I have been reading Das Kapital Volume 3 by Karl Marx and writing chapter summaries, reflections and questions here on my blog. This page links to each chapter. At the time of writing this I have written entries for the first 15 chapters, but I’ve only yet posted the first 7 chapters, as I’ve been taking time to work on other projects. I hope that others who are reading through the book might not only find this blog useful but also use this space as a forum for discussion of different issues that are brought up by the reading. There is much we can learn from each other through such discussion.
Kapital Volume 3, opening thoughts
Part 1: The Conversion of Surplus-Value into Profit and of
the Rate of Surplus-Value into the Rate of Profit
Part 1 Chapter 1: Cost-Price and Profit
Part 1 Chapter 2: The Rate of Profit
Part 1 Chapter 3: The Relation of the Rate of Profit to the Rate of Surplus Value
Part 1 Chapter 4: The Effect of Turnover on the Rate of Profit
Part 1 Chapter 5: Economy in Constant Capital
Part 1 Chapter 6: The Effect of Price Fluctuations
Part 1 Chapter 7: Supplementary Remarks
Part 2: The Conversion of Profit into Average Profit
Part 2 Chapter 8- Different Compositions in Different Branches of Production and Resulting Differences in Rates of Profit
Part 2 Chapter 9: Formation of a General Rate of Profit (Average Rate of Profit) and Transformation of the Values of Commodities into Prices of Production
Part 2 Chapter 10: Equalisation of the General Rate of Profit Through Competition, Market Prices and Market Values, Surplus Profit
Part 2 Chapter 11: Effects of General Wage Fluctuations on Prices of Production
Part 2 Chapter 12: Supplementary Remarks
Part 3: The Tendency of the Rate of Profit to Fall
Part 3: Chapter 13: The Law as Such
Part 3: Chapter 14: Counter-Acting Influences
P3: Chapter 15: Exposition of the Internal Contradictions of the Law
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The link for ‘Part 2 Chapter 11: Effects of General Wage Fluctuations on Prices of Production’ doesn’t seem to be working.
Hmmmm…. the link seems to be working for me. Not sure what to do about that.
Trawled through the archives and the article didn’t show up either. Do you have it set to unpublished? Perhaps you could post the URL here and I’ll see if I have any luck?
AH! it was unpublished. Thanks for alerting me. It should be fixed now.
Cheers Brendan, finding this guide invaluable. Any plans to continue with the rest of the book?
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I am currently in a study group reading Capital III in Gothenburg, Sweden. We use your excellent blog as our main source to secundary literature. The problem: we are now at ch. 15 and soon we won’t be able to continue using the blog. So consider this a friendly exhortation to keep up the good work. We need you!
Yes, At some point I hope to get this project back up and running. But at the moment I am really feeling overwhelmed with other work. I actually at least one more chapter to post that I wrote and never got around to revising….
I’d be happy to send you my unfinished draft of my chapter 15 post. I also hope to return to this vol-3 project over the summer when I have more time. One of the reasons this project has been put on the back-burner is that the posts have received very little views and almost no comments. I was surprised-and flattered- to hear that a study group in Sweden was reading my posts! If you have found the posts useful please take the time to contribute to the discussion in the comment sections.
it would be highly appreciated if you presented your thoughts on cap. vol. 3 on youtube too! i would love to watch that.
I guess first I’ll have to finish this vol. 3 blogging project. I’m way behind schedule!
I for one would love it if you would keep posting on Vol III, as there are few other resources out there – and I’m almost to the last of your posts. I agree it would be nice to see more comments and discussion, as I am still a bit confused on things like how the general rate of profit is established – how such things might or do work in practice, etc.
This study guide, by Simon Clarke, to all 3 volumes may be useful:
Thanks, this is helpful – for Volume II as well. So few people pay any attention to it, but I found it informative if dull at times.
awesome. Clarke is really a good writer and a big help. I’ve really dug his book on crisis theory.
An interesting take on volume III of Capital. If I may add a few points concerning Marx’s point on the fetishism of commodities, a concept that is massively misinterpreted and misunderstood by all sorts of scholars.
Here are the four points he makes (in his own words!):
Whence, then, arises the enigmatical character of the product of labour, so soon as it assumes the form of commodities? Clearly from this form itself. (1) The equality of all sorts of human labour is expressed objectively by their products all being equally values; (2) the measure of the expenditure of labour power by the duration of that expenditure, takes the form of the quantity of value of the products of labour; and (3) finally the mutual relations of the producers, within which the social character of their labour affirms itself, take the form of a social relation between the products. (4) The sum total of the labour of all these private individuals forms the aggregate labour of society. Since the producers do not come into social contact with each other until they exchange their products, the specific social character of each producer’s labour does not show itself except in the act of exchange. In other words, the labour of the individual asserts itself as a part of the labour of society, only by means of the relations which the act of exchange establishes directly between the products, and indirectly, through them, between the producers.’
