Book Review: The Economics of Marx (Kautsky)

The Economic Doctrines of Karl Marx. By Karl Kautsky. Translated by H. J. Stenning. Published by A. & C. Black (1925), 4, 5 & 6, Soho Square, W.1. Price 5/- Net.

The essential economic teachings of Marx are to be found in the three volumes of Capital and the Poverty of Philosophy. The three volumes of Capital, as published in English by Kerr and Co., Chicago, contain about 2,400 pages, and Kautsky has endeavoured to epitomise this huge mass of material in 248 pages octavo.

Two reasons may be advanced for attempting such a task. One is to give a short survey of the main conclusions of the work in question for the purpose of saving students the time and trouble required to read the original.

The second is to present those conclusions in such simple language that a reader unacquainted with economics may be able to understand what he is reading.

On this second reason Kautsky has certainly failed. In no place is the book more simple than Marx, while in some cases, owing to the need for compression, it is more difficult for the beginner because the illustrations and detailed working out given in the original are absent in the epitome. This is noticeable in the two points that seem so difficult to the beginner, namely, the twofold character of labour, and the fetishism of commodities.

Against the first reason it may be urged that such an epitome tends to superficial study and the formulation of ready-made answers in the place of a solid understanding and firm grip of the subject.

But if these objections are overlooked, then one may agree that Kautsky has succeeded in his task with all the skill of a master. The essential points of Marx’s teachings are grouped together and their connection and interdependence clearly shown, while the chapter and sub-headings enable the reader to find any particular section with ease, despite the lack of an index.


(Socialist Standard, November 1925)