4.0 out of 5 stars One of history's most important books - whether you agree with the ideology or not
There are millions of people who regularly misquote or pour vitriol on this little book and the ideology it helped create. Given the very compact nature and the final impact the volume had, I feel it is at the very least required to read it prior to pontificating on its qualities or lack thereof - can better understand that not everyone finds the time or inclination to go...
Published 5 months ago by AK
1.0 out of 5 stars A Work That Became Dated Soon After Publication, When Marx Noticed That Wages Were Rising In England
A dated work, soon after its publication on February 21, 1848.
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...
Published 3 months ago by Dean M. Jackson
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1.0 out of 5 stars A Work That Became Dated Soon After Publication, When Marx Noticed That Wages Were Rising In England,
This review is from: The Communist Manifesto (Paperback)
A dated work, soon after its publication on February 21, 1848.
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,(5) 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."(6)
The problem with this empirical observation is that before there was a steam mill there already existed an industrial capitalist society that not only contained the requisite industrial 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 an already sophisticated industrial capitalist labor force that made the constituent parts for the steam mill, not to mention built the steam mill itself. Contemporaneous with the industrial capitalist production of steam engines, there existed the production of the machines that the steam engines would power. In other words, the steam mill presupposes an already functioning industrial 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 engine, but that beginning of industrial Capitalism only exists to the extent of (1) the already existing industrial Capitalist division of labor that manufactured the component parts for the steam engine; (2) the already existing industrial Capitalist capital goods/intermediate goods industries that manufactured the constituent parts that went into the construction of the steam engine; (3) the already existing industrial Capitalist capital goods/intermediate goods industries that manufactured the machines that the steam engine powers; and (4) an already existing industrial Capitalist division of labor that manufactures those machines powered by the steam engine!
When the first steam-mill was completed supposedly, according to Marx, 'giving' a society with industrial Capitalism, in fact industrial Capitalism, and an industrial Capitalist division of labor, already existed, and would have to already be in existence otherwise there could be no steam-mills and the machines they were created to power!
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!
In fact, and unknown to Ricardian economists or Marx, industrial Capitalism could not have emerged without the conscious decision of nations to allow for the rise of interest rates to free market heights, abandoning low interest rates policies, such low interest rates policies making possible the Mercantilist pre-industrial Capitalist era. Only with higher, market-based interest rates is it possible to accumulate the necessary large quantities of capital for industrial enterprise.
During the Mercantilist era low interest rates ensured that only consumption-based investments could take place, such investments requiring relatively little capital expenditures, such low capital expenditures being a function of the expected return on the investment, which return is based on the low interest rate policy being followed by Mercantilist nations. Industrial ventures, on the other hand, require large expenditures of capital, such amounts only made possible by a higher rate of return that can recoup the larger capital outlay, a higher rate of return that is made possible only with higher, market-based, interest rates.
(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. 122 (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. "Division of labor, then, is the first phase of economic evolution as well as of intellectual development: our point of departure is true as regards both man and things, and the progress of our exposition is in no wise arbitrary." - The Philosophy of Poverty, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1847).
6. The Poverty of Philosophy, p. 149 (takes into account the changes and corrections introduced by Marx into the copy presented to N. Utina in 1876).
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.
4.0 out of 5 stars One of history's most important books - whether you agree with the ideology or not,
There are millions of people who regularly misquote or pour vitriol on this little book and the ideology it helped create. Given the very compact nature and the final impact the volume had, I feel it is at the very least required to read it prior to pontificating on its qualities or lack thereof - can better understand that not everyone finds the time or inclination to go for Das Kapital.
The book is very compact and concise. It presents the basic elements of the authors' economic and political views first and foremost, then goes on - as somewhat understandable for a political manifesto - into how the communist party differentiates itself from various other left wing political groupings and why it is the right choice to back.
It does not have the space to expound the economic theory of Marx and Engels in much detail and frankly, the general readership of the day was probably just as little interested as is the case for currently novel economic theories and today's public.
One reason why I would also recommend everyone to take the half an hour's time to read the book is that many of the 'negatives' always implied or associated with communism simply have no basis in the Manifesto - i.e. they are not advocated or often not mentioned at all. As such the book can form a first step towards a better and more balanced understanding of the economic theories behind communism, as dated as they may be from today's perspective.
If you then want a really first rate analysis in the next step, Heilbronner's Heilbroner Marxism - for and against is a must read (as is his The Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times, and Ideas of the Great Economic Thinkers (Penguin Business Library) for an overview of the development of economic thinking). It is a work of an expert rather than an ideologue, so it can point out the failures as well as the qualities in a balanced fashion.
