Customer Reviews


7 Reviews
5 star:
 (5)
4 star:
 (1)
3 star:    (0)
2 star:    (0)
1 star:
 (1)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent companion to Marx's Capital, Volume 1
David Harvey is not just one of the world's foremost social and economic geographers, but is also one of the world's foremost Marx interpreters. "A Companion to Marx's Capital" is the book form of a series of lectures on Capital, Volume 1, that he has annually held with his college students and which has famously been made available publicly in video format (he is...
Published on 14 April 2010 by M. A. Krul

versus
8 of 25 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Is there a companion to the companion?
I started to read Capital and got about 30 pages in before I admitted to myself that i didn't understand a flippin' word. So I got Harvey's book, I read about 50 pages before I admitted to myself that I didn't understand a flippin' word. Now I'm not stupid, I've got an MA etc etc. I've even watched a few of Harvey's videos on the net, of which this book is a transcript...
Published on 16 Nov 2011 by Amazon Customer


Most Helpful First | Newest First

33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent companion to Marx's Capital, Volume 1, 14 April 2010
By 
M. A. Krul (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
David Harvey is not just one of the world's foremost social and economic geographers, but is also one of the world's foremost Marx interpreters. "A Companion to Marx's Capital" is the book form of a series of lectures on Capital, Volume 1, that he has annually held with his college students and which has famously been made available publicly in video format (he is currently fundraising for volume 2). Because of this, the book is not just only about Volume 1, but it is also written to be as accessible to a general public as possible. Moreover, it seeks only to explain, not to defend. Sometimes, this does lead to trouble - Harvey does not entirely seem to grasp that to explain the way a certain figure thought about a topic also means you have to show what arguments he himself would have used to defend his perspective, and when Harvey tries to substitute his own arguments for those of Marx, they are often not the more convincing for it. The book is somewhat weak on making the entirety seem convincing for that reason, but that is something easily solved by referring to his excellent other work, "The Limits to Capital" (Limits to Capital).

That said, the book is a systematic, clear and engaging explanation of the work, built on a chapter-by-chapter approach. Harvey recommends, especially for the difficult and abstract first chapters, to have a copy of Marx's "Capital", Vol. 1, with you while reading it - the Penguin edition is generally recommended (Capital: Critique of Political Economy v. 1 (Classics S.)). This is justified also because Marx himself, as Harvey shows, builds up his argument from chapter to chapter, both in terms of introducing ever new and more complicated concepts building on the old, and in terms of showing bit by bit what the contradictions in capitalism are and how capitalism unfolds as a result. Marx's approach is thoroughly steeped in a dynamic analysis which sees movement as the result of a clash of contradictions, in the tradition of Hegel in particular. Harvey does a deft job of explaining what this is and how it works out in the course of Marx's book.

There are of course points where one can have disagreements with Harvey's explanations, and I think at a few points this is warranted. He fails entirely to point out the actual analytical benefits of a value theory as opposed to just a price theory in his discussion of the chapter on money. Because the 'labor theory of value' is an absolutely essential and inalienable part of Marxist analysis, this is a serious problem. He does not explain the relation between industrial and financial capital very well in the chapter on capital and labor power (which he does do in his other major work). Finally, he does not give Marx's statements on the relation between 'historical and moral factors' as well as productivity to value and its flows the full attention it deserves, although admittedly that would reach fairly far for what is to be a basic introduction.

Nonetheless, overall the book is an excellent companion to the work of Marx, if one actually uses it in that way. Although I am very familiar with Marx's books, I have found that placing the two side by side and tracing the arguments as Harvey presents them through the chapters indeed allows for clear and easy insight into the difficult and often poorly written material to an extent that has helped me newly understand it too. This is no mean feat, and it will make the task of actually getting down and reading Capital, often seen as an impossible burden, all the lighter and easier to do. For this, the book is much recommended and a great contribution to popularizing Marx & Engels' enduring insights into society. For the deeper theoretical work, there are many others available.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and necessary aid to understanding Marx., 15 April 2010
By 
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Many people approach reading Marx's 'Capital' with great trepidation, especially as it's first three chapters are famously difficult, I know I did.

So, therefore, anything which helps readers get to grips with, persevere with and better understand that book is to be welcomed, and David Harvey has produced an excellent companion, for 'Capital Vol 1 for just that purpose. Anyone wanting a substitute to the task of reading 'Capital' will be disappointed however.....you'll still need to tackle the big book itself.

I like the way that Harvey uses techniques from his lecture series to explain concepts - like talking about breakfast to explain the concept of 'commodity fetishism'.

Even for those who have already read 'Capital', Harvey's 'Companion' will be a be rewarding experience as it makes you review your own understanding leading to a better one.

