Liner Notes to Das Kapital: Marx and Engels Comment

Published on political affairs pa, by Thomas Riggins, July 1, 2009.

Anyone who reads Marx’s great work Capital today, and the number of new readers is growing, will find, before they hit the first chapter, six prefaces (four to German editions and one each to the French and English editions) and two afterwords (to the French and to the second German editions). Some readers just skip over these preliminary writings and jump into the text, which is fine. This is a good way to get right into the heart of what Marx has to say. But after the first chapter or so it’s a good idea to go back and read what you have skipped over. 

There are some interesting remarks and comments from both Marx and Engels to be found there that, if kept in mind, will really help in understanding what Marxism is all about. My purpose here is to highlight some of these remarks that I think are particularly important and to comment on them. I invite readers to comment on this article if they think I have left out anything that should have been highlighted or have misinterpreted a passage. I am not going to go over all the prefaces and afterwords, just the ones I think are the most important.

Marx: Preface to the First German Edition, 1867: …

… The challenge facing us now is see how we can deal with the present world economic crisis on the basis of a modern understanding of Marx’s great book. (full text).

(Thomas Riggins is associate editor of Political Affairs).

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