Capital (Das Kapital)

Karl Marx

Reviewed by: Cathy

Have you ever been tempted to take a peek inside this (in)famous book? Should you?

The Marxist bible

“Capital”, along with the “Communist Manifesto” by Marx and Engels, has been a holy book for millions of people all over the world for many decades. Many countries and regimes have adopted it in the exact same way devoted believers adopt their bible and to this day North Korea, China, and a few other countries and communities claim that this book is their essential guide.

In many ways, “Capital” is similar to sacred religious scriptures as it claims to have the one and only valid set of commands. It diagnoses the societies’ illnesses and prescribes the remedy to elevate the masses’ suffering. If you happened to disagree with what Marx wrote, then you are the evil enemy of the people and hence must be eliminated, according to the devotees. For many years, if you disagreed with Marx’s ideas in China, you could be considered mentally sick by psychiatrist and would be held in a mental institution.

A subjective & biased understanding of a narrow segment of reality

On 30th April 2018, the New York Times put a picture of Marx’s statue next to an article by Jason Barker entitled “Happy Birthday, Karl Marx. You Were right!”. Surprisingly, there are people all over the world who still claim that Marxism was good and practical. It was the faulty implementation, they argue when confronted with the disastrous consequences every country which adopted these ideas suffered. Over the ages, many scholars have penned hefty books to analyse and criticise Marx’s writings – see for example “Marxism: Philosophy and Economics” by Thomas Sowell. Most of these books, unfortunately, are complex and technical, and thus not very accessible.

For that reason, here we will analyse the book without the jargon used by specialists and without the usual sugar-coating used by many writers to seem neutral. In a nutshell, Capital is a script based on a biased personal understanding of a specific makeup and one type of relationships within certain European societies. This understanding is written in vague, philosophical language borrowed mainly from Hegel and formalised into laws that are supposed to apply to the diverse human societies. The book is neither scientific nor philosophical and it lacks clear definitions of the issues it discusses. Its theory is vague, naive, and it cannot be falsified which makes it appealing to specific types of people. (A theory must be falsifiable to be considered scientific. Religious dogma, for instance, is not falsifiable.)

Is ambition bad?

Marxism ignores the individual differences, capabilities, and desires. It overlooks the fact that greed, self-actualization, self-esteem, entrepreneurship, and competition are important motives that contribute immensely to the well-being of humans as well as they advance societies. They are not necessarily evil nor destructive. Loving yourself and desiring to live a better life than others is the essential force that encourages people to work hard, invent new things and come up with solutions. It is related to imagination as well as to ambition. Each person thinks of himself/herself as special and this belief, which is valid since everyone is genetically unique,  motivates them to find their passion and excel in it. Ambitious people can be described as greedy but at the same time it was them who contributed to human civilization and made the World a better place. The ones who invented all these machines as well as medications, created art and architecture could be described as greedy as they desired recognition and fame, so is this bad?

For more on Marxism, see our Journal.

Capital by Karl Marx