Here, the reference made to the significance of the use-value, exchange-value are usually left out or missed by most people.
Hello Friends and Moderator,
I really didn’t know where to put in this question So putting in here.
I have had a really hard time distinguishing the role of productive and unproductive labor in the creation of labor. Some Marxist economists such as Moseley argues – as perhaps Marx himself did- that unproductive labor does not create value their wage must be funded by the surplus labor created by the productive labor. Fred Moseley – in his article titled “The Rate of profit and the Future of Capitalism” went as far as to argue that since the ration between the wage of productive and unproductive soared in the recent decades leading to the fall in rate of profit. Here is the article: http://home.mtholyoke.edu/~fmoseley/Working_Papers_PDF/RRPE.pdf
On the contrary, other equally qualified Marxist Economists such as David Harvie argued otherwise. In his article http://www.commoner.org.uk/10harvie.pdf Harvie held that productive and unproductive both can produce labor.
Given that it’s true that both sorts of labor can create labor we have then to expand the sphere of production to circulation (Sales, Advertising, and Marketing) – it’s no longer valid then that value can only be created in production process because it can also be created in circulation (but not in exchange to be determined by the vagaries of the Market !). But it’s always difficult – perhaps impossible – to discern how new value can be created through ‘sales effort” or managerial operation?
I have another conception of the solution of this problem: Though no value is created in the circulation (sales and Advertising) or Managerial (unproductive labor) effort but these operations are indispensable baggage of Capitalism (I don’t mean to make the job of a manager or sales executive unenviable though !!) But then in what sense they – these unproductive labor – contribute to profit ? I think , again I may be seriously mistaken, the profit capitalist makes out of production process is just one of several kinds, that is, it’s generated out of surplus “value” and may be called “real profit”. However, a capitalist still has the way to maximize profit; in fact capitalists will not cease to forgo any chance to maximize profit until the commodity reaches the end consumer. Capitalists can maximize the profit by inflating the price of commodities, and thus creating value-price divergence, by creating a “brand” illusion – you no longer feel the same when you wear a Nike shoes. And in order to do that Capitalists need to expand its profit generating machine beyond the so-called productive labor; by engaging a vast amount of “sales effort” capitalists can create a vast amount of “fictitious” value, in a sense that this only temporal, and appropriate surplus value out of unproductive labor process just as it does in the production process. But this kind of profit is temporal in nature; the sooner other capitalists can create the same brand illusion or engage a more efficient sales tactics – that may include price undercutting – the sooner this profit will wipe out.
I don’t know if what I talked here makes any sense or not! But if anyone or the moderator makes some comments on it I would be highly indebted. Waiting for your reply.
Best Regards Sabya
Also, it’s understood that, as Marx and Adam Smith held, the market price of commodities tends to gravitate towards their natural price, that is their real value. So, equilibrium price is nothing but commodity’s natural price or value. We know the market price is always fluctuating, but what constitutes that fluctuation is not a natural phenomenon but rather the engagement of the so-called ‘unproductive labor’. It’s the ‘success’ of the ‘unproductive labor’ in the form “sales effort” which keep the market price suspended above commodities’ natural price and its failure drives it down. Capitalism, in order to realize more profit over surplus value, creates an illusionary world of brand, a coveting world in which possession of commodity becomes an epitome of social pride and honor; for example, the housing boom is caused rather by the frenzy of ‘My dream home’ than the real need of human beings, to possess a house then becomes an essential pursuit of the society; and advertising plays a pivotal role in instilling that frenzy.
By relentlessly forming a social opinion in favor of consumption and possession, “sales effort” unleashed by capitalists creates a fictitious demand thus inflating the price of houses substantially to over and above their “natural price” or value. But competition
leads other capitalists to adopting similar “means of circulation” – similar advertising tactics, and consequently causes oversupply and price adjustment. As in production process, the workers engaged in “sales effort” does not own the “means of circulation” and cannot by virtue of it, be paid the “surplus price” it creates over and above a commodity’s natural price. So, they are as well as exploited as their counterpart in the Production!
There are other ways as well by which ‘unproductive labor’ may contribute to profit inflation without participating in surplus value formation. Consider the case of corporate lobbyists who seek to persuade, coerce and bribes the state politicians and officials to lower the corporate tax, lessen ‘burden’ the labor law, etc.
