Indeed, this "forgotten" volume, suggests Ernest Mandel in his stimulating Introduction, occupies a "key place in the monumental theoretical construction". For it is here that Marx analyses in depth the specific problems of the commodity - the basic cell of capitalist wealth - and fills in his picture of the market and the nature of value and surplus-value. That in turn allows him to show why capitalist growth will always be "uneven, disproportionate and unharmonious" and to formulate his "awe-inspiring prediction, borne out by empirical evidence ever since," about "the only possible remedy for economic crises of over-production and social crises of class struggle". The result is a work of immense power and subtlety, one of the greatest achievments in the whole of social science.
Karl Marx was born in 1818 in Trier, Germany and studied in Bonn and Berlin. Influenced by Hegel, he later reacted against idealist philosophy and began to develop his own theory of historical materialism. He related the state of society to its economic foundations and mode of production, and recommended armed revolution on the part of the proletariat. Together with Engels, who he met in Paris, he wrote the Manifesto of the Communist Party. He lived in England as a refugee until his death in 1888, after participating in an unsuccessful revolution in Germany. Ernst Mandel was a member of the Belgian TUV from 1954 to 1963 and was chosen for the annual Alfred Marshall Lectures by Cambridge University in 1978. He died in 1995 and the Guardian described him as 'one of the most creative and independent-minded revolutionary Marxist thinkers of the post-war world.'
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