Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Vol. I. The Process of Capitalist Production
By Karl Marx
One of Econlib’s aims is to put online the most significant works in the history of economic thought, and there can be no doubting the significance of Marx’s influence on both economic theory in the late 19th century and on the creation of Marxist states in the 20th century. From the time of the emergence of modern socialism in the 1840s (especially in France and Germany), free market economists have criticised socialist theory and it is thus useful to place that criticism in its intellectual context, namely beside the main work of one of its leading theorists,
Karl Marx.In 1848, when Europe was wracked by a series of revolutions in which both liberals and socialists participated and which both lost out to the forces of conservative monarchism or Bonapartism,
John Stuart Mill published his
Principles of Political Economy. The chapter on Property shows how important Mill thought it was to confront the socialist challenge to classical liberal economic theory. In hindsight it might appear that Mill was too accommodating to socialist criticism, but I would argue that in fact he offered a reasonable framework for comparing the two systems of thought, which the events of the late 20th century have finally brought to a conclusion which was not possible in his lifetime. Mill states in
Book II Chapter I “Of Property” that a fair comparison of the free market and socialism would compare both the ideal of liberalism with that of socialism, as well as the practice of liberalism versus the practice of socialism. In 1848 the ideals of both were becoming better known (and there were some aspects of the ideal of socialism which Mill found intriguing) but the practice of each was still not conclusive. Mill correctly observed that in 1848 no European society had yet created a society fully based upon private property and free exchange and any future socialist experiment on a state-wide basis was many decades in the future. After the experiments in Marxist central planning with the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, the Chinese Communists in 1949, and numerous other Marxist states in the post-1945 period, there can be no doubt that the reservations Mill had about the practicality of fully-functioning socialism were completely borne out by historical events. What Mill could never have imagined, the slaughter of tens of millions of people in an effort to make socialism work, has ended for good any argument concerning the Marxist form of socialism.Econlib now offers online two important defences of the socialist ideal, Karl Marx’s three volume work on
Capital and the
collection of essays on Fabian socialism edited by George Bernard Shaw. These can be read in the light of the criticism they provoked among defenders of individual liberty and the free market: Eugen Richter’s anti-Marxist
Pictures of the Socialistic Future, Thomas Mackay’s
2 volume collection of essays rebutting Fabian socialism,
Ludwig von Mises post-1917 critique of
Socialism. One should not forget that
Frederic Bastiat was active during the rise of socialism in France during the 1840s and that many of his essays are aimed at rebutting the socialists of his day. The same is true for Gustave de Molinari and the other authors of the
Dictionnaire d’economie politique (1852). Several key articles on communism and socialism from the
Dictionnaire are translated and reprinted in Lalor’s
Cyclopedia.For further reading on Marx’s
Capital see David L. Prychitko’s essay
“The Nature and Significance of Marx’s
Capital: A Critique of Political Economy“.For further readings on socialism see the following entries in the
Concise Encyclopedia of Economics:
Poor Law Commissioners’ Report of 1834,
edited by Nassau W. Senior, et al.
March 1, 2004
Frederick Engels, Ernest Untermann, eds. Samuel Moore, Edward Aveling, trans.
First Pub. Date
Chicago: Charles H. Kerr and Co.
First published in German. Revised and Amplified According to the Fourth German Edition by Ernest Untermann Das Kapital, based on the 4th edition.
The text of this edition is in the public domain. Picture of Marx courtesy of The Warren J. Samuels Portrait Collection at Duke University.
- Editors Note to the First American Edition, by Ernest Untermann
- Authors Prefaces to the First and Second Editions, by Karl Marx
- Editors Prefaces, by Frederick Engels
- Part I, Chapter 1
- Part I, Chapter 2
- Part I, Chapter 3
- Part II, Chapter 4
- Part II, Chapter 5
- Part II, Chapter 6
- Part III, Chapter 7
- Part III, Chapter 8
- Part III, Chapter 9
- Part III, Chapter 10
- Part III, Chapter 11
- Part IV, Chapter 12
- Part IV, Chapter 13
- Part IV, Chapter 14
- Part IV, Chapter 15
- Part V, Chapter 16
- Part V, Chapter 17
- Part V, Chapter 18
- Part VI, Chapter 19
- Part VI, Chapter 20
- Part VI, Chapter 21
- Part VI, Chapter 22
- Part VII, Introduction
- Part VII, Chapter 23
- Part VII, Chapter 24
- Part VII, Chapter 25
- Part VIII, Chapter 26
- Part VIII, Chapter 27
- Part VIII, Chapter 28
- Part VIII, Chapter 29
- Part VIII, Chapter 30
- Part VIII, Chapter 31
- Part VIII, Chapter 32
- Part VIII, Chapter 33
- Works and Authors
EDITOR’S PREFACE TO THE FIRST ENGLISH TRANSLATION.
