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A concise presentation of the basic principles of political economy.


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A concise presentation of the basic principles of political economy.

30 review for An Introduction to Marxist Economic Theory

  1. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    Want to get a effective understanding of Marxist economics, yet don't feel like slogging through all three volumes of "Capital"? Look no further than this little jewel. Mandel explains the subject matter with great clarity and wisdom. Best introduction to the subject that I've come across.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Bethany

    Ernest Mandel puts a finer point on many of the concepts Marx introduces in Capital, Volume One. He teases out the ramifications for a mid-20th century world of the Marxian theory of the declining rate of profit, collaboration of the state with capitalist industry (neo-capitalism), the role of the state in crises of over-production, and economic colonialism. Mandel’s account of Marx is astute and elegant; his grasp of Marx was apparent. However, I propose that Mandel is a little too uncritical o Ernest Mandel puts a finer point on many of the concepts Marx introduces in Capital, Volume One. He teases out the ramifications for a mid-20th century world of the Marxian theory of the declining rate of profit, collaboration of the state with capitalist industry (neo-capitalism), the role of the state in crises of over-production, and economic colonialism. Mandel’s account of Marx is astute and elegant; his grasp of Marx was apparent. However, I propose that Mandel is a little too uncritical of Marx on certain important topics, including the question of whether there is really a tendency to a declining rate of profit and the question of the usefulness of Marx’s model of the “crisis of overproduction.” Here and there in An Introduction to Marxist Economic Theory, Mandel leaves the reader clues as to the historical-political position from which he writes. Early in the book, Mandel asserts that “every step forward in the history of civilization has been brought about by an increase in the productivity of labor…as long as a given group of men barely produced enough to keep itself alive, as long as there was no surplus over and above this necessary product, it was impossible for a division of labor to take place and for artisans, artists or scholars to make their appearance” (7). This view roughly indicates Mandel’s place in the broad and varied history of critics of capitalism: unlike Derrick Jensen and other radically anti-capitalist environmentalists who endorse a return to subsistence living, Mandel adopts Marx’s conviction that capitalism creates the necessary preconditions for communism, that it provides organizational strategies essential to the production of sufficient surplus-value for the advancement of societies. Before I write anything else, I want to pause and note that Mandel seems to equivocate on the definition of surplus-value in the early chapters of his book. According to Mandel, exchange-value and surplus-value are not intrinsically detrimental, but that the methods according to which they are distributed dictate their effects on people. He writes that “as long as there was no surplus over and above this necessary product, it was impossible for a division of labor to take place…” (7). I am confused on this point, because I thought that surplus-value would disappear if the working-class were to be compensated equally for the value that its labor added to the commodities in question. I am pretty sure that this is simply a misunderstanding on my part, but if anyone can describe what a situation in which workers were remunerated fairly (perhaps equally) for their labor and still generated surplus value would look like, I would appreciate it. Mandel offers a very handy tool for visualizing Marx’s labor theory of value in his “proof by reduction to the absurd.” Imagine, he writes, a world in which every possible kind of “living human labor” has become mechanized and/or automated. Mandel asks, “Can there be a society where nobody has an income but commodities continue to have a value and to be sold?” (28). I thought this exercise was helpful insofar as it stripped away peripheral details to reveal that at the heart of profit-making there is human labor. Now I want to address the question of the tendency to the declining rate of profit under capitalism. There seem to be a few glaring lacunae in Mandel’s explanation of Marx’s theory, but Mandel nonetheless forges ahead with his own argument. Marx came up with the expression (S/C+V) to express the rate of profit under capitalism, where S stands for surplus-value, C for constant capital, and V for variable capital. Mandel runs with Marx’s expression for the organic composition of capital (C/V) and with Marx’s conviction that savvy capitalists are always tempted to purchase technologically-advanced constant capital to reduce the socially-necessary labor-time of production and reduce variable capital expenses. He notes that an increasing organic composition of capital would produce a declining rate of profit, because the denominator in the expression S/C+V would