The Actuality of Capital After 150 Years

marx-engels

Reprinted with permission of the Labour Party (EMEP), Turkey.

Capital, the masterpiece of Karl Marx, the founder of scientific socialism, is 150 years old. The analysis made in the first volume of this work, which was the only published volume in his lifetime, has been validated by historical experience in these 150 years, and it has been a unique guide to understand the world we live in.

In Capital, Marx set out the fundamental relations and forces which are obscured by the superficial manifestations of capitalism, formulated “the law of economic development of modern society”, and provided a scientific basis for the action of the modern working class, the gravediggers of capitalism.

In this work where he brought together the ripened results of his long studies on political economy, Marx laid bare the formation of capitalism, the conditions for its existence and the dynamics which inevitably lead capitalism to collapse.

In this respect, Capital will continue to be an actual and valid work so long as capitalism exists. Moreover, the dark prospect of the world which threatens the future of humanity makes the reading and discussing of Capital even more necessary.

As the world economy is still under the threat of stagnation and instability following the 2008 crisis of capitalism, as we are faced with many other problems such as the deepening exploitation and sharpening imperialist rivalry, poverty, hunger and war in the underdeveloped world, migrant crisis, the rise of fascism and other reactionary ideologies, ecological crisis, etc. Capital is such an important guide today to understand the world around us.

2017 is not only the 150th year of Capital but also the centenary of the first working class revolution in history led by the Marxists of Russia who followed the path of Capital. These anniversaries are so closely interconnected that they cannot be evaluated separately. Russia was the first country where this great work was fully translated in 1872. The 3000 copies of this Russian translation were sold out quickly and were debated widely among Russian intellectuals. This interest was partly due to Russia’s specific historical and intellectual conditions. However, more importantly, in a country where capitalism was developing, Capital being read and debated in order to understand the course of historical development was to do not only with the intellectual power of this work but also its real function: To change the world in a conscious way.

General Information About Capital

Although the first volume of Capital published in 1867 brought together the important results of long years of studies in political economy, it constitutes just one section of the scientific analysis of bourgeois society. Marx wrote the draft notes that would later become the second and third volumes of Capital in mid-1860s, before the completion of the first volume. These notes were later brought together and made ready for publication by his comrade and close friend Friedrich Engels. Engels published the second volume dealing with the process of capital circulation in 1885 with the subheading “The Process of Capitalist Production as a Whole”, and the third volume focusing on the basic mechanisms of the practical workings of capitalism in 1894. It was not until the 1950s when Theories of Surplus Value, also known as the fourth volume of Capital, a critical analysis of the huge literature of economics included in the Capital was printed as a whole.

What can also be considered as part of Capital is Marx’s manuscripts in 1857-58 on the subjects that he thought should be included in Capital or in a wider work. These manuscripts were published in 1939-41 in German by the Marx-Engels Institute with the title Grundrisse der Kritik der Politischen Ökonomie. Marx’s A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy published in 1859 was an important complementary work to Capital, although Marx said that the content of that work was covered in the first volume of Capital. Indeed, the scheme that Marx foresaw for the study of political economy was much wider than what was in Capital. In his draft in 1857 he states that he would analyse political economy in the following six chapters: Capital, Land Ownership, Waged Labour, State, Foreign Trade, World Market and Crises. The first three titles were covered in different order in the three volumes of Capital. However, he did not live to complete his works on the remaining three subjects. Nevertheless, the analysis and research method Marx put forward in Capital left us with a sufficient starting point for the study of those subjects.

Capital goes with the subheading A Critique of Political Economy. This is a subject matter what Marx was interested since his youth when he was orientated towards communism: “A ruthless criticism of everything existing”.[i] The programme of criticism Marx put forward for human emancipation, focused initially on the critique of religion, law, theory of state and philosophy partly due to the intellectual formation of Marx. As the lead commentator of Rheinische Zeitung in 1842-43, his attention was drawn to economic problems due to the debates in the Rhine State Parliament on illegal forestry, the disintegration of land ownership, free trade and protectionism.

Being immersed in economic problems, Marx came to the conclusion that “neither legal relations nor political forms could be comprehended whether by themselves or on the basis of a so-called general development of the human mind, but that on the contrary they originate in the material conditions of life, the totality of which Hegel, following the example of English and French thinkers of the 18th century, embraces within the term ‘civil society’, that the anatomy of this civil society, however, has to be sought in political economy”. [ii]

In his famous preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy published in 1859, Marx summarised the historical materialist method that he had reached as a result of his studies. In this preface, Marx states that the source of the movement that brings about social change should be sought in the material relations of production which are independent of the will, consciousness and intentions of men, and it is these relations that determine them. Material relations of production correspond with a given level of development of the forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness.

According to Marx, social history is based on the fact that specific social forms where social phenomena are interconnected in a consistent order of internal relations follow one another. [iii] To understand change one needs to apply dialectics – the science of correlations, motion and development – into history. Underneath different social forms in history lies different modes of production which express the dialectical unity between material relations of production and productive forces. Transition from one mode of production into another is the result of the contradictions between the productive forces and the material relations of production. These contradictions manifest themselves in the form of class struggles and are the engines of historical change. Therefore, since the emergence of classes, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles”.[iv] According to Marx, Western European societies where capitalism was born as a specific mode of production went through the stages of primitive communism, slavery and feudalism respectively. Capitalism emerged from the womb of the feudalism. In Capital, Marx makes an organic and historical analysis of this specific mode of production. This analysis is based on the dialectical method. He concretised the dialectical and historical materialist method in the analysis of capitalism, and set forth the necessity of overcoming the internal contradictions of capitalism through political and social revolution.

The Method and Architecture of Capital

As Capital aims to study the formation of capitalism and the conditions for its existence and collapse, it contains a detailed analysis of historical change as well as an abstraction of changing relations. On this matter, Marx expresses his gratitude to Hegelian dialectics. “The mystification which dialectics suffers in Hegel’s hands, by no means prevents him from being the first to present its general form of working in a comprehensive and conscious manner. With him it is standing on its head. It must be turned right side up again, if you would discover the rational kernel within the mystical shell.”[v]

Marx’s main point of departure is that change is not independent of things, and that one should investigate how, when and towards which direction change is taking place. In Capital, meticulously presenting the savage methods of the process of formation of capitalism, which he describes as primitive accumulation of capital, the struggles for the factory regulations in Britain, and the terrible working conditions of the workers in the factories by making references to official reports, Marx not only reveals these but he also makes a connection with an abstract analysis of the relations that capitalist mode of production is based on.

In his Grundrisse, in the chapter titled The Method of Political Economy, Marx expresses his method of studying political economy as the method of rising from the abstract to the concrete. According to him, “In the analysis of economic forms, moreover, neither microscopes nor chemical reagents are of use. The force of abstraction must replace both”.[vi] This method requires a study using a series of abstractions in order to reach from appearances to the essence, from real concrete to the concrete built in the mind. Commodity is the starting point for the abstraction used in Capital. This is because “in bourgeois society the commodity form of the product of labour – or the value form of the commodity – is the economic cell form”.[vii]

In Capital, Marx begins with a rather abstract analysis of commodity and develops categories such as use value, exchange value, money as a form of value, surplus value and the accumulation of capital. In each stage of abstraction, on the basis of the inherent connections and contradictions of each category he rises onto more complicated categories. For instance, from the contradictory relation between the use value of commodities and their exchange value, he derives the characteristics of money, and on the basis of the same contradiction, he points to the inevitability of capitalist crises.

The chaptering of the volumes of Capital also shows how Marx proceeds from one abstraction to another. In Volume I, we see an analysis of capital in general. Making a complete abstraction of the internal differentiation of capital and the price systems in the market, Marx focuses on the relation between capital and waged labour, the fundamental relation that enables the existence of capitalism. He puts forth the fact that the exploitation of the surplus value is the basis of capital accumulation which enables the reproduction of capitalism, and that this exploitation is materialised by controlling the labour process through the realisation of absolute and relative surplus value.

Moving on from this analysis of capital in general in Volume I, we see the analysis of the circulation area of capital and its reproduction process in Volume II. And in Volume III, we see the move from the level of capital in general to the level of many capitals and an analysis of the operation of capitalism in its concrete reality. The conversion of surplus-value into profit and of the rate of surplus-value into the rate of profit, the equalisation of the rate of profit as a result of the competition among capitalists, the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, the transformation of surplus-value into profit, interest and rent, and credit mechanism are all analysed here.

Capital being analysed in consecutive levels of abstraction in different volumes of Capital means that economic categories transform continuously. For instance, the surplus-value being discussed at a level of abstraction of capital in general in Volume I, transforms into the categories such as profit and interest in the context of singular capitals in Volume III. Similarly, the concept of value in Volume I appears in the form of production prices in Volume III.

Critique of Political Economy in Capital

In his article The Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism written in 1913 Lenin states that Marx’s doctrine emerged as the direct and immediate continuation of the teachings of the greatest representatives of philosophy, political economy and socialism, and that it is the legitimate successor to the best that man produced in the 19th century, as represented by German philosophy, English political economy and French socialism. In the light of this general evaluation, one can say that Marx, with the guidance of the dialectical method of the tradition of classical German critical philosophy, made a critical analysis of capitalism on the basis of theoretical foundation that English political economy had produced, and he tried to establish how to bring about modern communism, which was a product of French socialist tradition, through the conscious action of the working class and why this is necessitated by the laws of motion of capitalism.

The critique of the bourgeois society that Marx developed in Capital is based on the theoretical foundations put forward by classical English political economy represented by the works of Adam Smith and David Ricardo. Although classical political economy was developed mainly by the English thinkers, the contribution of the French school of Physiocracy was praised by Marx and had an important role to play. Marx advanced classical political economy consistently and formulated the labour theory of value and the theory of surplus value. In this respect, Marx is both a critique of classical political economy and its final great representative.

Marx is the one who first used and put in the scientific literature the concept of classical political economy. He states that it started with William Petty in Britain and Pierre Boisguilbert in France in the 17th century, and that it ended in the first quarter of the 19th century in these countries with David Ricardo and Sismondi respectively. [viii] He expresses the main idea behind this claim in Capital:

“Once for all I may here state, that by classical political economy, I understand that economy which, since the time of W. Petty, has investigated the real relations of production in bourgeois society, in contradistinction to vulgar economy, which deals with appearances only, ruminates without ceasing on the materials long since provided by scientific economy, and there seeks plausible explanations of the most obtrusive phenomena, for bourgeois daily use, but for the rest, confines itself to systematising in a pedantic way, and proclaiming for everlasting truths, the trite ideas held by the self-complacent bourgeoisie with regard to their own world, to them the best of all possible worlds.” [ix]

The scientific character of political economy that Marx points to was developed on two pillars starting from the second half of the 17th century. The first is the labour theory of value as the regulating principle for the price system in the market and for distribution, and the second is the search for the conditions of economic reproduction. In classical political economy, the labour theory of value was developed mainly in England, while the theoretical innovations in economic reproduction were materialised mainly by French thinkers. These two pillars constitute the road map for the later development of scientific political economy. Classical political economy approaches economic life on the basis of the relations between the three main classes of capitalist society: capitalists, working class and landowners. It tries to explain how the incomes of these three classes in the form of profit, wage and rent respectively are determined and the relationships between them. However, in doing so, as in the case of Ricardo, it “consciously makes the antagonism of class interests, of wages and profits, of profits and rent, the starting point of his investigations, naively taking this antagonism for a social law of Nature”.[x]

According to Marx, scientific successes of classical political economy result, to a great extent, from the progressive and critical position of the bourgeoisie, owning up to the interests of all classes in society, during its power struggle against feudalism and its remnant classes. Enlightenment philosophy was the main intellectual spring of this school. Enlightenment philosophers considered market society and its relations as the fundamental condition for human progress and civilisation against the religious dogmatic ideas, traditions and bondage relations of feudal society. For them, market society based on contractual relations were crucial for the development of productive forces, material and intellectual development of society, individual freedoms and equality before the law. This perspective led to the perpetuation of market relations and an understanding of market institutions being the rational form of natural order. Thus, all pre-capitalist history was considered as a progress towards the natural order of the market, and the laws of bourgeois society were expressed as eternal laws which regulate the productive activity of men. In this framework, individualism and competition that stem from the competitive form of market relations were attributed to human nature.

The most important critique of political economy Marx made is the fact that these philosophers ignored the historical character of capitalist relations. Generalising the conception of free individual that they borrowed from the Enlightenment philosophy, the leading philosophers of classical political economy ignored different social orders in which production was organised, and treated categories that were specific to capitalism as universal and eternal ones. As Engels states:

“The conditions under which men produce and exchange vary from country to country, and within each country again from generation to generation. Political economy, therefore, cannot be the same for all countries and for all historical epochs. ….The inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego have not got so far as mass production and world trade, any more than they have experience of bill-jobbing or a Stock Exchange crash. Anyone who attempted to bring the political economy of Tierra del Fuego under the same laws as are operative in present-day England would obviously produce nothing but the most banal commonplaces. Political economy is therefore essentially a historical science. It deals with material which is historical, that is, constantly changing; it must first investigate the special laws of each individual stage in the evolution of production and exchange, and only when it has completed this investigation will it be able to establish the few quite general laws which hold good for production and exchange in general.”[xi]

Because of its consideration of the institutions and relations innate to capitalism as a natural law, the tradition of classical political economy, as a whole, deliberately ignored fundamental institutional characteristics that define capitalism. Thus, it considers capital not as social relations which enable the realisation of profit for the capitalist class, subjugating the very producers to its own development, but as instruments and machinery which help realise a general process of production that is universally valid. Similarly, capitalist private ownership of the means of production is treated within the framework of a universal definition of ownership, in such a way that covers all different forms of ownership. For instance, a small producer’s ownership of land, worked by the whole family in a village economy, or the hunter’s bow and arrow in a hunter-gatherer society is treated the same as capitalist ownership. This kind of understanding of ownership, built solely on the basis of the appearances of capitalism, played a significant role to justify capitalism.

Having push aside the distinguishing characteristics of capitalist production and eternalising it, the tradition of classical political economy turned, inevitably, to the relations of exchange as a main base for its analysis. And this is a very functional perspective in terms of justification of capitalism. This is because exchange is a voluntary activity which takes place between free and equal individuals, and is based on mutual benefit. As long as it remains in this sphere, it is inevitable to produce results “in equal terms”. Marx expresses the illusion of equality and freedom generated by this sphere of exchange:

This sphere that we are deserting, within whose boundaries the sale and purchase of labour power goes on, is in fact a very Eden of the innate rights of man. There alone rule Freedom, Equality, Property and Bentham. Freedom, because both buyer and seller of a commodity, say of labour power, are constrained only by their own free will. They contract as free agents, and the agreement they come to, is but the form in which they give legal expression to their common will. Equality, because each enters into relation with the other, as with a simple owner of commodities, and they exchange equivalent for equivalent. Property, because each disposes only of what is his own. And Bentham, because each looks only to himself. The only force that brings them together and puts them in relation with each other, is the selfishness, the gain and the private interests of each. Each looks to himself only, and no one troubles himself about the rest, and just because they do so, do they all, in accordance with the pre-established harmony of things, or under the auspices of an all-shrewd providence, work together to their mutual advantage, for the common weal and in the interest of all.[xii]

The moment we leave the sphere of exchange, which produce the illusion of “equality” and “freedom”, the same people assume different characters:

He, who before was the money owner, now strides in front as capitalist; the possessor of labour power follows as his labourer. The one with an air of importance, smirking, intent on business; the other, timid and holding back, like one who is bringing his own hide to market and has nothing to expect but -a hiding.[xiii]

Although the tradition of classical political economy declared bourgeois social relations as universally valid, until 1830s it built an economic science which investigated the actual relations of production in bourgeois society in the struggle that it waged against the old social structure. The founding thinkers of classical political economy such as Adam Smith and David Ricardo considered the development of productive forces as a main condition for progress, and made their analysis with a concern of the advancement of the productive forces, without the worry to justify the narrow interests of the bourgeoisie. This allowed them to approach the relations of bourgeois society with scientific objectivity.

The limited scientific character of classical political economy began to retreat as the struggle of the bourgeoisie for power against traditional aristocracy in Western Europe became successful. Naive loyalty to the progress of the productive forces was replaced by the concern for the justification of the narrow interests of the bourgeoisie which was organising as the ruling class. The literature of political economy following the death of Ricardo in 1823 became less scientific and more superficial, defending the narrow daily interests of the capitalist class and finding excuses on their behalf. Marx called this vulgar political economy. Having negated the labour theory of value, this school paved the way to the marginalist school which set the foundation for modern bourgeois economics

Capital and Modern Bourgeois Economics

Capital was met with a conspiracy of silence by German press and academic circles when it was first published in Germany in 1867. There is nothing to be surprised about this silence as it was a book of sharp, scientific criticism of capitalism, full of witty exposures of pseudo-scientific theses of vulgar academic economics.

Capital was being read and discussed by the circles of advanced German workers but, in order to make it more known to wider circles, Engels wrote a review from a bourgeois viewpoint, changing his style, and asked his friends to write similar reviews to get more coverage from German press. Despite this, official German economic circles ignored Capital until 1880s.

By then bourgeois economics was in the eve of a fundamental transformation that it was dashed into in order to protect the class interests of the bourgeoisie. Even in the 1830s, following the death of Ricardo, scientific political economy began to turn into a defender of the immediate interests of the bourgeoisie. Classical political economy, which was a product of the progressive period of the bourgeoisie, was began to be considered in those years as a dangerous and unnecessary burden especially because of the logical consequences that the labour theory of value implied.

As a result of the bourgeoisie being no longer the progressive class across Europe in the second half of the 19th century and getting organised as a hegemonic class in cooperation with the remnants of the old regime, and the emergence of the monopoly capitalism as a result of the tendency of capital to concentrate and centralise, fuelled the abandonment of classical political economy which analysed the economy on the basis of the existence of opposing classes and their contradictions. It was now time to free political economy from class struggle and to create a new science in accordance with the class interests of the bourgeoisie.

In connection with this quest, the works published in the 1870s in Britain, Austria and France by Stanley Jevons, Carl Menger and Leon Walras respectively and almost simultaneously, destroyed the last crumbles of classical political economy. What these economists had in common was that they all assigned the concept of marginal utility as their point of departure, and that they tried to explain the economic process as a whole on the basis of the psychological relation between men and the commodities in the process of exchange. This school was called marginalism and it laid the foundation of a new economic approach, completely abandoning the framework of classical political economy which was based on the labour theory of value, and defining value in accordance with a subjective use value.

In order to build a mechanical science which could get universal acknowledgement, it took the relations established among people in the process of production and exchange, institutions and history, completely outside of the political economy. The founders of marginalism declared these factors as belonging to the normative sphere and claimed that, on the basis of the principle of utility and private interest, they formed positive economics which was based on the analysis of the process of commodity exchange. Thus, using the instruments of the 19th century positivism, they turned this analysis of exchange based on utilitarian assumptions with regard to human nature into universal, natural realities. As a result of this new line of thought, the term economics came to replace political economy in the late 19th century. Therefore, it is very meaningful that Capital was published at this time when bourgeois economics abandoned everything scientific and began to adopt some pseudo-scientific, scholastic collection of dogmas.

Bourgeois economics was aware of Capital but it carried on ignoring it. Nevertheless, its representatives of high intellectual calibre did not refrain from doing justice to Marx. For instance, referring to Nassau Senior’s idea that the source of profit was due to the abstinence of the capitalist, an opinion Marx relentlessly ridiculed in Capital, Alfred Marshall who considered Marx as “a tendentious thinker who had mischievously misunderstood Ricardo”[xiv], said the following in his Principles of Economics, where he set out the foundations of modern academic economics:

Karl Marx and his followers have found much amusement in contemplating the accumulations of wealth which result from the abstinence of Baron Rothschild, which they contrast with the extravagance of a labourer who feeds a family of seven on seven shillings a week; and who, living up to his full income, practices no economic abstinence at all. [xv]

Such examples are exceptions. It was Eugen Böhm von Bawerk, an Austrian economist, who expressed discontent for the first time about Capital’s power and influence. In his book The End of the Marxist System (Zum Abschluss des Marxschen Systems) published in 1896, Böhm Bawerk claimed that there were inconsistencies between the first and the third volumes of Capital, that while in the first volume the talk was about values rather than prices and in the third one it was about production prices, and that this proved how baseless was the analysis in Capital.

This criticism is invalid for two reasons. Firstly, Marx had completed the framework of Volume 3 before the publication of Volume 1. It is not possible that a researcher as meticulous as Marx to be not aware of this problem. Secondly, as we tried to explain earlier, Marx discussed the workings of capitalism at different levels of abstraction in these two volumes. Therefore, it is not a problem of an inconsistency that Marx was not aware of but one of a lack of understanding on Böhm Bawerk’s part.

Böhm Bawerk having to write a critique following the publication of Capital’s Volume 3 in 1895 demonstrates how powerful Marxism was in that period. In that year, Böhm Bawerk was the Treasury Secretary in Austria, a position he kept with intervals until 1904. His book, which stroke a “deadly blow” to Capital, was swiftly translated into Russian and then into English under the title Karl Marx and The Close of His System. During the Cold War years this book became popular again in an effort to prove the inconsistencies of Capital. And in the 1960s it was this book that the debates on the “question of transformation”, involving Marxist economists as well as gurus of bourgeois economics such as the Nobel prize winner Paul Samuelson, were based on.

One can say that bourgeois economics had two different but interconnected positions on Capital. First one reflects enmity stemming directly from bourgeois class instinct. For instance, John Maynard Keynes, one of the most influential names of bourgeois economics in the 20th century, expresses the following in an article, A Short View of Russia, he wrote in 1925 after a visit to the USSR:

“How can I accept a doctrine which sets up as its bible, above and beyond criticism, an obsolete economic textbook which I know to be not only scientifically erroneous but without interest or application for the modern world? How can I adopt a creed which, preferring the mud to the fish, exalts the boorish proletariat above the bourgeois and the intelligentsia who, with whatever faults, are the quality in life and surely carry the seeds of all human advancement?”[xvi]

Keynes’ article is full of similar insults. According to him, Marxism drags people into hopeless dreams creating excitement similar to religious scriptures and hymns. Despite his harsh views of Marxism, Keynes did not try to ‘negate’ Marx but focused on rebuilding bourgeois economics ‘realist’ basis for the reorganisation of capitalism against the double threat posed by the Great Depression and the socialist achievements in the USSR. Moreover, with the confidence and flexibility of being an elite member of the classical liberal tradition of British politics, Keynes was instrumental in keeping a Marxist like Maurice Dobb and Piero Sraffa, who did not hide his sympathy for Marxism and who was also a close friend of Antonio Gramsci, in Cambridge University.

Reactionary liberal members of the Austrian School were the most significant representatives of the hostile and doctrinaire position against Marx and his Capital. In the 1920s Ludvig von Mises launched an attack against Marxism’s critique of capitalism. In late 1930s this attack intensified with neoliberal thinkers who joined the Walter Lippmann Colloquium. The neoliberals who attended this conference, such as Friedrich Hayek, went full force to disproof Capital and eradicate the intellectual influence of Marxism in the face of the threat posed by the Soviet Union. Following this conference, the Mont Pèlerin Society was founded in 1947 led by Hayek and reinforced by figures such as Milton Friedman and Karl Popper. It became the centre for an organised activity of negation of economic and social theories of Marxism.

