|Original title||Das Kapital. Kritik der politischen Oekonomie|
|Publisher||Verlag von Otto Meisner|
Das Kapital, also known as Capital. Critique of Political Economy (German: Das Kapital. Kritik der politischen Ökonomie, pronounced [das kapi'ta:l, k?i:t?k de:? p?li:tn ø:ko:no:mi:]; 1867-1883) by Karl Marx is a foundational theoretical text in materialist philosophy, economics and politics. Marx aimed to reveal the economic patterns underpinning the capitalist mode of production, in contrast to classical political economists such as Adam Smith, Jean-Baptiste Say, David Ricardo and John Stuart Mill. Marx did not live to publish the planned second and third parts, but they were both completed from his notes and published after his death by his colleague Friedrich Engels. Das Kapital is the most cited book in the social sciences published before 1950.
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In Das Kapital (1867), Marx proposes that the motivating force of capitalism is in the exploitation of labor, whose unpaid work is the ultimate source of surplus value. The owner of the means of production is able to claim the right to this surplus value because he or she is legally protected by the ruling regime through property rights and the legally established distribution of shares which are by law only to be distributed to company owners and their board members. The historical section shows how these rights were acquired in the first place chiefly through plunder and conquest and the activity of the merchant and "middle-man". In producing capital (produced goods), the workers continually reproduce the economic conditions by which they labour. Capital proposes an explanation of the "laws of motion" of the capitalist economic system, from its origins to its future, by describing the dynamics of the accumulation of capital, the growth of wage labour, the transformation of the workplace, the concentration of capital, commercial competition, the banking system, the decline of the profit rate, land-rents, et cetera.
The critique of the political economy of capitalism proposes that:
After two decades of economic study and preparatory work (especially regarding the theory of surplus value), the first volume appeared in 1867 as The Production Process of Capital. After Marx's death in 1883, from manuscripts and the first volume Engels introduced Volume II: The Circulation Process of Capital in 1885; and Volume III: The Overall Process of Capitalist Production in 1894. These three volumes are collectively known as Das Kapital.
Capital, Volume I (1867) is a critical analysis of political economy, meant to reveal the contradictions of the capitalist mode of production, how it was the precursor of the socialist mode of production and of the class struggle rooted in the capitalist social relations of production. The first of three volumes of Das Kapital. Kritik der politischen Ökonomie (Capital. Critique of Political Economy) was published on 14 September 1867, dedicated to Wilhelm Wolff and was the sole volume published in Marx's lifetime.
Capital, Volume II, subtitled The Process of Circulation of Capital, was prepared by Engels from notes left by Marx and published in 1885. It is divided into three parts: The Metamorphoses of Capital and Their Circuits, The Turnover of Capital and The Reproduction and Circulation of the Aggregate Social Capital. In Volume II, the main ideas behind the marketplace are to be found: how value and surplus-value are realized. Its dramatis personae are not so much the worker and the industrialist (as in Volume I), but rather the money owner (and money lender), the wholesale merchant, the trader and the entrepreneur or functioning capitalist. Moreover, workers appear in Volume II, essentially as buyers of consumer goods and therefore as sellers of the commodity labour power, rather than producers of value and surplus-value--though this latter quality, established in Volume I, remains the solid foundation on which the whole of the unfolding analysis is based. Reading Volume II is of monumental significance to understanding the theoretical construction of Marx's whole argument. Marx himself quite precisely clarified this place in a letter sent to Engels on 30 April 1868: "In Book 1... we content ourselves with the assumption that if in the self-expansion process £100 becomes £110, the latter will find already in existence in the market the elements into which it will change once more. But now we investigate the conditions under which these elements are found at hand, namely the social intertwining of the different capitals, of the component parts of capital and of revenue (= s)". This intertwining, conceived as a movement of commodities and of money, enabled Marx to work out at least the essential elements, if not the definitive form, of a coherent theory of the trade cycle, based upon the inevitability of periodic disequilibrium between supply and demand under the capitalist mode of production (Mandel, 1978, Introdution to Volume II of Capital). Volume II of Capital has indeed been not only a sealed book, but also a forgotten one. To a large extent, it remains so to this very day. Part 3 is the point of departure for a topic given its Marxist treatment later in detail by Rosa Luxemburg, among others.
Capital, Volume III, subtitled The Process of Capitalist Production as a Whole, was prepared by Friedrich Engels from notes left by Karl Marx and published in 1894. It is in seven parts:
The work is best known today for Part 3, which in summary says that as the organic fixed capital requirements of production rise as a result of advancements in production generally, the rate of profit tends to fall. This result, which orthodox Marxists believe is a principal contradictory characteristic leading to an inevitable collapse of the capitalist order, was held by Marx and Engels to--as a result of various contradictions in the capitalist mode of production--result in crises whose resolution necessitates the emergence of an entirely new mode of production as the culmination of the same historical dialectic that led to the emergence of capitalism from prior forms.
The purpose of Das Kapital (1867) was a scientific foundation for the politics of the modern labour movement. The analyses were meant "to bring a science, by criticism, to the point where it can be dialectically represented" and so "reveal the law of motion of modern society" to describe how the capitalist mode of production was the precursor of the socialist mode of production. The argument is a critique of the classical economics of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, John Stuart Mill and Benjamin Franklin, drawing on the dialectical method that G. W. F. Hegel developed in Science of Logic and The Phenomenology of Spirit; other intellectual influences on Capital were the French socialists Charles Fourier, Comte de Saint-Simon, Jean Charles Léonard de Sismondi and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon; and the Greek philosophers, especially Aristotle.
