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Marx's Economic Theory

Revitalizing Marxist Theory for Today's Capitalism

ISBN: 978-1-78052-254-8, eISBN: 978-1-78052-255-5

Publication date: 7 November 2011


The appearance of the present chapter six years after the publication of Marx's Capital and more than a year after its translation into Russian might seem somewhat untimely, if not entirely superfluous. Who in our country has not read Marx's works, or at least heard of him; who does not know that besides interesting and instructive facts, his work contains new and important socio-political truths? No doubt many have read it and heard of it, but I permit myself to doubt, and not only in an a priori fashion, but on the basis of extensive observation, whether many have gained from a reading of the book a clear and precise understanding of the topics which are treated therein. Are there many who have managed to distinguish in it what is significant from what is of small importance, who have noticed what constituted the core elements or the framework of the whole theoretical edifice as opposed to the detail, which serves only to decorate it, who have been properly aware, what Marx introduced that was new into the consciousness of his contemporaries, and what, on the contrary, did not belong to him, but to his predecessors? We repeat that from frequent observations we have become convinced of the contrary. With some very few exceptions, we have so far not managed to come across people who have understood the significance of Marx's researches in their entirety. Some – and these constitute the majority – are barred on the way to an elucidation of the essence of the matter by Marx's doctrine of the forms of value; others – by the difficult, and, if the truth be told, somewhat scholastic language in which a considerable part of the book is written; and others again are put off by the unaccustomed complexity of the subject and the ponderous argumentation encased in the impenetrable armor of Hegelian contradictions. And not only in Russia, but abroad as well Marx has fared no better. One only has to read reviews by some Baumert, Siebel or the reviewer in Bruno–Hildebrand's Jahrbücher, R. (presumably Rössler) to see at once that all these gentlemen possess one important advantage over the majority of Russian readers in that they not only could not, but also would not understand Marx's investigations. Thus, the above reviewer puts to Marx, among others, the following question: “we would like it if someone were finally to explain to us why the food which finds its way into the stomach of a worker serves as the source of the formation of surplus value, whereas food eaten by a horse or an ox lacks the same significance.” If such a “someone” were really to be found, in which the author of the review expresses serious doubt, then he would probably explain the matter in the following way: that economists and sociologists, to whose number Marx belongs, had to date the weakness to think that the chief object of their investigations was human society, and not the society of domestic animals, horned or otherwise, and therefore they are concerned with that surplus value which is produced by human beings. If, like Darwin, they studied natural science, they would probably have found something like surplus value among various other animals, for example, among different species of ant or bee. Generally speaking, not counting Lange's book on the worker question, and the reviews of some people directly involved with the practical consequences of Marx's ideas, the foreign press presents almost not a single line which would evince in its author the desire and the ability to understand the general significance of Marx's work. These deficiencies, especially the second one, are characteristic of even those writers, like Schäffle, who are quite favorably disposed towards Marx and are aware of his scientific achievements.


Ivanovich Sieber, N. (2011), "Marx's Economic Theory", Zarembka, P. and Desai, R. (Ed.) Revitalizing Marxist Theory for Today's Capitalism (Research in Political Economy, Vol. 27), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 155-190.



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