Review: A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy

A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy
A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy by Karl Marx
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is a curious mixture. As noted by David McLellan in his “Karl Marx – Selected Writings” the bulk of the text itself is essentially repeated in reworked form as the first chapters of volume 1 of Capital. It is an interesting but dense read covering commodities and money.

The real interest lies in the very well known Preface (found in it’s entirety in McLellan’s Selected Writings) and the unpublished Introduction which was found in Marx’s papers and published after his death. Both are included in the 1971 Lawrence & Wishart edition.

The Preface is often regarded as the standard statement of historical materialism, and includes what McLellan describes as a short “intellectual biography”. It is a short but interesting read.

The Introduction is more detailed and covers Marx’s approach to method. It makes a good follow up read to Dance of the Dialectic: Steps in Marx’s Method. Reading the Introduction you can trace the key elements brought out by Ollman such as how Marx uses abstractions, vantage point and a theory of internal relations to develop his analysis. In short it is a practical description by Marx of his basic analytical approach.

In summary I agree with McLellan’s view that the book itself is of less value as it is generally repeated in more depth in Capital itself. The Preface and Introduction are more valuable, in particular the less well known Introduction as a description by Marx himself of his analytical method.

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