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An Introduction to the Three Volumes of Karl Marx's Capital [Paperback]

Michael Heinrich , Alex Locascio
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

June 2012 1583672885 978-1583672884
The global economic crisis and recession that began in 2008 had at least one unexpected outcome: a surge in sales of Karl Marx's Capital. Although mainstream economists and commentators once dismissed Marx's work as outmoded and flawed, some are begrudgingly acknowledging an analysis that sees capitalism as inherently unstable. And of course, there are those, like Michael Heinrich, who have seen the value of Marx all along, and are in a unique position to explain the intricacies of Marx's thought.Heinrich's modern interpretation of Capital is now available to English-speaking readers for the first time. It has gone through nine editions in Germany, is the standard work for Marxist study groups, and is used widely in German universities. The author systematically covers all three volumes of Capital and explains all the basic aspects of Marx's critique of capitalism in a way that is clear and concise. He provides background information on the intellectual and political milieu in which Marx worked, and looks at crucial issues beyond the scope of Capital, such as class struggle, the relationship between capital and the state, accusations of historical determinism, and Marx's understanding of communism. Uniquely, Heinrich emphasizes the monetary character of Marx's work, in addition to the traditional emphasis on the labor theory of value, this highlighting the relevance of Capital to the age of financial explosions and implosions.

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An Introduction to the Three Volumes of Karl Marx's Capital + A Companion to Marx's Capital + A Companion To Marx's Capital, Volume 2
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good introduction to Capital Sept. 26 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Michael Heinrich's Introduction to Capital is a very clear and concise introduction to Marx's three volumes of capital. Rather than just paraphrase Marx's work, Heinrich has explained in his own language the major concepts and relationships embedded in Marx's long and dense work. It is rare to find a commentary on all three volumes of Capital in one work - most commentaries only focus on the first volume - leaving out important concepts expressed in the other two volumes. The work requires no previous knowledge of Capital and caters to both the expert Marxist along with the novice.
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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Available Introduction to Marx's Capital Aug. 2 2012
By D. Ware - Published on
With "An Introduction to the Three Volumes of Karl Marx's Capital", Michael Heinrich's magisterial introduction, which has established itself as the standard reference in Germany in little under a decade, is now finally available to English-speakers.

Unlike most introductions to Capital, Heinrich's does not stop at Volume I, but provides a guide to readers attempting to tackle all three volumes by providing clarification of key terms, in a concise manner without sacrificing depth, and with extensive quotations not only from Marx's published works, but also many of the unpublished manuscripts available in the German MEGA edition (the complete edition of the works of Marx and Engels).

This last point is particularly advantageous, because in clarifying certain potentially controversial points concerning abstract labor and the substance of value, Heinrich is able to buttress his arguments with quotations from Marx's own revision manuscripts for the first volume (some of which were incorporated into the French edition, the last edition supervised by Marx in his lifetime).

Furthermore, Heinrich's own involvement with the MEGA project and general expertise as a Marxologist is an aid in avoiding some of the pitfalls in other available English introductions, such as David Harvey's. Whereas Harvey, for example, is reliant upon the David Fowkes translation of Vol. I, which sometimes leads to egregious errors ("sachlich", which means "objective", is erroneously translated as "material", which causes real mischief for Harvey's exposition), Heinrich actually corrects phrases in English where necessary.

Another advantage, as an advocate of the German "New Reading of Marx", Heinrich emphasizes money and finance as central to Marx's analysis of capitalism, and constitutive for Marx's theory of value, unlike many traditional Marxists who, like the neoclassical mainstream in economics, tend to regard production as "primary" and the spheres of money and finance as merely "superstructures."

Overall, this is an ideal introduction for reading groups, or official college courses, and one hopes it will establish itself as the standard reference for English-speakers as it has in Germany.
44 of 54 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Review Aug. 2 2012
By CB - Published on
I purchased this book hoping to find some succor in my reading of Capital Vol II. Much to my chagrin, all of Volume II is covered in 10 pages. 100 are Volume 1, 40 are volume III, and the rest are musings on other Marxists matters (fetish, communism, the state, etc.). Thus, the author, like most people, has a serious problem with presenting appearance and essence. The appearance is that this book is an introduction to all three volumes, where as it's really an interpretation that picks a fight with several schools of thought. Instead of letting Marx speak for himself, this author speaks for Marx, through a fastidious reading, and uses this perspective to assail other Marxist readings. For instance, instead of just explaining what Marx's theory of Crisis is, the author opens with the claim that it's simply incorrect, and then discusses some attempts to tinker with it. The same is done for the "transformation problem," which isn't even a problem if one is being introduced to Marx; instead we are exposed to academic fisticuffs. Unsurprisingly the author concludes the transformation problem is unsolved by Marx, and fails to reference the TSSI model as presented by Andrew Kliman, and others, that show internal consistency within Marx's approach, that leads to no actual problem of transformation. This same pattern carries on with the commodity fetish, Marx's theory of money, and Marx's theory of value. Instead of just summarizing what Marx says, the author finds numerous sources of contention, with Marx, with Marxist, with non-Marxist, etc.

