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Capital: An Abridged Edition (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – Abridged, 2 Sep 1999

4.4 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; Abridged edition edition (2 Sept. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192838725
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192838728
  • Product Dimensions: 19 x 2.8 x 13 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,228,484 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

About the Author

David McLellan is Professor of Political Theory at the University of Kent. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Format: Paperback
Much has obviously been said of this work! Humanist-Marxists say it is too mechanistic whilst analytic Marxists try to ignore the Dickensian passages which describe working conditions. In truth this book, in true Marxian style is the 'dialectical' synthesis of basically all that went before. Marx forswears many of the grinding debates with other intellectuals and revolutionaries of the time in favour of a 'capitalism for dummies style'. Your hand is held as you progress from simple 'laws', each of which is taken to the limit of its logic before the next idea is broached.

In fact what is striking is how pertinent this book is even today. Granted things have moved on, and it is no longer 'grim up north' but even a quick consideration makes one realise how our service-industry-fueled economy still holds to most of the same processes as Marx noted all those years ago. Beaudrillard claimed Marx was superseded because consumption has now trumped production, but a read of Capital and a bit of thought soon puts that idea to rest.

It is worth ignoring the suggestions that The German Ideology is a good introduction to Marx, or that Capital is some advanced monolith. It is large, but completely readable; just as readable as Manifesto, only longer. Despite spawning abstruse French theorists, Russian and Chinese revolutions and analysis second only in quantity to the Bible there is nothing to be intimidated about.
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Format: Paperback
Despite the vast numbers of people who have read (or claim to have read!) this book, there is still no real understanding of what it says. In other reviews, and in the books of many right-wing thinkers, the book is criticised for the laws that Marx claimed to have discovered, such as the ever-decreasing law of profit, the law of decreasing wages (although in actual fact Marx said the wages of workers would fall relative to that of capitalists, which is undeniable) and the labour theory of value. However, the book does not stand or fall on these laws, so whether they are correct or not is, to some degree, irrelevant. Marx wrote a melo-drama, an economic parody (Francis Wheen). He points out the absurdity of the system, using irony (the capitalist, 'mr moneybags') and so on. Yes, Marx was too enthralled by science, but so was every 19th century thinker (incl. Adam Smith who agreed with the labour theory of value). The book is a MUST read, not for the accuracy of its scientific laws necessarily but for its brilliant overview of capitalism and its thundering criticism of it, which is still very relevant today in a world where 2 billion people live on less than $2 per day and where crippling debt make any chance of poorer countries working their way out of poverty impossible.
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Format: Paperback
This abridgement of Capital is very well written (I prefer it to the Penguin Classics translation) and a helpful introduction, BUT (and it's a significant but!) is missing many important footnotes and sections from the full text. Marx's theoretical framework is all there, as far as I can judge, but many of the important historical references have been edited out. This edition is far slimmer and travel-friendly as a result, but loses some of Marx's colour.

For readers buying a copy of Capital to read alongside David Harvey's "A Companion to Marx's Capital" or his phenomenal free lectures I would strongly recommend that you buy the Penguin (unabridged) edition - or both! This was the only version available in my local bookshop when I started and I was desperate to get going so I bit the bullet, with the result that I've spent several hours reading missing sections on a .pdf version of the full text.

In any format, Capital makes for fascinating and world-view affecting reading. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
Having read some of the great communist works early last year, here I finally come to the daddy of them all. Or did I?

First up, it has to be noted that this version, the Oxford World Classics range, is an abridgement. Marx originally intended for his magnum opus to be 5 volumes, but he only finished volume 1. Volumes 2 and 3 were substantially complete at the time of his death, finished off and published by Friedrich Engels. The volume being reviewed contains most of volume 1, a tiny bit of volume 2 and some slightly longer extracts from volume 3. I don't normally read abridged versions, but it was not my intention to become a disciple of Marx, but rather to understand his thoughts so that I could have a more informed view of what Marx thought.

Marx begins with a detailed look at the nature of commodities: what are they are how they are valued. He distinguishes between different kinds of values. It's important to keep these in mind throughout, as use-value is a different beast to exchange-value, yet we all too easily think of "value" as though it were one thing represented on a price tag. The example Marx starts with is that of a coat and of linen. A coat may be exchanged for 20 yards of linen. Yet the use-value of a coat is not the same as the use-value of 20 yards of linen, for they are intrinsically different and serve different purposes. So use-values cannot be used for comparison. Instead, we need to then consider exchange-values. So a coat may be exchanged for 20 yards of linen or for a quantity of coal or for any other commodity. But then all we have are a set of relative exchange-values expressed, essentially, in terms of barter. One may choose any one commodity to be the standard by which all others are measured.
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