grow, while S, presumably, would not change. Mandel writes that capitalists can maintain the former, higher rate of profit by increasing the rate of exploitation, which is expressed by S/V. I wonder, though, what the incentive for increasing the organic composition would be if it did not yield increased surplus-value? If S were to grow simply due to an increase in the organic composition (which I assume is the point of increasing the organic composition), there would be no need to increase the rate of exploitation. Mandel notes that in reality there are limitations to the apparent solution of increasing the rate of exploitation. There is no upward limit to the expense of constant capital (new technologies), but there is a limit to the amount of surplus-labor that a human worker can produce in one day. Capitalists rely on the exploitation of human labor – the idea that the worker replaces the cost of his labor and gives the excess surplus-labor and surplus-product to the capitalist. Without some positive value for variable capital, there would be no value for S – no surplus value at all. I wonder if this is a plausible situation. One of the biggest challenges I faced as I read first Marx and then Mandel was trying to conceptualize scenarios like the one I have just described, for example, one in which a capitalist had no variable capital expenses, only constant capital expenses. In that case, Marx’s expression for the capitalist rate of profit and for the organic composition of capital would be useless. How would this sort of business coexist with businesses that still employed human workers? Would there be any explanatory framework, like the one that Marx hashes out in Capital, to reveal the terms on which these different kinds of business carry out transactions? If the scenario described above is plausible – indeed, if it is already a reality – what insight can Marx offer? The second and last issue that I want to touch on is Mandel’s brilliant explication of neo-capitalism, and the gradual merging of monopoly capital’s interests with the state’s. One persistent question I have, thinking back to my reading of Capital and then Mandel’s book, is how the initial bond or alignment between the state and the capitalist class occurred. I can see the (civic and economic) reasons for the state intervening in the economy in the case of economic crises, but how did this relationship begin, and what conditions preserve it? It is worth giving a quick overview of at least one way in which the state and the capitalist class collaborate. Mandel gives a lot of attention to the crisis of over-production, which he holds up as the classic crisis of capitalism. I think that his explication of the state’s role in crises of over-production does provide some keys to understanding the American government’s response to the 2008 financial crisis, and it is actually exactly at this point that my questions begin. I will present those at the end of this essay. States have an interest in softening the blows of cyclical crises of overproduction because these crises spread like wildfire and can result in sudden mass unemployment and therefore the disintegration of social order. It seems reasonable to imagine that elected politicians consider their both their future careers in politics and the welfare of the countries they have decided to lead when responding to crises. Mandel describes how these crises proliferate: one consumer-goods industry produces too many of a particular commodity; worse than breaking even, these firms lose money and have to lay off workers. The unemployed workers obviously now lack the income to spend on goods they used to buy. Now, industries producing those goods find themselves producing too much, and in turn must lay off workers. The firms that supply the consumer-goods firms with their heavy machinery also suffer because demand has decreased and now they are producing too much, as well. State-funded entitlement programs like unemployment insurance, food stamps, universal health coverage, and others protect workers from the uncertainties they face as workers, alienated from the means of production. Mandel calls these entitlements “deferred wages” because they fall neatly into the category of the necessary means of subsistence, which capitalists are obligated to pay employees in order to profit. Paradoxically, entitlements also protect the capitalist classes from the uncertainties associated with the continual upgrading of constant capital. Upgrades in constant capital free capitalist firms from their variable capital costs, but can also depress demand for their products; so it is critical that even while they are unemployed, workers can afford to spend on consumer goods and preserve the status quo. Given this arrangement, it makes perfect sense that the federal government decided to bail out Wall Street in 2008: not to bail the financial sector out would have disastrous ripple effects for the rest of the country (even with the bailout, millions of working and middle-class Americans have suffered). But my question is, how can we recognize in the housing and financial crisis – the catchwords of which were collateralized debt obligations, subprime mortgages, and lax regulation – the “classic” capitalist crisis of overproduction?

