chapter  6
17 Pages

Introduction to an Italian edition of Capital

Das Kapital is, I suppose, the most controversial work on Political Economy ever to have been written. The subject of more and sharper controversy even than was Ricardo's Principles, it has probably met with wider extremes of praise and denigration than any other work of its kind. More frequently refuted than most economic theories-and when not being refuted it was as often as not in academic circles ignored-it has survived to be accepted over a large part of the contemporary world as the authoritative interpretation of capitalist society. Even in the last decade of the nineteenth century a foremost critic could say that 'Marx has become the apostle of a wide circle of readers, including many who are not as a rule given to the reading of difficult books' (BohmBawerk). Despite the passion his doctrines have aroused, however, there are those among his academic critics who have estimated his intellectual contribution soberly. Joseph Schumpeter, for example, in his monumental History of Economic Analysis, says of Marx that 'the totality of his vision, as a totality, asserts its right in every detail and is precisely the source of the intellectual fascination experienced by everyone, friend as well as foe, who makes a study

ownership, or any distinction between the propertied and the propertyless, is relegated to the category of social or sociological factors, excluded from the domain of economic theory per se, and not affecting the formal structure of that theory (merely affecting, perhaps, the value of some of the variables involved). As is wellknown, the shape assumed by a theoretical model is itself a selection of the facts and the events to be studied; hence however impeccable or elegant its logic it can represent a biased selection which may distort our vision of the real world, instead of illuminating it. One result of the increasing formalisation of economic theory in recent decades has been to render its analysis of market equilibrium almost entirely quantitative in character, leaving little or no room for qualitative differentia, and certainly no room for differentia of a so-called socia-economic kind. What Marx called the 'fetishism of commodities' is thus able to ripen behind this imposing fa~ade to an unnatural degree. It is hardly surprising that a relationship such as 'exploitation' or the characterisation of income as a 'surplus' should cease to have any meaning within this context; and that even so sympathetic a critic as Mrs Joan Robinson should dismiss the notions of exploitation and surplus value as moral judgments masquerading as economic concepts.