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Marx's "Das Kapital" (September 14, 1867)


On September 14, 1867 German philosopher, political economist, historian, political theorist, sociologist, communist, and revolutionary Karl Marx published Das Kapital. Kritik der politischen Oekonomie. . . . Erster Band. Buch I: Der Produktionsporcess des Kapitals. . . . in Hamburg, Germany at the press of Otto Meissner. Characterized by Marx as a continuation of his Zur Kritik der politischen Oekonomie (1859), Das Kapital

"was in fact the summation of his quarter of a century's economic studies, mostly in the Reading Room of the British Museum. The Athenaeum reviewer of the first English translation (1887) later wrote: 'Under the guise of a critcal analysis of capital, Karl Marx's work is principally a polemic against capitalists and the capitalist mode of production, and it is this polemical tone which is its chief charm.' The Historical-polemical passages, with their formidable documentation from British official sources, have remained memorable; and, as Marx (a chronic furunculosis victim) wrote to Engels while the volume was still in the press, 'I hope the bourgeoisie will remember my carbuncles all the rest of their lives . . . ."

"By an odd quirk of history the first foreign translation of Das Kapital to appear was the Russian, which Petersburgers found in their bookshops early in April 1872. Giving his imprimatur, the censor, one Skuratov, had written 'few people in Russia will read it, and still fewer will understand it.' He was wrong: the edition sold out quickly; and in 1880 Marx was writing to his friend F. A. Sorge that 'our success is still greater in Russia, where Kapital is read and appreciated more than anywhere else."

"Only this first volume of Marx's magnum opus appeared in his lifetime, though in a letter to friend Dr. Kugelmann in the autumn of 1866, when he was working over the manuscript, he described a four-book three-volume work on lines identical with those edited after his death by Friedrich Engels. Thus vol. 1 is the 'Critical Analysis of Capitalist Production' including the central concept of surplus-value: vol. II (1885) discusses the process of circulation of capital; vol. III (1894) the process of capitalist production as a whole. Marx's fourth section, on the history of economic theory, exists only in the form of a book, edited from his voluminous notes by Karl Kautsky, entitled Theorien über den Mehrwert ('Theories of Surplus Value) 3 vols., 1903-10)" (Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man [1967] no. 359.)