How to Read Marx’s Capital
With the recent revival of Karl Marx’s theory, a general interest in readingCapitalhas also increased. ButCapital—Marx’s foundational nineteenth-century work on political economy—is by no means considered an easily understood text. Central concepts, such as abstract labor, the value-form, or the fetishism of commodities, can seem opaque to us as first-time readers, and the prospect of comprehending Marx’s thought can be truly daunting. Until, that is, we pick up Michael Heinrich’sHow to Read Marx’s ‘Capital’.
Paragraph by paragraph, Heinrich provides extensive commentary and lucid explanations of questions and quandaries that arise when encountering Marx’s original text. Suddenly, such seemingly gnarly chapters as “The Labor Process and the Valorization Process” and “Money or the Circulation of Capital” become refreshingly clear, as Heinrich explains just what we need to keep in mind when reading such a complex text. Deploying multiple appendices referring to other pertinent writings by Marx, Heinrich reveals what is relevant aboutCapital, and why we need to engage with it today.How to Read Marx’s ‘Capital’provides an illuminating and indispensable guide to sorting through the cultural detritus of a world whose political and economic systems are simultaneously imploding and exploding.
Michael Heinrichtaught economics for many years at the University of Applied Sciences in Berlin and was managing editor ofPROKLA: Journal for Critical Social Science. He has written in depth on Marx’s critique of political economy in his book,The Science of Value. HisAn Introduction to the Three Volumes of Karl Marx’s “Capital”is probably the most popular introduction to Marx’s economic works in Germany. HisKarl Marx and the Birth of Modern Society(Vol. I) is attracting growing praise.
Most of our perennial debates would be obviated by a shared understanding of the first chapters ofCapital—and after the publication ofHow to Read Marx’s ‘Capital’, you have no excuse. With his characteristic combination of a mathematician’s precision and a philologist’s erudition, Heinrich disassembles the intricate clockwork of Marx’sCapitalinto its component pieces, and gives the reader just as much as she needs to put them back together again. It is at once so embedded in the text Heinrich quite rightly deems it a ‘workbook’, and a work of magisterial historical-critical scholarship rendering Marx’s debt to Aristotle as lucidly as Ricardo. Heinrich does not offer an interpretation of Marx so much as astrally project the reader into the mind of Karl in his self-critical process of deliberately constructing the delicate argumentation ofCapital. The genius of Heinrich’s commentary, like that ofCapitalitself, is that it makes the reader herself a scholar.-Cordelia Belton, author of forthcoming book on communism
In this explosive new commentary written by the world’s leading scholar on Marx, Michael Heinrich brings a rejuvenating fire to the important task of readingCapital, dispensing with obsolete interpretations while highlighting underrecognized problems. By clarifying the stakes of Marx’s critique of political economy and arguing for its contemporary relevance, Heinrich leaves us with a project which is open-ended and politically serious. Both new students and long-time teachers of Marx will benefit immensely from this text, as nothing of this depth has ever been available in English until now.—Edward “Edwad” Henry, co-host of Reel Abstractions podcast
Commentators have hitherto mostly interpretedCapitalin various ways; the point is to understand it. This immaculate translation provides anglophone readers with Michael Heinrich’s forensically accurate exposition of the most vital yet difficult parts ofCapital: Volume 1.—Dr Matthew Cole, Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford
This fine book by one of the foremost living Marx scholars equips readers to better draw on Marx’s writing in the way Marx would have wanted – as a body of ideas to help us think for ourselves. With accessible prose and conceptual rigor,How to Read Marx’s ‘Capital’clarifies Marx’s masterwork, without sacrificing either nuance or complexity. Heinrich’s book will help readers new and old to better understandCapitaland thus capitalism’s ongoing generation of human misery. The book makes a major contribution to today’s exciting renewal of Marxist inquiry.—Nate Holdren, author ofInjury Impoverishedand associate professor in Drake University’s Program in Law, Politics, and Society