Tuesday, February 16, 2010

This is part one of a book review that I've been doing and I thought I would share it with you. It is Das Kapital writen by Karl Marx in 1867 this is only volume I. I will post the second half later this week.
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Das Kapital: The Capital of Marxist Rhetoric, Ideology, and Religious like Belief Structure of Millions Today
Das Kapital is widely regarded as the fundamental work of economics in the 19th century. Much like Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations and John Maynard Keynes’ General Theory, in the 18th and 20th centuries respectively, this book is an earth shattering work on the ideas and science of economics. The influence of Marx, and later Engels, is still prevalent in every corner of the world to this day. Known for the Communist Manifesto, which was the average person’s guide into the mind and ideas of Marx, Das Kapital was the platform for the economic ideals of Marx to be put into an intellectual forum for debate and analysis. This paper will only focus on volume I of this work and Marx’s ideas about the capitalist system and how he sees it as an unstable system of economics based it perpetual journey for profits.
Throughout the first sections of volume I, Marx defines many important terms about production. Commodities are the fundamental element of any economy, according to Marx, nothing would be produced or consumed without commodities and people’s want to have these commodities. Marx explains that this “commodity” is anything that is independent of a person and satisfies any human need or want. There is no concern for why people buy commodities, just an acceptance of inevitability of people purchasing commodities to gratify themselves for any purpose. Every commodity has, what is called, a “use-value”, this is, simply, the usefulness of a particular commodity; however, this is completely intangible. The way this is determined is when the item is either consumed or sold to someone else, this leads to the “exchange value” of a particular good, simply its price or value in bartering circumstances. Marx uses corn and iron. He goes on to elaborate that, there will always be an equation for the exchange of the two commodities, this is the example that is used to help surface his larger point. That is, that all commodities are essentially parallel in that they can always be exchanged for a certain amount of other commodities. This cannot be determined by viewing a commodity; one must see the commodity being exchanged to determine its “exchanged-value”. There is a particular interesting dynamic between individual commodities in that, they are different but cannot have value attached to them without other commodities to exchange them with. The same can be said about the larger concepts of exchange-value and use-value that Marx discusses throughout the first few sections of this volume.
Marx discusses between labor and value as a symbolic relationship of two very important ideas in any economic system. Any change in the quantity of labor will produce a change in the value of a particular article produced by that labor. This direct correlation is shown with Marx’s example of linen versus cloth in a capitalist society. Lenin is, hypothetically, twice as valuable as thread because of the time invested by a worker to produce the same amount of both items. The use-value is determined by the useful labor needed to produce each individual commodity; this is called the labor power of a particular item. The labor power gives each commodity its use-value. Conversely the use-value of an item can drive the labor power of a product through the demand for a finished good or in demand for raw materials lined or grown. However, this was not originally the idea of Marx, but rather David Ricardo, Marx simply restated Ricardo’s theory on labor almost verbatim.
Production is Marx’s obsession throughout the first sections of this volume. There are three important factors in production in Marx’s eyes: the means of production, the mode of production, and the relations of production. Each particular part is wholly dependent on the other to determine its value and importance in systems of production. The means of production are just the forces of production, things like the instruments of production (tools, machines), methods of working (skills, co-operation between groups, division of labor), and applied knowledge (science). The mode of production is the economic structure of society that defines people’s mode of living. It consists of the means of production and the relations of production. The relations are the interactions of people to form material production of an individual good or service. All three of these combine to create every good bought and consumed by the people in a society.


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