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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good solid anti-capitalist who thought he was also a scientist, May 11, 2008
This review is from: Capital: Volume 1: A Critique of Political Economy (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
I could write 10 pages on my specific agreements and disagreements with Marx's economics analysis, but this isn't the place for that. I guess more than anything else I've got two lingering reactions. First, I wanna grab Karl Marx by the shoulders, shake him, and tell him that, however much physics envy he's got ("the rate and mass of surplus value"), he cannot make economics into a science, and that even if he could he wouldn't be able to write the authoritative foundational text for that science by just theorizing abstractly without doing any experiments. Second, I want to thank and congratulate him for his automatic, human and above all honest identification with the struggle of the working against the capitalist classes, which I found indescribably refreshing after earning an econ degree from a neoliberal department where the norm was to take the opposite orientation and then clothe it in depoliticizing claims of objectivity.

I was surprised by how often the great anti-capitalist agreed completely with capitalist orthodoxy, for example on the production benefits and human costs of the division of labor or on the need for money as a medium of exchange. I thought Marx was at his best when he was most empirical: detailing the horrors of industrial wage slavery in Dickensian Britain and then tracing the contours of the debates on the Factory Acts, especially when he was righteously lacerating the apologists of the factory owners. And now, just for you, I'm gonna type out the full text of all the parts of this book that deal with Marx's vision for a post-capitalist society, all both of 'em:

p. 515fn33: "The field of application for machinery would therefore be entirely different in a communist society from what it is in a bourgeois society."

p. 739: "In this way he spurs on the development of society's productive forces, and the creation of those material conditions of production which alone can form the real basis of a higher form of society, a society in which the full and free development of every individual forms the ruling principle."

And that's it, two sentences in 1,100 pages. So anyone who wants to blame Marx for Stalin must seek their evidence elsewhere, possibly in Bakunin.
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 26, 2008 11:43:09 AM PDT
Tim Muir says:
"a society in which the full and free development of every individual forms the ruling principle."

I studied Marx in college and this is the same assertion the prof made. However, I believe in real life, if there is no incentive to support oneself through tedious labor, (energetic persons notwithstanding) we would have a giant society of couch potatoes. Everyone can't be an artist. Society as a whole would mimic the retirees, who "do what they want". There is no evidence or reason to believe a society completely full of retirees would function at all. Society already leans toward wanting to do what comes natural. Problem is, no one "wants" to go out and work the fields for 12hrs/day, that's why communist societies had to force them to do it. In a functional economy, people do jobs they'd rather not because the pay is (just) sufficient to support them, in most cases yielding a small surplus. (again, foolish spenders notwithstanding) I would have to reject any notion that a huge majority of people who live "paycheck to paycheck" never ever once made a foolish purchase of an unneccessary gadget, Nintendo, shoes, bling, etc. You can always find an exception, but I'm talking plurality.

Posted on Mar 2, 2009 10:04:30 AM PST
I don't think Marx was trying to make his critique into a "science" in the modern sense of the word. It's clear from his writings ("vampire-like" capital, for example) that this is hardly value-free, objective analysis. In German "science" is "Wissenschaft" - literally, "the craft of knowing" - a more flexible term, which would mean, I think, that we'd be better off thinking of "scientific socialism" more like "theory-based socialism".

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 2, 2009 10:11:14 AM PST
Of course no-one wants to work in a capitalist society! That's the point. The work is boring. That is not to say we would all become artists, which in itself is boring work at times, but instead have control over the way in which we work and what we produce.

It would also entail working a lot less as so much of capitalist work is useless toil directed either towards reproducing the system as such (ie in marketing, banking, etc) or producing the same kinds of things over and over because of built-in obsolescence, etc. Machines would do a lot more heavy or unpleasant work, leaving people more time to develop as individuals, get to know their families, etc.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 12, 2009 6:30:42 PM PDT
It isn't about not working. It is about actually working.

In reply to an earlier post on May 6, 2009 11:58:13 AM PDT
Ramey Moore says:
An excellent point, and a good rebuttal to the misguided Mr. Muir. The purpose of work should not be to replicate and reproduce the systematic repression of capitalist market structures. Mr. Muir seems more interested in blaming the poor for being a party to their own repression, which is a facile assertion. In fact, no one escapes the constraints posed by hegemonic discursive systems, we unwittingly propagate discourse that results in the normalization of certain activities and systems of power.

Posted on Aug 25, 2012 3:24:09 PM PDT
What a wonderful review that encapsulates the real issue with Marxism in general: Marx (and a great many of his contemporaries) had a woefully flawed understanding of what science actually did and what scientific work produced.

That anybody takes this stuff seriously anymore is a testament to the power ideology holds over the human mind. Until we can produce a functional model of an economy, an agent-based model where the agents have real human-like psychology based behavior, economics can only aspire to scientific status, never attain it.
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