question from a novice

Justin Schwartz jschwart at freenet.columbus.oh.us
Fri Jan 27 22:35:11 MST 1995


I'm glad someone else out there like Schmitt's Introduction to Marx and
Engels. I repeat, it is superb.

I do not understand all the people who say a novice should start with
_Capital_, a really difficult book. A trade unionist acquaintance of Marx,
on receipt of a copy of the first edition, remarked that he felt like a
man whi had been given an elephant and didn't know what to do with it.

Likewise the early philosophical writings are pretty opaque, even if you
know some Hegel, Feuerbach, and the context.

The place to start with Marx's own writings is the Communist Manifesto,
very compressed but comparatively clear. As an introduction to his
economics in his own words, you still can't beat Wage Labor and Capital,
written for a working class audience. (This is pre-_Capital_; for Marx's
own summary of that theory, there is Wages, Price, and Profit.) For Marx's
politics, the essential texts are the description of the Paris Commune in
The Civil war in France and the Critique of the Gotha Program. For Marx's
ethics--his real ethics, not his official rejection of ethics--the
starting place is still the Alienated labor section of the Economic and
Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844.

None of this reading is easy, but this is probably the most accessible
route into Marx. Schmitt will provide commentary and interpretive framework.

--Justin Schwartz


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