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Capital Volume 1 Prefaces and Afterwords

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Volume 1 of Capital was first published in 1865.  I am using the 1967 edition by International Publishers Co, Inc., including the changes made by Engels for the fourth edition, 1887.  LofC# 67-19754, ISBN 0-7178-00170-2.

Volume 1 is: “A critical analysis of capitalist production”

The first requirement for human history is human beings.  That is, we must exist.  In order to exist, we must live and reproduce.  To live, we must, like any animal, find or wrest food and shelter from nature.    Therefore, history resolves itself, first and foremost, into the question: how do we go about providing the necessaries of life?   Being born premature, it is the nature of our species to form societies so that the young may be provided for during the many years before they can provide for themselves; therefore we provide the necessaries of life socially.  Hence the understanding of the different social methods and systems of production and distribution of necessities becomes critical to understanding history.  Marx begins, therefore, with analyzing production and distribution in contemporary (for him, and also for us) societies.

From the preface  to the first German edition.  Page 10:  “In the domain of Political Economy, free scientific inquiry meets not merely the same enemies as in all other domains.  The peculiar nature of the material it deals with, summons as foes into the field of battle the most violent, mean and malignant passions of the human breast, the Furies of private interest.  The English Established Church, e.g., will more readily pardon an attack on 38 of its 39 articles than on 1/39 of its income.  Now-a-days atheism itself is culpa levis, as compared with criticism of existing property relations.”

From the afterword to the second German edition.  Page 15: “With the year 1830 came the decisive crisis.  In France and in England the bourgeoisie had conquered political power.  Thenceforth, the class-struggle, practically as well as theoretically, took on more and more outspoken and threatening forms.  It sounded the knell of scientific bourgeois economy.  It was thenceforth no longer a question, whether this theorem or that was true, but whether it was useful to capital or harmful, expedient or inexpedient, politically dangerous or not.”

From the preface to the French edition.  Page 21: “In this form the book will be more accessible to the working-class, a consideration which to me outweighs everything else.”

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  1. Our bathroom reading material currently includes at the moment The Prehistory of Sex, which has a neat theory in the first chapter about how our transformation from hairy four-leggers to naked two-leggers with boobs and butts was in large part driven by social sexual selection, since those changes are actually disadvantages from a biological evolutionary perspective. It’s interesting stuff!

  2. I still, from time to time, cite your use of a meal in understanding/creating the setting of a story. What’s on the table; who’s eating; who brought it to the table; who cooked it; who went to market for the ingredients; who sold them; who grew them; how did they get to market; etc.
    I find myself gradually moving more and more categories of “sf” over to “fantasy” in my own view.

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  4. Things to think about as we go through Marx:

    -He’s heavily influenced by Hegel & Co’s dialectic theory. In Hegel, history is defined by the cyclic opposition and synthesis of opposing ideas. Several of Marx’s peers at the University of Berlin believed that history had effectively reached an end, and that the ideas of Reason and Freedom had won an ultimate and inevitable victory. Marx takes a different route, and says that ideas are secondary to material conditions, and that the thing to watch is the interaction between groups of people and the material conditions of their existence.

    -At the time Capital was written, Adam Smith and David Ricardo were the standing economic champs.

    -Marx differs from these two in (among other things) his emphasis on intertemporal focus–he’s concerned with the progress of History with a capital H. This also has implications for his de-emphasis on economic efficiency (best allocation of resources achieved through exchange–all of the pie gets eaten, pie is as large as possible) in favor of economic equity (fairest allocation of resources–who gets to eat the slices of pie, how big are these pieces, and why).

    -Mercantilism, with its emphasis on high barriers to trade, is slowly giving way to free markets as the primary economic model. Technological change and scalable manufacturing techniques are laying the groundwork for the Industrial Revolution.

    -Working conditions are extremely bad by modern standards. Heavy burden of economic uncertainty is borne at the bottom of the wealth pyramid. Marx is a philosopher who believes that if you are a philosopher who finds a problem, you’d darn sure better come up with a way to fix it. You can’t just think about it, you have to Do Something.

  5. “You can’t just think about it, you have to Do Something.”
    Ah, the struggle between idea and praxis!
    Interesting that some of Marx’s most reknown products, the scholars of the “Frankfurt School,” tended toward analysis and not action. Perhaps apocryphal, but I’m reminded of the story of a student asking Adorno why he does not participate in the Paris student protests, and he replied you can’t fight for something you haven’t figured out yet, and I haven’t figured anything out yet.

    (That being said, I LOVE Adorno, don’t get me wrong.)

    Anyway, it’s discouraging to see how when people DO try to put change into action (e.g.: Trotsky, Che), it ends up getting co-opted and perverted by others. Today, even Fredric Jameson can only suggest “action” in the form of mapping the conditions to understand it better.

    Where are there any intellectuals in the Marxian tradition who can advocate real changes?

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