As we live in a time when global capitalism is in crisis and people seek reasons to understand why and look to rediscover Marx's analysis of capitalism, Harvey's 'Companion' is a valuable aid to understanding and, ultimately, challenging and changing the system.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful introcuction to Marx's 'Capital' volume 1., 3 Sep 2011
This book, really does make volume 1 of Capital available to ordinary bods like me. I did try to read it before and gave up after failing to sufficiently understand the first chapter. Eventually I gave it another go after reading Alex Callinicos's introductory text 'The Revolutionary Ideas of Karl Marx' and found that I could follow it . The truth is that Harvey is a very clear writer but Marx's ideas are complex and take a little getting used to. This is especially the case because the first 3 chapters of Marx's 'Capital' are the most difficult. And this difficulty is, to some extent, reflected in the first three chapters of this book. Harvey is however much clearer than Marx making the journey much less painful and much more enjoyable. More intelligent or at least patient readers than me may no doubt be able to read Harvey right off. It's a beautifully written book and well worth the effort of mastering the first three chapters.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars 'Here is the ball, now run with it!', 27 Jan 2014
David Harvey's A Companion to Marx's Capital is a necessary and insightful addition to the ever-expanding field of Marx Studies. Yet the book, as Harvey states in his Preface, is far from a 'neutral interpretation'. As a dedicated Marxist, Harvey views himself as another acolyte, another follower wishing to help those lost souls 'anxious to construct interpretations that are maximally meaningful and useful...in the particular circumstances of their lives'. These are noble aims, and few are better qualified, for Harvey's particular reading of Capital has been arrived at after 'nearly forty years' of teaching the book 'to all manner of people from all sorts of backgrounds'. And it shows, because he pitches his elucidation perfectly. He doesn't talk down to the newcomer, and he doesn't teach the initiates how to suck eggs: he simply writes as he talks, his prose a smooth mixture of the technical and the colloquial.

But what does he really want us to do? Well, he wants us to read the first volume of Capital 'on Marx's own terms', and he also wants us to read it carefully, stripped of our 'intellectual formations' and disciplinary apparatuses. Harvey then follows these demands with an absorbing explication of Marx's twofold methodology. For Harvey, Marx's primary aim was to make 'revolutionary fire', a conflagration that could only be made by rubbing together the 'radically different conceptual blocs' of political economy, philosophical inquiry, and utopian socialism. His second desire, and this was a thoroughly technical manoeuvre, was to revamp the Hegelian dialectic, to strip it of its idealism in favour of a rigorous materialism that could (in Harvey's words) capture the 'unfolding and dynamic relations...within a capitalist system', its 'processes of motion, change and transformation'. And it is this fluidity, Harvey argues, that undermines those who paint Marx as an 'immovable structuralist thinker'. He was far from it. But, because Marx 'never wrote a tract on dialectics', Harvey is quick to point out the central paradox: 'To understand Marx's dialectical method, you have to read Capital, because that is the source for its actual practice; but in order to understand Capital you have to understand Marx's dialectical method'. Yet Harvey insists, and this is in direct conflict with the analytic school of Marxist thought, on the primacy of the Marxian dialectic, and suggests that the only way to learn it is to plunge into the book with the intrepid spirit of the autodidact.

Despite the book being billed as a Companion, it is far better to have read Capital beforehand, as Marx's magnum opus has a terrific momentum, and it is one that would be ruined by the stop/start approach of a Companion. It would also help create a dialogue between you and Marx, because that is the crucial one to have before opening up a triumvirate of perspectives. That being said, Harvey does a great job of explaining difficult concepts. Some dislike his diagrammatic approach. It seems a bit too easy. Yet it cuts a clever and efficient pathway through the dense jungle of Marx's ideas. As such, Harvey gives a careful delineation of socially necessary labour-time, value, use-value, and exchange-value, relative/equivalent forms of value, commodity fetishism, abstinence, the form of circulation (M-C [L + mp]......P......C-M + ΔM), surplus-value, heterogeneous/organic manufacture, the industrial reserve army (floating, latent, and stagnant), co-operation, the division of labour and manufacture, and the 'coercive laws of competition'.

Harvey, however, has little time for those who depict Marx as a 'technological determinist'. Taking Marx's fourth footnote in Chapter 15 ('Machinery and Large-Scale Industry'), Harvey breaks it down into its 'six identifiable conceptual elements': (1) relation to nature; (2) modes of production; (3) reproduction of daily life; (4) mental conceptions of the world; (5) social relations; and (6) technology. There are those - 'both friends and foes alike' - who feel Marx's thought proved how 'changes in the productive forces [of society] dictate the course of human history'. For Harvey, such vulgar interpretations eschew Marx's dialectical method and the way in which all 'these elements coevolve and are subject to perpetual renewal and transformation as dynamic moments within the totality'. To back this up, Harvey wheels in the hackneyed base-superstructure model, which, he believes, has also fallen foul of deterministic opinion. Here he speaks on Marx's beleaguered behalf, and against all those simplistic exegetes who intend to use the base-superstructure model 'mechanically or causally' and not 'dialectically'. And this, too, is a persuasive reading, as the lack of nuance in the deterministic approach creates all sorts of problems for Marx's legacy, problems Harvey goes a long way to redressing.

