A Companion to Marx's Capital
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“My aim is to get you to read a book by Karl Marx called Capital, Volume 1, and to read it on Marx’s own terms…”
The biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression has generated a surge of interest in Marx’s work in the effort to understand the origins of our current predicament. For nearly forty years, David Harvey has written and lectured on Capital, becoming one of the world’s most foremost Marx scholars.
Based on his recent lectures, this current volume aims to bring this depth of learning to a broader audience, guiding first-time readers through a fascinating and deeply rewarding text. A Companion to Marx’s Capital offers fresh, original and sometimes critical interpretations of a book that changed the course of history and, as Harvey intimates, may do so again.
David Harvey’s video lecture course can be found here: davidharvey.org/reading-capital/
value as socially necessary labor-time in order to break through the fetishism. Whether or not you believe that Marx was right to take a position such as this is up to you to decide. To understand Capital on Marx’s own terms, though, you have to be prepared to accept an argument somewhat along these lines, at least until you get to the end of the book. It is also important to recognize that Marx is, nevertheless, conceding something here that is terribly important. That is, the price system is
postface to the second edition, “must differ in form from that of inquiry”: The latter has to appropriate the material in detail, to analyse its different forms of development and to track down their inner connection. Only after this work has been done can the real movement be appropriately presented. If this is done successfully, if the life of the subject-matter [i.e., the capitalist mode of production] is now reflected back in the ideas, then it may appear as if we have before us an a
deeper for the concepts fundamental to that reality. Equipped with those fundamental concepts, we can begin working back to the surface—the method of ascent—and discover how deceiving the world of appearances can be. From this vantage, we are in a position to interpret that world in radically different terms. In general, Marx starts with the surface appearance to find the deep concepts. In Capital, however, he begins by presenting the foundational concepts, conclusions he’s already derived by
method in the postface to the second edition. While his ideas derive from Hegel, Marx’s “dialectical method is, in its foundations, not only different from the Hegelian, but exactly opposite to it” (102). Hence derives the notorious claim that Marx inverted Hegel’s dialectics and stood it right side up, on its feet. There are ways in which, we’ll find, this is not exactly true. Marx revolutionized the dialectical method; he didn’t simply invert it. “I criticized the mystificatory side of the
can be overcome. CHAPTER SIX Relative Surplus-Value CHAPTER 12: THE CONCEPT OF RELATIVE SURPLUS-VALUE Chapter 12 proposes a simple argument with a few complicated wrinkles. Yet it is a chapter that it is all too easy to get wrong. The initial argument goes like this: The value of a commodity is determined by the socially necessary labor-time congealed in it, and this value diminishes with increasing productivity. “In general, the greater the productivity of labour, the less the