  3. 5 out of 5

    Waleed

    هو مقدمه للاشتراكيه العلميه , يبدا من بدايه التاريخ كتاب بسيط يشرح مواضيع كثيره , على عكس طول ابوابه التى تتمز بالبساطه يتحول الى الصعوبه فى الفصل الاخير عند الحديث عن الماديه الجدليه يمكن القراه عنها فى كتاب اصول الفلسفه الماركسيه ؟ http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13... - الكتاب الافضل كمقدمه للماركسيه هو كتاب كيف تعمل الماركسيه لكريز هيرمن http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18... هو مقدمه للاشتراكيه العلميه , يبدا من بدايه التاريخ كتاب بسيط يشرح مواضيع كثيره , على عكس طول ابوابه التى تتمز بالبساطه يتحول الى الصعوبه فى الفصل الاخير عند الحديث عن الماديه الجدليه يمكن القراه عنها فى كتاب اصول الفلسفه الماركسيه ؟ http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13... - الكتاب الافضل كمقدمه للماركسيه هو كتاب كيف تعمل الماركسيه لكريز هيرمن http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18...

  4. 4 out of 5

    Joana Nicieza

    Ernest Mandel (1923 – 1995) fue un economista e historiador belga, autor de numerosos estudios sobre la economía marxista, el capitalismo, el fascismo, el poder norteamericano, etc. En 1974 publicó esta Introducción a la economía marxista, libro que tiene su origen en una serie de lecciones que el autor impartió a un grupo de militantes socialistas en París. A lo largo de tres capítulos, el economista belga resume los rasgos esenciales de la economía marxista con una extraordinaria diafanidad ex Ernest Mandel (1923 – 1995) fue un economista e historiador belga, autor de numerosos estudios sobre la economía marxista, el capitalismo, el fascismo, el poder norteamericano, etc. En 1974 publicó esta Introducción a la economía marxista, libro que tiene su origen en una serie de lecciones que el autor impartió a un grupo de militantes socialistas en París. A lo largo de tres capítulos, el economista belga resume los rasgos esenciales de la economía marxista con una extraordinaria diafanidad expositiva. Por ello, este libro resulta idóneo para todo aquel que esté interesado en iniciarse en el estudio de la economía marxista. El primer capítulo está dedicado a la teoría del valor y de la plusvalía, sosteniendo que todos los progresos de la civilización vienen determinados por el aumento de la productividad en el trabajo. Inicia su exposición definiendo conceptos como trabajo necesario / trabajo sobrante, valor de uso / valor de cambio, plusvalía y alienación. A continuación, explica la teoría del valor-trabajo, en la que el valor de cambio de una mercancía está determinada por la cantidad de trabajo socialmente necesario para producirla. Para demostrar la teoría del valor-trabajo, expone tres pruebas, a saber, una prueba analítica (el precio de todas las mercancías puede reducirse a un cierto numero de elementos, como la reconstitución del capital fijo, el precio de las materias primas, el salario, la plusvalía...); una prueba lógica (la cualidad común de todas las mercancías es la de ser todas ellas productos del trabajo humano); y una prueba por el absurdo (en el momento en que el trabajo humano desaparece de la producción, el valor desaparece igualmente). El segundo capítulo se centra en el estudio del capital y el capitalismo, que tiene como precedente la pequeña producción mercantil de la sociedad precapitalista. Mandel resume los orígenes del modo de producción capitalista en la separación de los productores de sus medios de producción; en la constitución de estos medios de producción como monopolio en manos de una única clase social, la burguesa; y en la aparición del proletariado moderno, clase social que, al quedar separada de sus medios de producción, no tiene más recursos para subsistir que la venta de su fuerza de trabajo a la clase que ha monopolizado dichos medios. Después, el autor explica, por un lado, la competencia, que es el mecanismo fundamental de la economía capitalista, y, por otro, la composición orgánica del capital, que es la relación entre el capital constante (parte del capital que se convierte en máquinas, instalaciones, materias primas...) y el capital variable (salarios). Llegados a este punto, el economista belga expone cómo el desarrollo constante del maquinismo conduce a un inevitable descenso de la tasa media de beneficio, lo que constituye una de las principales causas de las crisis capitalistas. Por último, el tercer capítulo está dedicado al neocapitalismo, que es un capitalismo caracterizado, ante todo, por una intervención creciente de los poderes públicos en la vida económica.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Henrique Valle

    puta merda trotskista é muito burro tem que separar essa corja de imbecis do resto da sociedade é bem didatico mas vai tomar no cu, isso que da tentar levar um grupo de marxismo organizado pelo ESQUERDA DIARIO a sério

  6. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    A very accessible crash course in the basics of Marxist theory. Not a replacement for reading Marx himself, but fine as an introduction, companion, or refresher. The second half of the book deals with "neo-capitalism" and (from the perspective of 2017) is somewhat less interesting. Though his account of the Keynesianism of the 40s - 60s is probably very astute, he doesn't anticipate the rise of neoliberalism and thus only has a limited amount to say about the form capitalism has taken today.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Valdemar Gomes

    I don't know much about marxist economy, so he could be saying that the surplus value is made of ice cream and that value-form is codename for a "ghost of the market" and I'd believe him. Therefore, I can't say I liked it a lot for I am cautious and aware that this may have irregularities. As in fact, some irregularities are pointed out in this critique to another of Mandel (not this one). With that being said, I'm sure that I liked this for it was written in a elucidative, non-repeating way. Ex I don't know much about marxist economy, so he could be saying that the surplus value is made of ice cream and that value-form is codename for a "ghost of the market" and I'd believe him. Therefore, I can't say I liked it a lot for I am cautious and aware that this may have irregularities. As in fact, some irregularities are pointed out in this critique to another of Mandel (not this one). With that being said, I'm sure that I liked this for it was written in a elucidative, non-repeating way. Exceptions being in the parts in which he announces his own theories (neo-capitalism or as he later branded "late capitalism", which demonstrated very little change to err normal capitalism so the initial name was truly ill-founded) and the military economy.Also, his defence of his political programme in the last page is glued like a sticker, having provided no context or explanation whatsoever! Yet, he puts it there as if it's an obvious inference. Well, for a sticker to stick, glue is needed. Having provided none, it fell from my mind as soon as it was read. I think I've learned the basics of marxist economy with this and I can't wait to get more a profound reading in the future.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Eylem T

