Introduction to Capital
Year Published: 1932
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX8010
Marx's book on capital, like Plato's book on the state, like Machiavelli's Prince and Rousseau's Social Contract, owes its tremendous and enduring impact to the fact that it grasps and articulates, at a turning point of history, the full implications of the new force breaking in upon the old forms of life. All the economic, political, and social questions, upon which the analysis in Marx's Capital theoretically devolves, are today world-shaking practical issues, over which the real-life struggle between great social forces, between states and classes, rages in every corner of the earth.
the investigation Marx undertakes in the first volume is only formally limited to the productive process of capitalism. In actual fact, in his treatment of this aspect, Marx grasps and portrays the totality of the capitalist mode of production, and the bourgeois society that emerges from it. He describes and connects all its economic features, together with its legal, political, religious, artistic, and philosophical - in short, ideological - manifestations. This comprehensiveness is a necessary consequence of the dialectical mode of description, an Hegelian legacy which Marx appropriates formally intact, despite his materialistic 'reversal' of its philosophical-idealist content. The dialectic may be compared with the modern 'axiomatic' method of the mathematical sciences, in so far as this method uses an apparently logical-constructive procedure to deduce from certain simple principles the results already arrived at through detailed research....
Capital presents itself to us then, as a 'fantastic whole' or a 'scientific work of art': it has a strong and compelling attraction for any reader who comes to it free from prejudice, and this aesthetic attraction will help the beginner to overcome both the alleged and the genuine difficulties of the work. Now there is something rather peculiar about these difficulties. With one qualification, which will be elaborated in due course, we can safely say that Capital contains, for the kind of audience Marx had in mind ("I assume of course they will be readers who want to learn something new, who will be prepared to think while they are reading"), fewer difficulties than any of the more-or-less widely read manuals on economics. The reader who is at all capable of thinking for himself if hardly likely to meet serious difficulties, even with terminology.