Lastly, managerial effort has much to do with augmenting the surplus value. Managers, HR personnel hired by the capitalist lay down an appraisal system by which the ‘best’ is purportedly rewarded the most. This leads workers to compete predatorily with other and jacking up the average surplus value – every worker creates much more surplus value than he/she is expected to create ‘naturally’- which would otherwise have been lower.
So, effectively though the ‘best’ is rewarded, the capitalists pocket in the extra surplus value –due to the rise in average surplus value- created out of capitalists playing one worker against another!! But up in ladder, the “cunning” manager falls into the same capitalist trickery and becomes the victim of the same trap he himself laid out his subordinates!
Though the effect of these means manifest in three different avenues of profit making – price, after-tax profit and surplus value, they are all employed by the capitalist to raise profit and agents of these means are no less exploited than those in the sphere of production process.
Dear Brendan & others, kindly inform me on my confusion about whether I must begin with Capital Vol. 2 or Vol. 3 after finishing Vol. 1?
Pls note that am eager to gain good grounding in the issues such as Transformation problem, falling rate of profit, etc. Hence, which one to take up first- Vol. 2nd or 3rd?
— Pls reply soon. Its urgent.
volume 2! you’ve got to go with marx’s order of presentation, otherwise volume 3 doesn’t make sense. you have to be patient …. 🙂
The transformation of values into prices of production and the tendency of the rate of profit to fall are in Vol. 3. Do you HAVE to read Vol. 2 in order to understand these concepts? I respectfully disagree with Ed. George on this. Yes you should read Vol. 2 at some point in order to understand the logic behind Marx’s order of presentation. But this doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to understand the equation for the rate of profit if you don’t read every last sentence of Marx’s tedious reproduction tables in Vol. 2.
People read things out of order all of the time. This is fine. Marx didn’t write the books in order and he used a different method of presentation in the Grundrisse. If you want to be a Marx scholar maybe you should start with his thesis on Democratis and Epicurous and then read his collected works in chronological order. And before that read all of Hegel and Ricardo. But if you want to understand the rate of profit then read the chapters on the rate of profit. I didn’t read the three volumes of Kapital in order and I’m still alive.
If you are smart, motivated and critical you will figure out what you need to figure out from Vol. 3 and maybe you will be intrigued to go back to Vol. 2 to further contextualize your understanding.
Also Vol. 2 is boring as dirt. If you are just reading it to get to vol. 3 that is a long, long pay-off.
No, you don’t *have* to read volume 2 to follow volume 3, but if you do read volume 3 without volume 2 then you lose a lot of insights.
What you get out of volume 3 is: the equalisation of the rate of profit (the non-transformation non-problem, and here it’s chapter 10, not chapter 9 – the controversial one – that’s important); the tendency of the rate of profit to fall; merchant’s capital; and the credit system.
I don’t think you can effectively deal with these things without taking into account the circulation process of capital, turnover, and the reproduction of total social capital.
As a minimum, you need to read the first four and the last two chapters of volume 2, and chapters 8 and 9.
Thank you for your suggestions Brendan & Ed. Very helpful. I will start with Vol. III but will briefly refer the few chps. outlined by Ed. I can later on take up Vol. II thouroughly.
Vol II is the most boring to read, and maybe the hardest to get through, must it really must be read before Vol III. I also recommend reading the introduction to the Penguin edition by Ernest Mandel, as to why that is the case.
Just go to ed georges blog if you still want to read some key chapters and pull out the main ideas
Don’t forget “Volume 4”.
Yes I won’t. But can one take up Theories of Surplus vale [vol. 4] just after Vol. I? Or should one complete the three volumes first and then go for the last vol.?
God, Vol IV is just too long!
“Volume 4” is for the die-hard Marxists only (like me). I for one enjoyed Marx occasional amusing, even hilarious, notes on all the political economists he read in “volume 4”. It’s really a German thing (in those days). Max Weber for example had the same tendency.
In my view, start with volume I. Take your time with the book. Reread it. Then start on other volumes in a random order as Brendan wrote.
I’m gonna read Vol 4. I’m die hard. I’m just also…always reading a lot of other stuff, and incapable of neglecting other reading, to spend my time on a 1,600 page book at the moment.
Good plan. Tell me how your impressions of volume 4
Estoy intentado llevar a cabo una tarea similar a la suya. Este es el enlace:
Estoy intentado llevar a cabo una tarea similar a la suya. Este es el enlace:
My apologies Brendan for asking this question here on your blog but I for one, would really like to (re)visit any volume of Capital (preferably I, III or parts of IV) with other fellow travelers who are also interested and have the time. Suggestions are welcome, of course.