    Marksist ekonomi politiği genel teorisi ve hatlarıyla ele alan başarılı bir giriş kitabı.İkinci elden de olsa Das Capital'in ana hatlarını ele almış ve çok kritik etmeden anlatmıştır. Yeniden okunası..

  9. 4 out of 5

    Bahman Bahman

    این که مارکسیست ها این همه اصرار دارند رویا پردازی های عجیب و غریبشان را به اسم علم به دیگران بقبولانند واقعا از آن حرف های خنده دار است

  10. 5 out of 5

    VSOP

    90% of the book was a great summary of Marx's economic thought, from the law of value to commodity production and the tendency of the average rate of profit to fall. What baffled me a bit was the last 10%, where Mandel pivoted to calling for "structural anti-capitalist reforms" to counteract the private sector, despite calling progressive income tax a "myth of reformism" just a few pages earlier. Reformist snippets aside, does what it says on the cover: great introduction to Marxist economic the 90% of the book was a great summary of Marx's economic thought, from the law of value to commodity production and the tendency of the average rate of profit to fall. What baffled me a bit was the last 10%, where Mandel pivoted to calling for "structural anti-capitalist reforms" to counteract the private sector, despite calling progressive income tax a "myth of reformism" just a few pages earlier. Reformist snippets aside, does what it says on the cover: great introduction to Marxist economic theory.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Cheng

    In comparison to all the intros to Marxian economics that are harder to read than Capital itself, this one does its job quite well. But it's probably a little too basic for anybody who's not an absolute beginner. I'm also pretty suspicious of a lot of the stuff in Chapter 3 on neo-capitalism and am not so sure how well it's aged.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ansgar

    Si eres un inepto en economía como yo, pero te interesa el marxismo me ha parecido una buena forma de empezar. Se explica para tontos y desde el principio. Al fin entendí conceptos básicos que no había asimilado leyendo libros más centrados en la ideology y no en economía. PD: Es trotsko.

  13. 5 out of 5

    OSCAR Ortega

    Excelente introducción, útil para entender cómo los marxistas ven el movimiento económico y las relaciones de clase. Explora con habilidad los polémicos conceptos de plusvalía, neocapitalismo y explotación. En pocas palabras, un texto sin igual.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Federico Nemmi

    A clear and concise primer for anyone interested in Marxist economic theory. Don't be a fool like me: read this BEFORE reading Marx. Everything is going to be clearer.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mohamed Abdelnaser

    4.5/5

  16. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    Still after all these years an excellent analytical introduction to core categories and theories of Marxian political economy. The first two parts are in spite of some idiosyncrasies in the interpretation of Marx's crisis theory good presentations of the abstract labor theory of value and the theory of capitalist development that are very clearly delivered. The third part is a summary of his book Late Capitalism, and here he is less successful (given how out of date the analysis has become). Nev Still after all these years an excellent analytical introduction to core categories and theories of Marxian political economy. The first two parts are in spite of some idiosyncrasies in the interpretation of Marx's crisis theory good presentations of the abstract labor theory of value and the theory of capitalist development that are very clearly delivered. The third part is a summary of his book Late Capitalism, and here he is less successful (given how out of date the analysis has become). Nevertheless, the first 2/3rds is still a book to recommend to those new to Marx's Capital. The level of presentation is ideal for self-study. In a teaching context, in which an expert is lecturing, the book might be too basic. In other words, much of this material could be explained orally. But, given the short supply of good teachers, we are fortunate to have this book. As in other writings of Mandel, the writing style has all of the earmarks of a strong personality, and given how well he knows his stuff, it becomes compelling reading.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nacho

    This is the second time I read this book. It was the first book on Marxist economic theory I read, and it was extremely useful; still I decided I wanted to go over it again after having read about Marxism for a few years. The book is still enjoyable: the topics are covered in a very organised manner, and nothing is just mentioned in passing. I also managed to understand some bits that either went over my head the first time or that I didn't realise how important they were at the time. I was not t This is the second time I read this book. It was the first book on Marxist economic theory I read, and it was extremely useful; still I decided I wanted to go over it again after having read about Marxism for a few years. The book is still enjoyable: the topics are covered in a very organised manner, and nothing is just mentioned in passing. I also managed to understand some bits that either went over my head the first time or that I didn't realise how important they were at the time. I was not thrilled by the last third of the book, the one on neocapitalism, though. Highly recommended, Mandel does an incredible job in going over the main points of Marxist economic theory in an easy-to-follow way. It's nonetheless a book to be studied, not simply read.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Maxx