Overall this is a good book if you've already read all three volumes, and are looking for intellectual stimulus, some ingenious ideas, interesting interpretations, etc. Or, it's a good book if you've already read Volume I and want to read just the first 100 pages. It is not a good book if you are actually looking for an introduction to all three volumes. David Harvey still has the best introduction to Volume I,* ever published, and there seems to be nothing worthwhile in here regarding volume II nor III. While I wrestled a lot with my own opinions on volume I (only because I've read Harvey's companion, and the actual book twice) and found that particular wrestling educationally worthwhile, I learned nothing about volume II I hadn't already picked up on actually reading it, independent of this authors interpretation. Moreover, Ernest Mandel's introduction in all three volumes of Capital is a far more consistent, and helpful introduction to each volume of Capital, albeit equally aggressive. Thus, don't read this book as introduction, but as food for thought, and a source to challenge your own reading of Marx. It should be retitled "Re-Interpreting Marx's Capital, in the 21st Century."

One final note. Clearly Monthly Review press has some trouble publishing this book - it came out 2 months later than they indicated on the website - and the Preface to the book is riddled with errors. The first page alone contains approximately 10 grammar, and spelling errors. Don't let this foil the whole experience. Once you pass the preface, the proper editing and translation arises.

*like this author, Harvey also provides his own interpretation of Marx's Capital for the 21st century, but he at least does this alongside what Marx actually says, instead of presenting the interpretation as Marx's actual position. So with Harvey you can weigh the ideas, in a proper juxtaposition, whereas with this author you have to have already read Capital - and understood it - to juxtapose properly.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rebirth of a Classic Aug. 2 2013
By Sumi Miller - Published on
The classic of the critical analysis of capitalist production, Capital by Karl Marx, is admittedly heavy reading. More than 2500 pages, examples and references to economic theories that have little bearing on our times, plus the fact that Marx left only manuscripts behind outlining his second and third volumes, make it tough to get through this book very easily.

Since "Capital" - which remains current and relevant even today - cannot be republished in an updated edition, it's Michael Heinrich's achievement to summarize Marx's analysis of capitalist production within 200 pages in a clear and comprehensive way. His method is not to begin grubbing around in Marx's early works, expose so-called problems in Marx's predictionsm nor does he trace other philosophical interpretations. Heinrich's goal is solely concerned with Marx's explanation and criticism of capitalism. At the heart of Heinrich's argument is a clarification of Marx's analysis of value. He places special emphasis on outlining Marx's criticism of value - the benchmark for capitalist wealth. A benchmark in the face of which the question of what (quality), how (working conditions) and for whom products are being manufactured degenerates into a mere means of multiplying money. A criticism that is often misunderstood in leftist circles whenever Marxist theory of value is seen as a mere legality of an otherwise harmless commodity exchange, which would naturally belong to any form of economic activity. On the other hand, Heinrich maintains that: "Exploitation and the existence of "unpaid work" does not arise from violating the laws of commodity exchange, but rather in following them. If you want to abolish exploitation, then this is not going to happen by reforming the exchange relations within capitalism, but rather only by abolishing capitalism itself."

In the concluding chapter, Heinrich adds some reflections on the state and capitalism to make it clear that criticizing the political economy also implies a criticism of politics. In saying this, he then opposes the idealization of democracy he encounters in part in leftist circles that disregards the economic context of democracy.

An excellent follow-up to Heinrich's book are the books by Hermann Lueer:Why Hunger? Arguments against the Market and by Christian Siefkes:From Exchange to Contributions: Generalizing Peer Production into the Physical World
16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best presentation of Marx'x CAPITAL Aug. 28 2012
By Swahili - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Heinrich's Introduction to Marx's CAPITAL is a very important work for many a reason. First of all, its language is clear, precise and accurate, so that everybody will be able to understand very difficult terms like surplus value, avarage profit, etc.; secondly, Heinrich's analysis is comprehensive because it is not focused only on the first volume of Marx's CAPITAL but it takes into account all the three volumes. Thus everybody who is interested in Marxism and in the study of the current stage of capitalism will benefit from reading this Introduction.

Prof. Luciano Vitacolonna
University of Chieti-Pescara (Italy)
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very good book to read -- July 16 2013
By Ed Evans - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is an important read for me. I left off reading what others write about Marx after reading Althusseer's For Marx, a nice book too.
Marx tells us in Capital, 1:638, that "Capitalist production, therefore, only develops techniques and the degree of combination of the social process of production by simultaneously undermining the original sources of all wealth -- the soil and the worker."

As I lean back in my chair and consider the state of the world, the diminished value of labor, global warming, and war after war, I believe books like Heinrich's do us all a favor by pointing to Marx's insightful comments. I'll now return to Capital's 3 volumes with the enthusiasm Heinrich's introduction inspired.

Marx did give us a critique of capitalism's economic categories, naturalized and reified, upside down by another perspective.

eddie evans
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