Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Review of Capital, Vol. 1: A Critical Analysis of Capitalist Production by Karl Marx

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Economics
Intriguing Connections = 1) Learning Economics: Basic to Advanced,

Elaborate Description

Capital allows the increase of productivity. To free up more time, or rather, to complete more tasks with the same resources. Marx points out the side effects of this process.

The major contribution Marx makes is the theory of surplus value. Production above what is necessary, above what the individual would produce on their own terms, is the surplus value. Increasing productivity allows for more surplus value. Capitalist will try to increase that surplus value as much as possible.

The major issue that Marx recognizes is that the ownership of capital prevents people from the means of production. The surplus value is taken by the capitalist, the owner of capital. The owners of capital have the ability to alter the relation between the labor and output. Changing the amount of the working day and the intensity of the work alters the amount of production. Health conditions of the workers degrade for as the capitalists takes more, there is less income for housing or nutrition.

This mode of production creates various the problem of self-refilling pool of unemployment. As productivity increases, less labor needs to go into the production cost, which means less employment. The unemployed become dead-weight of society, unable to produce while taking away resources. As there is a pool of unemployed, the reserve army of labor, the capitalist can force labor to compete with labor. Bargaining power is stronger with the capitalist than the laborer.

For each part of the capitalist mode of production, Marx takes it a part through every little detail. Showing how each part works and the effects they have. The variety of parts taken into account shows great depth of the topic. For most part, the writing is somewhat clear.

The book is lengthy, and at times, the length of the examples makes the reader questions the authenticity of the examples. They tend to support a singular direction. The constant restating the same line in different ways, rather than elucidating the situation, makes the understanding of the topic opaque. The criticism of the analysis is scarce and short but also are not given much thought beyond the shallow reasoning. Editing the work, to remove all the excess, would have provided a much shorter and more valuable read.

An assumption made is that since labor is what gives value to capital, that only labor should be compensated. The compensation is the amount of effort (usually in time) that the labor spends on production. No capitalist should get paid as surplus value is viewed as expropriation of production and is not needed for society. This assumption has a huge problem, for rather than the amount of effort that the labor provides, capitalist production allows the labor to produce more wealth. Meaning it is what the labor puts into production rather the amount of effort spent that matters. Capital helps labor produce more with less effort.

When Marx criticism the capitalist, he calls them absentee owners. In a small instance, Marx facetiously claims some services the capitalist performs, degrading the actual services provided. Services such as the use of capital and overseeing the labor. The issue is that when the same or ever worse services are provided by government officials, Marx claims that is necessary.

The benefits of productivity are rarely provided. Marx always uses productivity as freeing up time, and that time is always stolen by the capitalist. Reality shows a major counterexample, freeing up time allows for more diversified labor. If all were needed to produce the basic needs such as food, there would be no time to provide anything else. Research and the arts takes time and resources that can only be provided with the surplus value.

Marx chose a particular group to target rather than looking at the whole problem. The logic is internally very constant and conclusive, but externally needs more validation. That diminishes the impact of the research. Many implications have been proven to be very accurate, but the overall picture presented is only part of the whole story.

Book Details

Edition ISBN:  9780140445688
Pages to read:   1076
Publication:     1990
1st Edition:      1867
Format:            Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    4
Content          4
Overall           4