    Although it may have been written for the layperson of his time, what must have seemed basic to Mandel is quite dense to us today. Still, this little book is one of the best introductions to Marxian economic theory written in any era and at least its first two sections are as valuable now as they were when written. The section on Neo-Capitalism may seem a bit antiquated, but it also has its insights. Whatever problems one may have with Mandel, especially his notion that capitalism will undo itse Although it may have been written for the layperson of his time, what must have seemed basic to Mandel is quite dense to us today. Still, this little book is one of the best introductions to Marxian economic theory written in any era and at least its first two sections are as valuable now as they were when written. The section on Neo-Capitalism may seem a bit antiquated, but it also has its insights. Whatever problems one may have with Mandel, especially his notion that capitalism will undo itself, this book for the most part elegantly eschews these issues for a thorough discussion of the basics.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    This introduction manages to be very clear and concise, while fitting a lot of theory in. I'd like to say "dense," except that it's not unnecessarily difficult, although it requires careful reading to really get the concepts driven home. I've read this twice now (and many parts over many times) and I've learned something new each time. I found it helpful to read this along with other introductions to economics as it helps to understand the theory explained in different ways, from different angle This introduction manages to be very clear and concise, while fitting a lot of theory in. I'd like to say "dense," except that it's not unnecessarily difficult, although it requires careful reading to really get the concepts driven home. I've read this twice now (and many parts over many times) and I've learned something new each time. I found it helpful to read this along with other introductions to economics as it helps to understand the theory explained in different ways, from different angles.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Willow L

    Excellent. Crammed with ideas. A great introduction to Marxist economic theory. The third chapter is more difficult than the first and second, and deals specifically with 'neo-capitalism'. That makes this an incomplete introduction, because it doesn't deal with the developments in capitalism since 1967. The third section will be easier to understand if you are familiar with some history from the years 1940-1970.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Muhammed Mustapha

    كتاب دسم يتكلم عن التفاوت الاجتماعي والنضالات وكيف نشأت الملكية الخاصة والطبقات الاجتماعية و عن المرأة وعن فائض القيمة والامبريالية المباشرة والغير مباشرة عن طريق الشركاتعابرة القارات و الديليكتك المادي و الحتمية التاريخية ...واهم شئ هو انة اظهر ان الاشتراكية ليست جبرية وانما هي اختيارية يا اشتراكية يا بربرية ..ينصح بالقرأة بشدة و اظن انه يجب ا يقرأ مرتين لاستيعاب بعض النقاط بة ..

  22. 5 out of 5

    EvilRoySlade69

    Clear, concise, quick. It almost goes too fast. I had a minor understanding of Marxist economics before this and it basically helped to clear up some of my questions. It's surely not a complete overview of Marxist economics but it's a good start. I'm told Harvey's Companion to Capital is another good one but it is substantially longer.

  23. 4 out of 5

    mohammad firouzi

    فشرده شده همان کتاب بزرگ "علم اقتصاد" ارنست مندل. با همان تیزبینی و سادگی‌ در توضیح بحران‌های سرمایه داری. Merged review: برای کسانی‌ که وقت و حوصله‌‌ خوندن چند جلدی "سرمایه" مارکس رو ندارد. ماندل به مهمترین مباحث مارکس با زبانی ساده پرداخته.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Diolún Ó hUigínn

    A nice short introduction to some Marxist ideas without the complication of Capital. Short and concise it covers some things well. It has left me looking forward to getting into the Traité d'économie marxiste.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sophie

    I'm so bored when does break end

  26. 5 out of 5

    John

    A clear and succinct exposition of Marxist economic thought. Sadly it comes through crystal clear just how useless most of that thought is.

  27. 4 out of 5

    carl

    An excellent primer on Marxist (not Stalinist) economic theory.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Dan Sharber

    a very easy to read short explanation on marxist economic theory. he covers all the basics from capital without the deep explanations. easy to understand even for non-economists...

  29. 5 out of 5

    Dave Riley

    The very best easy to follow intyroduction to Marxist Economic Theory.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sa'id Hassan

    الكتاب تقيل وما ينفعش كمدخل . او يا اما المترجم كان حمار ومش عارف يترجم , يا اما انا اللي حمار وقت ما قريت الكتاب :D

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