THE publication of an English version of “Das Kapital” needs no apology. On the contrary, an explanation might be expected why this English version has been delayed until now, seeing that for some years past the theories advocated in this book have been constantly referred to, attacked and defended, interpreted and mis-interpreted, in the periodical press and the current literature of both England and America.
When, soon after the author’s death in 1883, it became evident that an English edition of the work was really required, Mr. Samuel Moore, for many years a friend of Marx and of the present writer, and than whom, perhaps, no one is more conversant with the book itself, consented to undertake the translation which the literary executors of Marx were anxious to lay before the public. It was understood that I should compare the MS. with the original work, and suggest such alterations as I might deem advisable. When, by and by, it was found that Mr. Moore’s professional occupations prevented him from finishing the translation as quickly as we all desired, we gladly accepted Dr. Aveling’s offer to undertake a portion of the work; at the same time Mrs. Aveling, Marx’s youngest daughter, offered to check the quotations and to restore the original text of the numerous passages taken from English authors and Bluebooks and translated by Marx into German. This has been done throughout, with but few unavoidable exceptions.
The following portions of the book have been translated by Dr. Aveling: (1) Chapters X. (The Working Day), and XI. (Rate and Mass of Surplus-Value); (2) Part VI. (Wages, comprising Chapters XIX. to XXII.); (3) from Chapter XXIV, Section 4 (Circumstances that &c.) to the end of the book, comprising the latter part of Chapter XXIV., Chapter XXV., and the whole of Part VIII. (Chapters XXVI. to XXXIII.); (4) the two Author’s prefaces. All the rest of the book has been done by Mr. Moore. While, thus, each of the translators is responsible for his share of the work only, I bear a joint responsibility for the whole.
The third German edition, which has been made the basis of our work throughout, was prepared by me, in 1883, with the assistance of notes left by the author, indicating the passages of the second edition to be replaced by designated passages, from the French text published in 1873.
*6 The alterations thus effected in the text of the second edition generally coincided with changes prescribed by Marx in a set of MS. instructions for an English translation that was planned, about ten years ago, in America, but abandoned chiefly for want of a fit and proper translator. This MS. was placed at our disposal by our old friend Mr. F. A. Sorge of Hoboken N.J. It designates some further interpolations from the French edition; but, being so many years older than the final instructions for the third edition, I did not consider myself at liberty to make use of it otherwise than sparingly, and chiefly in cases where it helped us over difficulties. In the same way, the French text has been referred to in most of the difficult passages, as an indicator of what the author himself was prepared to sacrifice wherever something of the full-import
of the original had to be sacrificed in the rendering.
There is, however, one difficulty we could not spare the reader: the use of certain terms in a sense different from what they have, not only in common life, but in ordinary political economy. But this was unavoidable. Every new aspect of a science involves a revolution in the technical terms of that science. This is best shown by chemistry, where the whole of the terminology is radically changed about once in twenty years, and where you will hardly find a single organic compound that has not gone through a whole series of different names. Political Economy has generally been content to take, just as they were, the terms of commercial and industrial life, and to operate with them, entirely failing to see that by so doing, it confined itself within the narrow circle of ideas expressed by those terms. Thus, though perfectly aware that both profits and rent are but sub-divisions, fragments of that unpaid part of the product which the laborer has to supply to his employer (its first appropriator, though not its ultimate exclusive owner), yet even classical Political Economy never went beyond the received notions of profits and rent, never examined this unpaid part of the product (called by Marx surplus-product) in its integrity as a whole, and therefore never arrived at a clear comprehension, either of its origin and nature, or of the laws that regulate the subsequent distribution of its value. Similarly all industry, not agricultural or handicraft, is indiscriminately comprised in the term of manufacture, and thereby the distinction is obliterated between two great and essentially different periods of economic history: the period of manufacture proper, based on the division of manual labor, and the period of modern industry based on machinery. It is, however, self-evident that a theory which views modern capitalist production as a mere passing stage in the economic history of mankind, must make use of terms
different from those habitual to writers who look upon that form of production as imperishable and final.