But Marx doesn't have it all his own way. The book is littered with comments regarding Marx's shortcomings, and Harvey can sometimes sound like he's bickering with the ghost of his master. He will openly admit when there is 'a lot of boring material' to wade through, criticise Marx for ideas that 'aren't really well worked out', and condemn his account of primitive accumulation as 'a bit exaggerated'. And it is the issue of primitive accumulation that sees Harvey and Marx in open confrontation. Marx, in Harvey's eyes, 'tends to relegate processes of primitive accumulation to the prehistory of capitalism'. This is deemed an oversight, a glaring error, and one that allows Marx to ignore its 'real significance'. Harvey peddles a more up-to-date term - 'accumulation by dispossession' - and shows why there is nothing primitive about accumulation. It is still occurring everywhere. From 'the expropriation of peasant populations in Latin America' to the Western superpowers privatising 'state enterprises', there is an ongoing and mass stripping of 'assets and rights from the common people'. Such accumulation is diverse, and vibrant, and shows little sign of abating, and Harvey's argument is impressive. And, to further supplement this argument, what is more proof of such exploitative and unfair accumulation by dispossession than the 'extraction of surplus-value', the 'alienation, appropriation and dispossession of the laborer's capacity to produce value in the labor process'?

To read Capital is a formative experience. It may seem daunting, but Marx's level of exposition is high, and that is why I cannot agree when Harvey criticises its repetitiveness. Harvey comments that 'There is a lot of repetition...in Capital. It sometimes reads as if Marx is nervous that we have not quite got the point'. He then moans about Marx explaining the labour theory of value for 'what seems like the umpteenth time'. Now Marx certainly does repeat himself a lot, but, and this is an important 'but', he is always applying the law to a new situation, and always from a different worker's perspective. And it's this laborious legwork, and it must have been repetitive for Marx as well, that instils the theory in the reader's mind, and this is essential, for it was [is] the bedrock of his economic system and the revolutionary discovery that kicked off the proletarian turmoil of the Twentieth Century.

So, no, the repetition isn't an issue, regardless of what Harvey says. But that is one small gripe, and one that shouldn't detract from the book's value. Furthermore, despite Harvey's own ideologically inflected view, he is eloquent when talking of the book and the need to engage with it independently. He hopes you 'have a good and enlightening time speaking to the text', as it is a 'wonderful exercise in seeking to understand what appears almost impossible to understand'. And, most importantly, Harvey asserts that there is 'no ultimate and definitive reading' of Marx's text. Why? Because the 'world perpetually changes', and Marx's ideas change with it, despite what the more orthodox Marxists think. You can pick and choose, be selective, apply the theories to the contemporary world and see how relevant they are. Be daring, he says, and take what you need and discard what you don't. For that, really, was Marx's own methodology, and it is one that Harvey endorses too. So, in the words of Professor Harvey, 'Here is the ball, now run with it!'
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Harvey's book is brilliant, 4 Feb 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
An extremely informative book which provides timely information for anyone who is concerned about the direction the world and its economy is headed.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very useful to keep you on the right track, 30 May 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Capital vol. I is an intimidating book, with many hundreds of pages and thousands of footnotes. In fact, even the footnotes have footnotes... Needless to say, any help in keeping sight of the bigger picture is welcome. This book does just that. It's clearly written and cuts right to the heart of what Marx was trying to say. Harvey's explanation of the "dialectic" structure of the book is alone enough to make this book worth buying.

Understand, however, that this is not a critique of Capital, and nor does it claim to be. I'm certainly not a fan of Marxism, but if you want insight into how Marxists themselves understand Marx, this is the book for you.

Alternatively, you can follow Harvey's lectures on his website for free. The book follows the structure (and indeed often the wording) of these lectures.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


8 of 25 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Is there a companion to the companion?, 16 Nov 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I started to read Capital and got about 30 pages in before I admitted to myself that i didn't understand a flippin' word. So I got Harvey's book, I read about 50 pages before I admitted to myself that I didn't understand a flippin' word. Now I'm not stupid, I've got an MA etc etc. I've even watched a few of Harvey's videos on the net, of which this book is a transcript basically. I would be interested to know if all these people who claim to understand what this is all about actually do understand, I have a shrewd guess that they really don't have a clue. and only grasp the basics.....just me being cynical.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

A Companion to Marx's Capital
£10.16
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews