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Capital is one of the half-dozen key economic texts of the past 200 years - and perhaps the most readable. Volume One contains the key material. How great to settle into a good reading.
Marx takes the labor theory of value as developed by Adam Smith and others and shows its implications for workers, managers, and owners - a worthy goal, and critical reading for anyone interested in economics regardless of your outlook.
No, Marx can't "prove" that labor is the basis of all economic value. That's because you can't prove ANY theory of value - you always wind up assuming what you set out to prove. All you can do is show the implications of starting from a particular theory.
What Marx shows is, IF you accept that labor is the core of economic value, here is how capitalism structures economic relations. He shows the source of profit (from the exploitation of productive labor, he famously concludes), how banks, insurance companies,and other non-productive firms fit into the picture, the role of management - and most of all, how working people are getting ripped off by owners, stock-holders, etc.
Big surprise, eh?
Basically, the labor theory of value makes sense to those of us who work for a wage or a fixed, contracted salary with no "stock options". For the managing and owning classes and those who dream of joining them, there are obvious incentives NOT to accept this theory. Suit yourself.
Have Marx's economic ideas ever been applied by "communist" countries? For the most part, no - so-called socialist countries have mainly applied totalitarian capitalist methods, with mixed results. Russia, China and the rest have been state-capitalist, not popular-socialist, systems.
We're still waiting for the world's first workers' democracy. The first steps include grasping how capital functions and how it structures our world. This recording is a welcome contribution.
14 of 18 people found this review helpful
The conqueror will occupy your lands and then sell your resources back to you on credit and tell you all the time it’s a good deal for you. Marx said that multiple times in this book and that’s a metaphor he used to describe the fate of the working person (labor) when at the mercy of capital.
Exploitation and alienation are features not bugs in the absence of a government for the people. The plight of the working class in Europe for the most part was pitiful and hopeless during the time of this book and Marx does a yeoman job of documenting it. Just as burning cats might have been au currant in 1667 Paris and forcing children as young as 8 years old or forcing overtime upon workers or providing them below subsistence wages with dangerous work conditions was the norm in 1860 England, nobody sane accepts those norms today. The world has changed today but this book makes a case that we are only as good as the government that we have when they act in the interest for the people and not the oligarchs.
The oligarchs and the powerful will always alienate and exploit to squeeze the other who is not them up to the limit that they can get away with. The status quo is the default given as ought, the naturalistic fallacy which assumes ‘is’ means ‘ought’. The status quo and the given during Marx’s time was that 16 hour day was in the best interest of the working person, and the factories and workhouses said they were doing the working class a favor, and Marx was forced to refute that and a whole host of other givens as ought. Today, those kinds of norms seem anachronistic and superfluous, but that’s only because society has changed. (Ultimately, nothing ever really changes, even somebody I’ve barely ever heard of before today, Kayne West, recently said that ‘slavery for the slaves was a choice’ in America since it lasted for 400 years. The ignorant will always be ignorant because they don’t know they don’t know and aren’t interested in learning).
You ever notice how even the reality based journalism makes a statement such as ‘there is a shortage of fast food workers’ (the NYT did that on 5/4/2018 with reference to the 3.9% unemployment numbers that came out)? That statement really irritates me. What they really are saying is at the wages the fast food companies are willing to pay there aren’t enough workers who want to be exploited at those low wages. Marx will show even in his time period that kind of wrongheaded formulation was prevalent.
The masters of suspicion: Freud, Nietzsche and Marx all had their take on truth. Freud thought truth existed but we are in denial about it, Nietzsche thought the greatest truth was that there was no knowable truth, and Marx thought truth was discoverable through class. Marx will try to develop his foundations through class and its exploitation and alienation with theory of money, currency, labor and capital, and through his story telling.
And what a story Marx tells. He is incredibly gifted in weaving philosophy and religion into his narrative. I can say that most of what I read now days about Hegel has gone through a lens of Marx which is unfortunate because Hegel clearly could have another more relevant interpretation than what is commonly thought. Marx expects his readers to be cognizant of philosophy and will make statements such as ‘that would lead to the sophistry of Protagoras or the relativism of the Eleatics’.
There is a reason why the ‘Great Books of the Western World’ included this book in the series. Not only is Marx an incredibly good writer (while not necessarily being a great economist), he has something to say that is relevant for our time period and definitely should be read today. This Ukemi production is a treasure and I would highly recommend it. (And no I’m not affiliated with Ukemi in any way even though I keep reviewing and raving about their products. They just seem to have the books I’ve been reading because I just love the old classics that they have recently made available).
1 of 1 people found this review helpful