A word respecting the author’s method of quoting may not be out of place. In the majority of cases, the quotations serve, in the usual way, as documentary evidence in support of assertions made in the text. But in many instances, passages from economic writers are quoted in order to indicate when, where, and by whom a certain proposition was for the first time clearly enunciated. This is done in cases where the proposition quoted is of importance as being a more or less adequate expression of the conditions of social production and exchange prevalent at the time, and quite irrespective of Marx’s recognition, or otherwise, of its general validity. These quotations, therefore, supplement the text by a running commentary taken from the history of the science.
Our translation comprises the first book of the work only. But this first book is in a great measure a whole in itself, and has for twenty years ranked as an independent work. The second book, edited in German by me, in 1885, is decidedly incomplete without the third, which cannot be published before the end of 1887. When Book III. has been brought out in the original German, it will then be soon enough to think about preparing an English edition of both.
“Das Kapital” is often called, on the Continent, “the Bible of the working class.” That the conclusions arrived at in this work are daily more and more becoming the fundamental principles of the great working class movement, not only in Germany and Switzerland, but in France, in Holland and Belgium, in America, and even in Italy and Spain; that everywhere the working class more and more recognises, in these conclusions, the most adequate expression of its condition and of its aspirations, nobody acquainted with that movement will deny. And in England, too, the theories of Marx, even at this
moment, exercise a powerful influence upon the socialist movement which is spreading in the ranks of “cultured” people no less than in those of the working class. But that is not all. The time is rapidly approaching when a thorough examination of England’s economic position will impose itself as an irresistible national necessity. The working of the industrial system of this country, impossible without a constant and rapid extension of production, and therefore of markets, is coming to a dead stop. Free trade has exhausted its resources; even Manchester doubts this its quondam economic gospel.
*7 Foreign industry, rapidly developing, stares English production in the face everywhere, not only in protected, but also in neutral markets, and even on this side of the Channel. While the productive power increases in a geometric, the extension of markets proceeds at best in an arithmetic ratio. The decennial cycle of stagnation, prosperity, overproduction and crisis, ever recurrent from 1825 to 1867, seems indeed to have run its course; but only to land us in the slough of despond of a permanent and chronic depression. The sighed-for period of prosperity will not come; as often as we seem to perceive its heralding symptoms, so often do they again vanish into air. Meanwhile, each succeeding winter brings up afresh the great question, “what to do with the unemployed;” but while the number of the unemployed keeps swelling from year to year, there is nobody to answer that question; and we can almost calculate the moment when the unemployed, losing patience, will take their own fate into
their own hands. Surely, at such a moment, the voice ought to be heard of a man whose whole theory is the result of a life-long study of the economic history and condition of England, and whom that study led to the conclusion that, at least in Europe, England is the only country where the inevitable social revolution might be effected entirely by peaceful and legal means. He certainly never forgot to add that he hardly expected the English ruling classes to submit, without a “pro-slavery rebellion,” to this peaceful and legal revolution.
The fourth edition of this work required of me a revision, which should give to the text and foot notes their final form, so far as possible. The following brief hints will indicate the way in which I performed this task.
After referring once more to the French edition and to the manuscript notes of Marx, I transferred a few additional passages from the French to the German text.
I have also placed the long foot note concerning the mine workers, on pages 461-67, into the text, just as had already been done in the French and English editions. Other small changes are merely of a technical nature.
Furthermore I added a few explanatory notes, especially in places where changed historical conditions seemed to require it. All these additional notes are placed between brackets and marked with my initials.
A complete revision of the numerous quotations had become necessary, because the English edition had been published in the mean time. Marx’s youngest daughter, Eleanor, had undertaken the tedious task of comparing, for this edition, all the quotations with the original works, so that the quotations from English authors, which are the overwhelming majority, are not retranslated from the German, but taken from the original texts. I had to consult the English edition for this fourth German edition. In so doing I found many small inaccuracies. There were references to wrong pages, due either to mistakes in copying, or to accumulated typographical errors of three editions. There were quotation marks, or periods indicating omissions, in wrong places, such as would easily occur in making copious quotations from notes. Now and then I came across a somewhat inappropriate choice of terms made in translating. Some passages were taken from Marx’s old manuscripts written in Paris, 1843-45, when he did not yet understand English and read the works of English economists in French translations. This twofold translation carried with it a slight change of expression, for instance in the case of Steuart, Ure, and others. Now I used the English text. Such and similar little inaccuracies and inadvertences were corrected. And if this fourth edition is now compared with former editions, it will be found that this whole tedious process of verification did not change in the least any essential statement of this work. There is but one single quotation which could not be located, namely that from Richard Jones, in section 3 of chapter XXIV. Marx probably made a mistake in the title of the book. All other quotations retain their corroborative power, or even increase it in their present exact form.