In any case, irrespective of your politics, I personally find the book should be read, if nothing else, to properly understand the real arguments, as opposed to the endlessly regurgitated half truths and misrepresentations that are only natural for a - from a Cold War perspective - hostile ideology.
4.0 out of 5 stars Well worth a read, whatever your politics.,
It is what it is. The Communist Manifesto. Readable, surprisingly, and I suspect, not a document that has been read by as many on the "left" as it should have been. Reading this document - and looking back with the benefits of hindsight of course - it is easy to see how its utopian view was so quickly taken up by peoples who were incredibly suppressed and abused. However, its identification as a "cause" with almost "biblical power" ,was deliberately misinterpreted by the "Communists" of post revolutionary Russia. Such interpretation nowadays is clearly shown to be flawed. Marx was misread, deliberately and maliciously misinterpreted. Stalin et al., simply took from it only what they wanted to gain and retain power and control. This document and its gross misinterpretation is a warning to democratic societies in general. Marx was a man of his time, reflecting, like Lenin, his views based solely upon his own very narrow life experience. So often Marx and Lenin are shown as champions of the working man, as reflected in this Manifesto. The reality is that neither Marx or Lenin had the slightest idea, or real hands on experience of what the working man actually suffered. Both middle class, they had neither the nous or wherewithal, other than superb oratory, to truly "identify" the needs and aspirations of the ordinary citizens. This Manifesto reflects that utopian oratory. Its reading should be compulsory, not because of its content, but because it demonstrates just how one mans ideology can be so easily misused and misinterpreted to such degrees. It has powerful resonance with many ideological movements today. Worth a quick read if nothing else.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top Marx..... (Sorry I had to),
This is a historical political document detailing the principles of communism as put forward by Karl Marx, nothing fancier that that! Reading this is quite strange, some of the ideas put forward by Marx are very intriguing and it's not hard to see why some governments, rightly or wrongly, adopted these concepts in the running of their countries. It's good to read this to give yourself a more rounded view of politics and history as a whole, a very intriguing read.
4.0 out of 5 stars food for thought even today,
Although of course everybody should read this just to understand something of the roots and original intents of communism, as much as any other key ideology of the recent past, what is particularly fascinating is how it talks to many of the big issues we face today. Industrialism, global culture, opening markets, and even boom-bust cycles are all covered. Mostly an icon of clarity in the way it is written, and refreshing that it is a short work. Nonetheless it foes off the pace three parts through with its analysis of competing socialist factions, not so interesting at this point in time. And of course we all know what happened in the middle and end of the story. Read it. I rate it as a book not an ideology.
4.0 out of 5 stars Drawing universal conclusions from partial analysis,
This is principally a look at human nature and organisation in the industrial era, but, draws incredible and fantastical conclusions on correct governance based on only a partial analysis of society, and, without any sensible critical thinking. The growth of human rights, for example, and many other things, means that the central thesis of this book (that the proletariats need to overthrow the complete system) is out-dated, and, was only ever going to hold true if a long series of tenuous predictions all came true one after another.
The Communist Manifesto is not long nor hard to read, so don't be put off of diving in and drawing your own conclusions.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly thought-provoking,
While hardly a light holiday read, Marx's influencial distillation of the historical communist worldview into a single, succinct manifesto makes for essential reading, for people of any political persuation. Incredibly relevant and surprisingly easy to read, it deserves better than the demonisation it has recieved at the hands of certain groups.
5.0 out of 5 stars some things never change,
I've not read anything for years but decided to download the kindle app on my phone. I discovered that Amazon have loads of free books to download,many that were written over a hundred years ago. I've heard of Karl Marx so thought I'd give this a try seeing as it's free. This is fantastic read. Not a story,just and idea with a history lesson chucked in. What seemed to have been going on in the 1800's feels exactly like what life is like now. Nothing will change until we all climb on board with this man's revolutionary ideas.
5.0 out of 5 stars The request in this book for workers of all countries to unite is more urgent today than ever.,
There cannot be many people who have never heard of this book, it is as well known as the Bible but much more informative.Every worker should have a copy of this amazing book, though written in the mid nineteenth century it is still as relevant today.The capitalists have not changed their ways just altered their style a bit, but still treat workers as slaves. How they operate and how to defeat them is all in this book it is a workers treasure trove of information. I urge all workers to buy a copy as soon as possible.
4.0 out of 5 stars Vive la revolution,
Reading this is initially quite difficult, however the content in the first is largely relevant today especially considering the recent recession and what is happening in Europe. If I didn't know this was written close to 100 years ago I would think it a recent document. Not too sure about the recommendations of the manifesto as I am a dyed in the wool capitalist. Excellent research for Bourgoise and proletariat alike
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The Communist Manifesto by Friedrich Engels (Paperback - 31 Oct. 2011)