ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Rereading Das Kapital in the 21st Century

Marx’s Capital (three volumes) offers a unified framework to make sense of some of the most troubling issues facing humanity today, in particular, rising economic inequality, deepening economic instability, and growing unsustainability of human–nature interactions, signifying a looming planetary crisis. To the extent that the text throws light on capitalism in the abstract that transcends the unique features of the English or European context, it offers us various insights and critiques about how to understand and intervene in societies beyond Europe.

I acknowledge the comments of Sripad Motiram on an earlier draft. 

Marx’s Capital (Volumes 1, 2 and 3) is still perhaps the most compelling analytical text that both illuminates and offers the most radical critique of the structure and dynamics of the capitalist economic system. Different people have found different aspects of Capital interesting, and worth exploring further. For me, it is foremost a text (along with other insights of Marx, and Marxists) that offers a unified framework to make sense of some of the most troubling issues facing us today. In particular, three issues have acquired paramount importance over the last three to four decades—rising economic inequality (class divide), deepening economic instability (crises), and growing unsustainability of human–nature interactions (metabolic rift), signifying a looming planetary crisis.

These three issues (inequality, instability and unsustainability) can be understood through the framework that Marx outlined in this text that took more than three decades of thinking and writing about capitalism (though the text ultimately remained incomplete going by Marx’s own outline of it in the Grundrisse). Marx’s primary argument is that these three issues cannot be addressed simply by reforming the system but that they are endemic to the way the capitalist system works. It then follows that an enduring solution to these issues cannot be found within capitalism, making an anti-capitalist political agenda absolutely imperative.

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