Capital: Critique of Political Economy Background

Capital: Critique of Political Economy Background

More popularly known by its German title Das Kapital, Karl Marx’s Capital: Critique of Political Economy actually covers four volumes that were published over a period spanning 1867 to 1905. The final three volumes were all published after Marx’s death in 1883. Taken together, the four volumes represent a working out of Marx’s essentially economic theories of communism partly through a process of a critique of capitalism. That economic system is dependent upon exploitation of the workers by the owners whose primary motive regarding equitable distribution of wealth is to keep wages low and profits high.

One of the central metaphors for capitalism thus becomes that of the vampire, with capitalism present as system that sucks the worker dry in order to benefit the ruling class. In addition, Capital: Critique of Political Economy serves to lay the rationale behind Marxian economic theory in which the base of economic transaction becomes the forces of production while the relations of production serve as the structure which is built up from this base.

Das Kapital is more of historical document of economics as well as a theoretical consideration and critique than it is a statement of political philosophy like The Communist Manifesto. As such, the language is far more precise, technical and dense and becomes a much heavier burden toward understanding, thus losing the immediacy with the reader that is experienced by reading such other essential Marxist texts as The German Ideology, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon and Grundrisse.

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