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Two Ways of Approaching Marx's Capital

๐ŸŒˆ Abstract

The article discusses two different approaches to reading Marx's Capital, and argues that the book should be read as a work of class analysis rather than as a sacred text. It highlights the importance of reading Capital critically and engaging with the arguments, rather than simply accepting the conclusions as dogma.

๐Ÿ™‹ Q&A

[01] Two Ways of Approaching Marx's Capital

1. What are the two main ways the author identifies that people approach reading Marx's Capital? The author identifies two main ways people approach reading Capital:

  • As a sacred text, similar to how some treat the Bible, where the conclusions are accepted as dogma without critically engaging with the arguments.
  • As a work of critical analysis, where the reader engages with the arguments, questions the premises, and is willing to modify or reconstruct the arguments.

2. What are the problems the author identifies with the first approach? The author argues that the first approach, treating Capital as a sacred text, leads to issues such as:

  • People not reading past the early chapters, missing the core of Marx's analysis.
  • Endless parsing of every sentence in the early chapters, without considering the larger arguments.
  • Debates over interpretations of the Labor Theory of Value, without considering its role in the overall arguments.

3. How does the author recommend reading Capital instead? The author recommends reading Capital as a work of critical analysis, where the reader:

  • Focuses on understanding the arguments, premises, and conclusions.
  • Questions whether the premises are well-supported and considers alternative versions of the arguments.
  • Engages with the text, "talking back to it" rather than simply accepting the conclusions.

[02] Marx's Analysis of Exploitation

1. What is the core of Marx's analysis of exploitation under capitalism? The core of Marx's analysis is that under capitalism, workers are forced to labor for capitalists for part of the working day without compensation, with the capitalists appropriating the surplus value produced by the workers.

2. How does Marx's analysis of exploitation differ between his writings in Capital and the Communist Manifesto? In the Communist Manifesto, Marx portrays exploitation under feudalism as more overt, with the feudal ties being "pitilessly torn asunder" under capitalism. In Capital, he argues that exploitation under capitalism is more "veiled" by the appearance of voluntary market relations, but is still fundamentally based on the "mute compulsion" of material conditions that leave workers with no choice but to accept employment contracts.

3. How does the author argue that Marx's analysis of exploitation does not depend on the Labor Theory of Value? The author argues that Marx's analysis of exploitation can be understood without relying on the Labor Theory of Value, which is a highly technical and controversial economic claim. The core of the argument is the simple observation that capitalists' profits come from the products and services produced by workers, and the claim that the hours of unpaid labor extracted from workers is based on the "mute compulsion" of the capitalist property system, not the LTV.


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