At university, Marx wrote a dissertation comparing the philosophy of nature in the works of the philosophers Democritus (circa 460-370 BC) and Epicurus (341-270 BC). The logical architecture of Das Kapital is derived in part from the Politics and the Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle, including the fundamental distinction between use value and exchange value, the "syllogisms" (C-M-C' and M-C-M') for simple commodity circulation and the circulation of value as capital. Moreover, the description of machinery, under capitalist relations of production, as "self-acting automata" derives from Aristotle's speculations about inanimate instruments capable of obeying commands as the condition for the abolition of slavery. In the nineteenth century, Marx's research of the available politico-economic literature required twelve years, usually in the British Library, London.
At the time of his death (1883), Marx had prepared the manuscript for Das Kapital, Volume IV, a critical history of theories of surplus value of his time, the nineteenth century. The philosopher Karl Kautsky (1854-1938) published a partial edition of Marx's surplus-value critique and later published a full, three-volume edition as Theorien über den Mehrwert (Theories of Surplus Value, 1905-1910). The first volume was published in English as A History of Economic Theories (1952).
Capital, Volume I (1867) was published in Marx's lifetime, but he died in 1883 before completing the manuscripts for Capital, Volume II (1885) and Capital, Volume III (1894), which friend and collaborator Friedrich Engels edited and published as the work of Marx. The first translated publication of Das Kapital was in Imperial Russia in March 1872. It was the first foreign publication and the English edition appeared in 1887. Despite Tsarist censorship proscribing "the harmful doctrines of socialism and communism", the Russian censors considered Capital as a "strictly scientific work" of political economy the content of which did not apply to monarchic Russia, where "capitalist exploitation" had never occurred and was officially dismissed, given "that very few people in Russia will read it, and even fewer will understand it". Nonetheless, Marx acknowledged that Russia was the country where Capital "was read and valued more than anywhere". The Russian edition was the fastest selling. 3,000 copies were sold in one year while the German edition took five years to sell 1,000, thus the Russian translation sold fifteen times faster than the German original.
In the wake of the global economic collapse of 2008-2009, Das Kapital was reportedly in high demand in Germany. In 2012, Red Quill Books released Capital: In Manga!, a comic book version of Volume I which is an expanded English translation of the wildly successful 2008 Japanese pocket version Das Kapital Manga de Dokuha.
The foreign editions of Capital. Critique of Political Economy (1867) by Karl Marx include a Russian translation by the revolutionary Mikhail Bakunin (1814-1876). Eventually Marx's work was translated into all major languages. The English translation by Samuel Moore and Marx's son-in-law Edward Aveling of book 1, overseen by Engels, was published in 1887 as Capital: A Critical Analysis of Capitalist Production by Swan Sonnenschein, Lowrey, & Co. and reissued in the 1970s by Progress Publishers in Moscow while a more recent English translation was made by Ben Fowkes and David Fernbach (the Penguin edition). The definitive critical edition of Marx's works, "MEGA II" (Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe), includes Das Kapital in German (and French, for the first volume) and shows all the versions and alterations made to the text, plus a very extensive apparatus of footnotes and (cross-)references.
What is extraordinary about Das Kapital is that it offers a still-unrivalled picture of the dynamism of capitalism and its transformation of societies on a global scale. It firmly embedded concepts such as commodity and capital in the lexicon. And it highlights some of the vulnerabilities of capitalism, including its unsettling disruption of states and political systems. [...] If Das Kapital has now emerged as one of the great landmarks of nineteenth-century thought, it is [because it connects] critical analysis of the economy of his time with its historical roots. In doing so, he inaugurated a debate about how best to reform or transform politics and social relations, which has gone on ever since.
Positive reception also cited the soundness of the methodology used in producing the book, which is called immanent critique. This approach, which starts from simple category and gradually unfolds into complex categories, employed "internal" criticism that finds contradiction within and between categories while discovering aspects of reality that the categories cannot explain. This meant that Marx had to build his arguments on historical narratives and empirical evidence rather than the arbitrary application of his ideas in his evaluation of capitalism.
On the other hand, Das Kapitalism was also criticized for a number of weaknesses. For instance, there are theorists who stressed that this text was unable to reconcile the capitalist exploitation with prices dependent upon subjective wants in exchange relations. There are also those who argued that Marx's so-called "increasing misery" doctrine, which is presumed to mean that the proletariat is absolutely immiserated.
Capital, Volume I (1867); published in Marx's lifetime:
Capital, Volume II (1885); manuscript not completed by Marx before his death in 1883; subsequently edited and published, by friend and collaborator Friedrich Engels, as the work of Marx:
Capital, Volume III (1894); manuscript not completed by Marx before his death in 1883; subsequently edited and published, by friend and collaborator Friedrich Engels, as the work of Marx:
Capital, Volume IV (1905-1910); critical history of theories of surplus value; manuscript written by Marx; partial edition edited and published, after Marx's death, by Karl Kautsky, as Theories of Surplus Value; other editions published later:
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