In this connection I must revert to an old story.
Concordia, the organ of the German Manufacturer’s Association, published on March 7, 1872, an anonymous article, entitled: “How Marx Quotes.” In it the writer asserted with a superabundant display of moral indignation and unparliamentarian expressions that the quotation from Gladstone’s budget speech of April 16, 1863, (cited in the Inaugural Address of the International Workingmen’s Association, 1864, and republished in
Capital, volume I, chapter XXV, section 5 a) was a falsification. It was denied that the statement: “This intoxicating augmentation of wealth and power…entirely confined to classes of property,” was contained in the stenographical report of Hansard, which was as good as an official report. “This statement is not found anywhere in Gladstone’s speech. It says just the reverse.
Marx has formally and materially lied in adding that sentence.“
Marx, who received this issue of the
Concordia in May of the same year, replied to the anonymous writer in the
Volksstaat of June 1. As he did not remember the particular newspaper from which he had clipped this report, he contented himself with pointing out that the same quotation was contained in two English papers. Then he quoted the report of the
Times, according to which Gladstone had said: “That is the state of the case as regards the wealth of this country. I must say for one, I should look almost with apprehension and with pain upon this intoxicating augmentation of wealth and power, if it were my belief that it was confined to classes who are in easy circumstances. This takes no cognizance at all of the condition of the labouring population. The augmentation I have described and which is founded, I think,
upon accurate terms, is an augmentation entirely confined to classes of property.”
In other words, Gladstone says here that he would be sorry if things were that way, but they
are. This intoxicating augmentation of wealth and power
is entirely confined to classes of property. And so far as the
quasi official Hansard is concerned, Marx continues: “In the subsequent manipulation of his speech for publication Mr. Gladstone was wise enough to eliminate a passage, which was so compromising in the mouth of an English Lord of the Exchequer as that one. By the way, this is an established custom in English parliament, and not by any means a discovery made by Lasker to cheat Bebel.”
The anonymous writer then became still madder. Pushing aside his second-hand sources in his reply in the
Concordia, July 4, he modestly hints, that it is the “custom” to quote parliamentarian speeches from the official reports; that the report of the
Times (which contained the
added lie) “was materially identical” with that of Hansard (which did not contain it); that the report of the
Times even said “just the reverse of what that notorious passage of the Inaugural Address implied.” Of course, our anonymous friend keeps still about the fact that the report of the
Times does not only contain “just the reverse” but also “that notorious passage”! Nevertheless he feels that he has been nailed down, and that only a new trick can save him. Hence he decorates his article, full of “insolent mendacity,” until it bristles with pretty epithets, such as “bad faith,” “dishonesty,” “mendacious assertion,” “that lying quotation,” “insolent mendacity,” “a completely spurious quotation,” “this falsification,” “simply infamous,” etc., and he finds himself compelled to shift the discussion to another ground, promising “to explain in a second article, what interpretation we [the “veracious” anonymous] place upon the meaning of Gladstone’s words.” As
though his individual opinion had anything to do with the matter! This second article is published in the
Concordia of July 11.
Marx replied once more in the
Volksstaat of August 7, quoting also the reports of this passage in the
Morning Star and
Morning Advertiser of April 17, 1863. Both of them agree in quoting Gladstone to the effect that he would look with apprehension, etc., upon this intoxicating augmentation of wealth and power, if it were confined to classes in easy circumstances. But this augmentation
was entirely confined to classes possessed of property. Both of these papers also contain the “added lie” word for word. Marx furthermore showed, by comparing these three independent, yet identical reports of newspapers, all of them containing the actually spoken words of Gladstone, with Hansard’s report, that Gladstone, in keeping with the “established custom,” had “subsequently eliminated” this sentence, as Marx had said. And Marx closes with the statement, that he has no time for further controversy with the anonymous writer. It seems that this worthy had gotten all he wanted, for Marx received no more issues of the
Thus the matter seemed to be settled. It is true, people who were in touch with the university at Cambridge once or twice dropped hints as to mysterious rumors about some unspeakable literary crime, which Marx was supposed to have committed in
Capital. But nothing definite could be ascertained in spite of all inquiries. Suddenly, on November 29, 1883, eight months after the death of Marx, a letter appeared in the
Times, dated at Trinity College, Cambridge, and signed by Sedley Taylor, in which this mannikin, a dabbler in the tamest of coöperative enterprises, at last took occasion to give us some light, not only on the gossip of Cambridge, but also on the anonymous of the
“What seems very queer,” says the mannikin of Trinity College, “is that it remained for professor
Brentano (then in Breslau, now in Strasburg)…to lay bare the bad faith, which had apparently dictated that quotation from Gladstone’s speech in the Inaugural Address. Mr. Karl Marx, who…tried to justify his quotation, had the temerity, in the deadly shifts to which Brentano’s masterly attacks quickly reduced him, to claim that Mr. Gladstone tampered with the report of his speech in the
Times of April 17, 1863, before it was published in Hansard, in order to eliminate a passage which was, indeed, compromising for the British Chancellor of the Exchequer. When Brentano demonstrated by a detailed comparison of the texts, that the reports of the
Times and of Hansard agreed to the absolute exclusion of the meaning, impugned to Gladstone’s words by a craftily isolated quotation, Marx retreated under the excuse of having no time.”
