Sunday, January 24, 2010

Das Kapital

Since I recently listened to 2 audiobooks on The Wealth of Nations, I figured that I ought to look at Das Kapital. So I listened to this audiobook, which is part overview of the book and part biography of Karl Marx, describing the conditions surrounding his writing it, as well as its reception throughout the world. It was quite interesting - and only 3.5 hours long (3 CDs). Others agree, as it currently has 4.5 stars from 6 Amazon reviewers (wow, only 6!). Here's the publisher's description:
In vivid detail, Francis Wheen tells the story of Das Kapital and Karl Marx’s twenty-year struggle to complete his unfinished masterpiece. Born in a two-room flat in London’s Soho amid political squabbles and personal tragedy, the first volume of Das Kapital was published in 1867, to muted praise. But after Marx’s death, the book went on to influence thinkers, writers, and revolutionaries, from George Bernard Shaw to V. I. Lenin, changing the direction of twentieth-century history. Wheen’s captivating, accessible book shows that, far from being a dry economic treatise, Das Kapital is like a vast Gothic novel whose heroes are enslaved by the monster they created: capitalism. Furthermore, Wheen argues, as long as capitalism endures, Das Kapital demands to be read and understood.

A couple things stuck with me. Marx reviewed official British government data cataloging worker conditions and related industrial profits. Many grumbled about the poor laborer conditions, but he was the first to examine the official data. Alternatively, the book reportedly includes plenty of rambling anecdotal stories of horrid conditions and profiteering industrial magnates. Marx repeatedly prophecised the self-destruction of capitalist systems, which never occurred. Das Kapital was published in 1867 when Marx was living in London. It was published in German and nobody was interested in translating it to English. It was translated into Russian and published there in 1872, skirting the heavy censorship and finding a great audience there.

I'm not quite done with my personal education in economic history. I plan to read "Fiat Money Inflation in France" (1933), by Andrew Dickson White (1st President of Cornell University). That one was recommended by my well-read friend Tom. This one is available as a free PDF download from the Mises Institute here. And, speaking of Mises, I've just received "The Theory of Money and Credit" (1912) by Ludwig von Mises from Amazon. Here's the wikipedia page for this one. If you're educated in this field and can detect a thread of bias in my reading, then I'd welcome the heads up.

ps: I'm not sure why the text formatting doesn't properly revert after I employed the blockquote tag. Probably some messup with the CSS template I'm using. Sorry for that.

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