the real prices or exchange-values in capitalist markets do not exchange at their Marxian quantity- of-labour-values.
Marx admitted this crucial problem, and promised that he could solve the problem successfully in a latter volume of Capital. He struggled with this problem for the rest of his life, and never solved it, perhaps one of the main reasons that he stopped working early on Capital and never published the later volumes.
Marx himself became aware of the fact that there was a serious contradiction here, and found it necessary for the sake of his solution to promise to deal with it later on. But the promise was never kept, and indeed could not be kept.
What Marx actually did was to throw in the towel and admit that, on the capitalist market, profit rates were equal and therefore that prices were not proportional to or determined by the quantity of labour hours in the production of goods.
Eugen von Bohm-Bawerk's devastating refutation of Marxian system remains definitive. It swept the boards in professional economics, and has remained dominant ever since, successfully inoculating economists against the Marxian virus.
Marxian labour theory of value is indefensible.
Most modern Marxist scholars hold the labour theory of value to be an embarrassment, and sophisticated Marxists have dropped it altogether, unfortunately without also giving up the system of which it is crucial and necessary part.
There are more contradictions of course. Many books could be written. But it is instructive to note the reactions of Marxists to Bohm-Bawerk's exposure and demolition of their system's grave inner contradictions.
Too often, they reacted in the manner of religious cultists and not honest scientists. That is, when their system is caught in egregious fallacies or contradictions, or makes grossly faulty predictions, cultists save their theory by changing the terms of the argument. That is, they assert that the theory said something quite different, or that the prediction had really been different.
Karl Marx created what seems to the superficial observer to be an impressive, integrated system of thought, explaining economy, world history, and even the workings of the universe. In reality, he created a veritable tissue of fallacies.
I also recommend reading the chapter on Karl Marx's masterful and documented book "Intellectuals" by Paul Johnson and found out some interesting details surrounding his life and work, also the kind of person he was.
The lie can prevail for a while. But ultimately the truth prevails because it is overwhelming.
The lie does not exist by itself and truth it does.
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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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