This, then, was the kernel of the walnut! And such was the glorious reflex of Brentano’s anonymous campaign, in the
Concordia, in the coöperative imagination of Cambridge! Thus he lay, and thus he handled his blade in his “masterly attack,” this Saint George of the German Manufacturers’ Association, while the fiery dragon Marx quickly expired under his feet “in deadly shifts!”
However, this Ariostian description of the struggle serves only to cover up the shifts of our Saint George. There is no longer any mention of “added lies,” of “falsification,” but merely of “a craftily isolated quotation.” The whole question had been shifted, and Saint George and his Cambridge Knight knew very well the reason.
Eleanor Marx replied in the monthly magazine
To-day, February, 1884, because the
Times refused to print her statements. She reduced the discussion to the only point, which was in question, namely: Was that sentence a lie added by
Marx, or not? Whereupon Mr. Sedley Taylor retorted: “The question whether a certain sentence had occurred in Mr. Gladstone’s speech or not” was, in his opinion, “of a very inferior importance” in the controversy between Marx and Brentano, “compared with the question, whether the quotation had been made with the intention of reproducing the meaning of Mr. Gladstone or distorting it.” And then he admits that the report of the
Times “contains indeed a contradiction in words”; but, but, interpreting the context correctly, that is, in a liberal Gladstonian sense, it is evident what Mr. Gladstone
intended to say. (
To-Day, March, 1884.) The comic thing about this retort is that our mannikin of Cambridge now insists on
not quoting this speech from Hansard, as is the “custom” according to the anonymous Mr. Brentano, but from the report of the
Times, which the same Brentano had designated as “necessarily bungling.” Of course, Hansard does not contain that fatal sentence!
It was easy for Eleanor Marx to dissolve this argumentation into thin air in the same number of
To-Day. Either Mr. Taylor had read the controversy of 1872. In that case he had now “lied,” not only “adding,” but also “subtracting.” Or, he had not read it. Then it was his business to keep his mouth shut. At any rate, it was evident that he did not dare for a moment to maintain the charge of his friend Brentano to the effect that Marx had “added a lie.” On he contrary, it was now claimed, that Marx, instead of adding a lie, had suppressed an important sentence. But this same sentence is quoted on page 5 of the Inaugural Address, a few lines before the alleged “added lie.” And as for the “contradiction” in Gladstone’s speech, isn’t it precisely Marx who speaks in another foot note of that chapter in
Capital of the “continual crying contradictions in Gladstone’s budget speeches of 1863 and 1864”? Of course, he does not undertake to reconcile
them by liberal hot air, like Sedley Taylor. And the final summing up in Eleanor Marx’s reply is this: “On the contrary, Marx has neither suppressed anything essential nor added any lies. He rather has restored and rescued from oblivion a certain sentence of a Gladstonian speech, which had undoubtedly been pronounced, but which somehow found its way out of Hansard.”
This was enough for Mr. Sedley Taylor. The result of this whole professorial gossip during ten years and in two great countries was that no one dared henceforth to question Marx’s literary conscientiousness. In the future Mr. Sedley Taylor will probably have as little confidence in the literary fighting bulletins of Mr. Brentano, as Mr. Brentano in the papal infallibility of Hansard.
June 25, 1890.
(Translated by Ernest Untermann.)
e.g., those on the historical character of capital, on the connection between the conditions of production and the mode of production, &c., &c., even to the terminology created by me, this may perhaps be due to purposes of propaganda. I am here, of course, not speaking of his detailed working out and application of these propositions, with which I have nothing to do.
Editor’s Preface To The First English Translation
Evening Standard, Nov. 1, 1886.
Part I, Chapter I.