Capital Volume I: A Critique of Political Economy
by Karl Marx | Read by Derek Le Page
Capital is one of the half-dozen most important economic texts of the past 200 years – and perhaps the most readable. Volume One contains the key material. How great to settle into a good reading.
Marx takes the labor theory of value as developed by Adam Smith and others and shows its implications for workers, managers, and owners – a worthy goal, and critical reading for anyone interested in economics regardless of your outlook.
No, Marx can’t “prove” that labor is the basis of all economic value. That’s because you can’t prove ANY theory of value – you always wind up assuming what you set out to prove. All you can do is show the implications of starting from a particular theory.
What Marx shows is, IF you accept that labor is the core of economic value, here is how capitalism structures economic relations. He shows the source of profit (from the exploitation of productive labor, he famously concludes), how banks, insurance companies,and other non-productive firms fit into the picture, the role of management – and most of all, how working people are getting ripped off by owners, stock-holders, etc.
Big surprise, eh?
Basically, the labor theory of value makes sense to those of us who work for a wage or a fixed, contracted salary with no “stock options”. For the managing and owning classes and those who dream of joining them, there are obvious incentives NOT to accept this theory. Suit yourself.
Have Marx’s economic ideas ever been applied by “communist” countries? For the most part, no – so-called socialist countries have mainly applied totalitarian capitalist methods, with mixed results. Russia, China and the rest have been state-capitalist, not popular-socialist, systems.
We’re still waiting for the world’s first workers’ democracy. The first steps include grasping how capital functions and how it structures our world. This recording is a welcome contribution.
Reviewed by Luke Hauser