The second position against Capital seemed to admit the intellectual power of Marx and tried to break the critical analysis of capitalism in Capital from its fundamental connections and reconcile it with bourgeois schools of thought. This tendency began with the efforts of Russian Legal Marxists, who were influenced mainly by reformist ideas of the representatives of the Second International, such as Bernstein and Kautsky, to reconcile some theoretical subjects discussed in Capital with the categories of bourgeois economics, and continued throughout the 20th century, taking different forms.

In the academia of the 20th century, although on a critical basis, many schools or debates on Marxism around different aspects of capitalism bear the signs of this conciliatory tendency. Left wing Keynesianism, Sraffian economics, Analytical Marxism, Dependency School, Regulation School, World Systems Theory, Structuralism, Market Socialism, New Imperialism, etc. many schools and debates played a significant role in terms of deforming Marx’s critical analysis of capitalism and devoiding of its essence. Of course, there are also researchers in the academia who try to understand the modern world in a creative way in light of the theoretical wealth that was displayed in Capital. However, they are very limited in numbers and in terms of their influence.

One must reflect on the fact that a giant work like Capital could find a place in the academic world only by passing through the prism of different bourgeois schools of economics. There are two reasons for that. Firstly, in an academia under the reign of positivism, which sets an obstacle to the comprehension of reality by compartmentalising social experience into isolated departments, it is not easy to understand a work such as Capital, which is not based on interdisciplinary sections, where progressive experience of humanity in its totality is displayed with a critical eye. Interdisciplinary differentiations institutionalised in the academia, and a teaching practice that goes with it hinder reaching a wholesome and systematic viewpoint that is displayed in Capital.

The second and more important reason for Capital not being read and discussed widely in the intellectual world is the fact that bourgeois economics got the message of Capital right, which is that bourgeois hegemony is based on the exploitation of the surplus value. Thus, economics must somehow obscure this reality. It is for this reason that while in other fields of social science “radical” ideas were allowed to be spoken about and be given place in the education programmes, provided that they remained in the academic parameters, in the economic arena, the essence of the vulgar positivism driven pseudoscientific curriculum of the last quarter of the 19th century did not change, on the contrary it became more technical and ignored even the empirical reality.

The content of the study of economics at the university level is determined by the economists who work in the most elitist US universities, who are at the same time in managing positions in and decide the programmes of imperialist institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank, and who work as consultants in prominent institutions of finance capital such as Goldman Sachs.

Research programmes and theoretical works in the economic field are set by the elite representatives of this tradition and through instruments such as Nobel prizes, which go mainly to those economists who do research that responds to the actual needs of capitalism. A great majority of the founders and later managers of the Mont Pèlerin Society, were awarded Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences.

In short, bourgeoisie monopolise the knowledge in the economic field. Due to this ideological hegemony, the rhetoric of “the requirements of the economics”, which serves no other purpose than obscuring the real nature of capitalism, is easily accepted among the working class and progressive intellectuals.

For the working class to take up the struggle against the capitalist attacks directed against itself and against the humanity as a whole, this hegemony has to be broken. For this reason, it is an urgent task to read and discuss Capital on its 150th anniversary.

 

August 2017

 

[i] Letter from Marx to Ruge, 1843.

[ii] Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy.

[iii] Capital, Volume I, Afterword to the Second German Edition.

[iv] Communist Manifesto

[v] Capital, Volume I, Afterword to the Second German Edition.

[vi] Capital, Volume I, Preface to the First German Edition.

 

[vii] Capital, Volume I, Preface to the First German Edition.

[viii] A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy.

[ix] Capital, Volume I.

[x] Capital, Volume I, Afterword to the Second German Edition.

[xi] Anti-Dühring

[xii] Capital, Volume I.

[xiii] Capital, Volume I.

[xiv] Maurice Dobb, Theories of Value and Distribution Since Adam Smith, London, Cambridge University Press, 1973, p.141.

[xv] E.K. Hunt & Mark Lautzenheiser, History of Economic Thought, New York, M.E. Sharpe, 2011, p. 289.

[xvi] John M. Keynes, Essays in Persuasion,New York, W. W. Norton & Company, 1963, p. 300.



Categories: Dialectics, Economics, Theory, Workers Struggle

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