ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Das Kapital, Vol 1—150 YearsSubscribe to Das Kapital, Vol 1—150 Years

A set of five articles throw light on the three volumes of Karl Marx’s radical critique of political economy and capitalism.

Rereading Das Kapital in the 21st Century

Marx’s Capital (three volumes) offers a unified framework to make sense of some of the most troubling issues facing humanity today, in particular, rising economic inequality, deepening economic instability, and growing unsustainability of human–nature interactions, signifying a looming planetary crisis. To the extent that the text throws light on capitalism in the abstract that transcends the unique features of the English or European context, it offers us various insights and critiques about how to understand and intervene in societies beyond Europe.

The Structure and Content of Das Kapital

Karl Marx’s magnum opus, Das Kapital, presents an analysis of the long-run dynamics of a mature capitalist economy. The analysis is conducted at two primary levels of abstraction—“capital in general” (where competition between individual capitals is abstracted from) and “many capitals” (where the phenomenon of competition between individual capitals is introduced)—and the presentation is organised into three volumes. In terms of structure, the analysis in the first two volumes is located at the level of “capital in general,” and the analysis in the third volume is located at the level of “many capitals.” In terms of content, the first volume analyses the production and accumulation of surplus value; the second volume investigates the problems of realisation of surplus value; and the third volume analyses the mechanisms that lead to the distribution of surplus value into income streams of different fractions of the ruling class—as profit of enterprise, commercial profit, interest and rent (and monopoly profit more generally). The three volumes together give a comprehensive picture of the workings of a mature capitalist economy and highlight its long-run, contradictory tendencies.

The Significance of Marx’s Theory of Money

The highly abstract formulation of Marx’s theory of money in Capital, Volume I is just the first step of a materialist analysis of concrete monetary phenomena. His concrete analysis of monetary phenomena in Capital, Volume III has remarkable resonance in today’s world. While Marx emphasised the primacy of production, he saw capitalist dynamics as being deeply entwined with money and finance.

A Marxist Approach to Understanding Ecology

Two seminal books, John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark, and Richard York’s The Ecological Rift: Capitalism’s War on the Earth and John Bellamy Foster’s The Ecological Revolution: Making Peace with the Planet suggest that the rift between humanity and nature must be analysed in its intertwining with other kinds of alienation, all stemming from the adverse effects of the very nature and structure of capitalist society. Nothing short of an eco-social revolution is required to deal with the social and ecological crisis.

Capital(ism), the Progenitor of Socialism

After clarifying the question of “socialism” in Marx’s understanding, this paper draws from “Capital”—Marx’s economic writings in the period 1857–81, including manuscripts in different notebooks and his correspondence with different people—to throw light on his argument concerning the genesis of socialist society from the contradictions of the existing one.
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