By Karl Marx
One of the most notorious works of modern times, as well as one of the most influential, the first volume of Capital; A Critique of Political Economy is an incisive critique of private property and the social relations it generates. Living in exile in England, where this work was largely written, Marx drew on a wide-ranging knowledge of its society to support his analysis and generate fresh insights. Arguing that capitalism would create an ever-increasing division in wealth and welfare, he predicted its abolition and replacement by a system with common ownership of the means of production. Capital rapidly acquired readership among the leaders of social democratic parties, particularly in Russia and Germany, and ultimately throughout the world, to become a work described by Marx's friend and collaborator Friedrich Engels as 'the Bible of the Working Class'.
A vital cornerstone to Marx’s overall theory of economics, the second volume of Capital considers in depth the nature of commodity and the market-place bourgeois society. This immensely powerful work argues that prosperity in a capitalist society inevitably holds within itself the seeds of its own destruction.
Unfinished at the time of Marx’s death in 1883 and first published with a preface by Frederick Engels in 1894, the third volume of Capital strives to combine the theories and concepts of the two previous volumes in order to prove conclusively that capitalism is inherently unworkable as a permanent system for society. Here, Marx controversially asserts that—regardless of the efforts of individual capitalists, public authorities or even generous philanthropists—any market economy is inevitably doomed to endure a series of worsening, explosive crises leading finally to complete collapse. But he also offers an inspirational and compelling prediction; that the end of capitalism will culminate in the birth of a far greater form of society.
[back cover descriptions from the Penguin Classics edition of Capital]
A 9.5 minute animated explanation by The School of Life of key ideas in Marx's work: (1) modern work is alienating, (2) modern work is insecure, (3) workers get paid little, while capitalists get rich, (4) capitalism is very unstable and prone to crises, (5) capitalism is bad for capitalists, it leads to commodity fetishism. The video also introduces The Capitalist Manifesto, that Marx wrote with Friedrich Engels.
Think this video is too uncritical and positive about the ideas of Marx? Here is a highly critical video which comments on the video above.
Alternatively, this 12.5 minute video of the World Library Foundation is also worthwhile; It sketches Marx's life and the historical context in some more detail and also explains his idea of dialectic materialism:
- Lecture on Marx' Theory of Capitalism (51 minutes) that is part of an open online Course Moral Foundations of Political Theory, by professor Ian Shapiro (Yale University)
- A close reading of the text of Karl Marx's Capital in a series of free video lectures by professor David Harvey (Graduate Center of the City University of New York)
Abridged Versions & Further Reading
- Capital: An Abridged Edition (Oxford World's Classics)
- Marx's Capital; A Student Edition (abridged version, edited by C.J. Arthur)
- An Introduction to the Three Volumes of Karl Marx's Capital (Michael Heinrich)
- A Companion to Marx's Capital (David Harvey - from the video's mentioned above!)
- Wikipedia entry on Das Kapital
- Entry on Karl Marx in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- Section on Socialism vs. Communism in Marxist Thought in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- Marxists Internet Archive
Table of Contents of Capital
Book One: The Process of Production of Capital
- Commodities and Money
- Transformation of Money into Capital
- The Production of Absolute Surplus Value
- Production of Relative Surplus Values
- Production of Absolute and Relative Surplus Value
- The Accumulation of Capital
- Primitive Accumulation
Book Two: The Process of Circulation of Capital
- The Metamorphoses of Capital and Their Circuits
- The Turnover of Capital
- The Reproduction and Circulation of the Average Social Capital
Book Three: The Process of Capitalist Production as a Whole
- The Conversion of Surplus-Value into Profit and of the Rate of Surplus-Value into the Rate of Profit
- Conversion of Profit into Average Profit
- The Law of the Tendency of the Rate of Profit to Fall
- Conversion of Commodity-Capital and Money-Capital into Commercial Capital and Money-Dealing Capital (Merchant's Capital)
- Division of Profit into Interest and Profit of Enterprise. Interest-Bearing Capital
- Transformation of Surplus-Profit into Ground-Rent
- Revenues and their Sources