Book Review from the May 2004 issue of the Socialist Standard
This book was favourably reviewed in the Socialist Standard when it was first published in 1975 and again with the third edition of 1989. This fourth edition is substantially rewritten, doubling the text length, yet still coming in at under 200 pages. This is quite an achievement for an introduction to the thousands of pages in the three volumes of Marx’s Capital, as well as some of the multi-volume Theories of Surplus Value, the so-called fourth volume of Capital.
As the authors point out, “Marx is not interested primarily in constructing a price theory, a set of efficiency criteria or a series of welfare propositions; he never intended to be a narrow ‘economist’ or even a political economist”. Rather, they argue that Marx sought to challenge the assumptions that political economy (the older and more accurate term for economics) makes about capitalism:
“the monopoly of the means of production by a small minority, the wage employment of the majority, the distribution of the products by monetary exchange, and remuneration involving the economic categories of prices, profits and wages”.
As an introduction to Marx’s Capital, this book offers a much more reliable guide than the late Ernest Mandel’s 1976 introduction in the current Penguin edition of Capital. Mandel, in common with other Trotskyists, defended the then USSR in the misguided belief that it had overthrown capitalism.