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150 Years of 'Das Kapital': How Relevant Is Marx Today?


150 Years of 'Das Kapital': How Relevant Is Marx Today?

Jayati Ghosh

It is quite amazing that Karl Marx's Capital has survived and been continuously in print for the past century and a half. After all, this big, unwieldy book (more than 2000 pages of small print in three fat volumes) still has sections that are evidently incomplete. Even in the best translations, the writing is dense and difficult, constantly veering off into tangential points and pedantic debates with now unknown writers. The ideas are complex and cannot be understood quickly.


Cognitive theory interests me more and more. I find it hard to regard as benign the admonitions to NOT look at the past. How do you know where you are going if you are prevented from knowing from whence you have come?
So much of capitalism has ridden the coat tails of the “holy roman empire” - the distortion of the teachings of Christ by the emperor Constantine, adoption by the papacy issuing "papal bulls calling for the subjugation of non-christian (apparently no instruments of accurate empirical mirroring existed at the time), parleyed by European monarchs into the genocide of indigenous peoples to expand the empire. Enter the Doctrine of Discovery.Problem is that the methodologies are massaged into language, law and praxis still today. It is an addiction in the most severe sense of the term requiring deeply, deeply informed interventions for generations.
For a brief intro:


Greed is an historical constant


Not really. Numerous cultures developed social systems that were not based in greed.

The dominant culture today swept across the world largely by violence, and established greed-based society as the norm. But looking at the wide range of human societies that have developed over history, greed is definitely not a constant.


Let me be clear that I never even tried to read Das Kapital. But in my first theory seminar in a PhD program in Sociology, where I specialized in Soviet society, when asked to say with which theorist on the syllabus I most identified, I called myself “a Marxian.”

Many of my economic and political arguments continue to derive from the interpretations of Marx. I value collectivism and despise commodity fetishism, especially in the case of the US “health care” debates, which are mostly about turning care into a commodity. The whole “implosion of the ACA” argument is really about the insurance industry. People who have insurance are complaining about having to pay insurers more for “coverage,” but others have discovered what a change it makes to have coverage at all. I’ll have to look up whether Marx said anything about this industry that produces nothing, gains its capital from the commodities (people’s health) that it buys but does not sell. It seems to me the most evil arrangement ever imagined.


Webster, a constant doesn’t have to be consummate, does it?

My point is that the forces of exploitation which have shaped the vast
bulk of human history were and are propelled by an addiction to greed
and power, and are impelling it toward its end, unless our evolution
as a species is suddenly thrust into overdrive.


Harvey Helps!



What is money?
What is war?
What is debt?
What is slavery?

Marx just doesn’t do it for me.


Whilst I find it welcome to read an article on the relevance of Marx today I am afraid I don’t find this article helpful to a newcomer wanting to know the relevance. I find it abstract.
How does it show the relevance of our understanding of ‘value’, economies of scale, or boom and bust economic cycles.


Sorry, but cooperation and inter dependance are an historical constant.


Anyway, where in this article is human motivation greed raised. Marx is analysing a system - objective. Science


Another way to understand the life and works of Karl Marx is by looking at a series on Netflix called “Genius of Modern Civilization” presented by historian Bettany Hughes. She has a program about Marx, and others about Nietzsche and Freud. It is very good and provides a fine overview of the influences on Marx throughout his life and the resulting work he produced. It also examines the very beneficial friendship he had with Engels.


Excellent post!


A good and necessary article. As a whole, people in industrial nations have been taught to
avoid thinking about anything resembling Marxism, socialism and certainly communism,
in part because, historically, much of the heart of Marxism was wildly misinterpreted or
even betrayed, by people far outside the stream of the Enlightenment, easily corrupted
by unexamined provincialism and greed for power; viz. the Soviet Union. To seriously
begin deep, lasting systemic change, we need to fearlessly explore our past head on.
And this must include revisiting and re-analyzing Marxist thought, among others. One
thing, however, which will absolutely kill any chances for real understanding and systemic
change is that tendency which routinely cause the Left to tear itself apart: Insisting that
my ideas are better than yours…my way is the only way…my analysis is purer than yours.
Indeed, the source of this endemic divisiveness is a necessary field of research and study
in itself.