Critique of political economy

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Critique of political economy or critique of economy is a form of social critique that aims to reject the various social categories and structures which are constitutive of the contemporary form of resource allocation (i.e. "the economy"), according to the adherents of this form of critique. Critics of political economy also tend to critique economists' use of what they believe are unduly unrealistic axioms, faulty historical assumptions, and the normative use of certain purportedly descriptive narratives. [1] For example, they allege that economists tend to posit the economy as an a priori societal category. [2] [3] [4]


Those who engage in critique of economy tend to reject the view that the economy, and its categories, is to be understood as something transhistorical. [5] [6] They rather argue that it is a relatively new mode of resource distribution, which emerged along with modernity. [7] [8] [9] Hence, it is seen as merely one of many types of historically specific ways to distribute resources.

Critics of economy critique the given status of the economy itself, and hence don't aim to create theories regarding how to administer economies. [1] [10] [11] [4]

Critics of economy commonly view what is most commonly referred to as the economy as being bundles of metaphysical concepts, as well as societal and normative practices, rather than being the result of any "self-evident" or proclaimed "economic laws". [2] [4] [12] Hence they also tend to consider the views which are commonplace within the field of economics as faulty, or simply as pseudoscience. [13] [14] [3] [15]

There are multiple critiques of political economy today, but what they have in common is critique of what critics of political economy tend to view as dogma, i.e. claims of "the economy" as a necessary and transhistorical societal category. [16] [4]


John Ruskin in his thirties. John Ruskin in his thirties.jpg
John Ruskin in his thirties.

In the 1860s, John Ruskin published his essay Unto This Last which he came to view as his central work. [17] [18] [19] The essay was originally written as a series of publications in a magazine, which ended up having to suspend the publications, due to the severe controversy the articles caused. [18] While Ruskin is generally known as an important art critic, his study of the history of art was a component that gave him some insight into the pre-modern societies of the Middle Ages, and their social organisation which he was able to contrast to his contemporary condition. [18] [20] Ruskin attempted to mobilize a methodological/scientific critique of new political economy, as it was envisaged by the classical economists. [1]

Ruskin viewed "the economy" as a kind of "collective mental lapse or collective concussion", and he viewed the emphasis on precision in industry as a kind of slavery. [9] [21] Due to the fact that Ruskin regarded the political economy of his time as "mad", he said that it interested him as much as "a science of gymnastics which had as its axiom that human beings in fact didn't have skeletons". [2] Ruskin declared that economics rests on positions that are exactly the same. According to Ruskin, these axioms resemble thinking, not that human beings do not have skeletons, but rather that they consist entirely of skeletons. Ruskin wrote that he didn't oppose the truth value of this theory, he merely wrote that he denied that it could be successfully implemented in the world in the state it was in. [2] [18] He took issue with the ideas of "natural laws", "economic man" and the prevailing notion of "value" and aimed to point out the inconsistencies in the thinking of the economists. [1] As well as critiqued Mill for thinking that ‘the opinions of the public’ was reflected adequately by market prices. [22]

Gandhi, one of those who was influenced by Ruskin. Gandhi even translated his central work Unto This Last into Gujarati in 1908. He released the work under the title Sarvodaya, which means "universal uplift" or "progress of all". Mahatma-Gandhi, studio, 1931.jpg
Gandhi, one of those who was influenced by Ruskin. Gandhi even translated his central work Unto This Last into Gujarati in 1908. He released the work under the title Sarvodaya, which means "universal uplift" or "progress of all".

Ruskin also coined the term 'Illth' to refer to unproductive wealth. Ruskin is not well known as a political thinker today but, when in 1906 a journalist asked the first generation of Labour MPs which book had most inspired them, Unto This Last emerged as an undisputed chart-topper.

[...] the art of becoming "rich," in the common sense, is not absolutely nor finally the art of accumulating much money for ourselves, but also of contriving that our neighbours shall have less. In accurate terms, it is "the art of establishing the maximum inequality in our own favour."

Ruskin, Unto this last


Marx and Engels regarded much of Ruskin's critique as reactionary. His idealisation of the Middle Ages made them reject him as a "feudal utopian". [18]


Karl Marx, author of Das Kapital (Das Kapital. Kritik der politischen Okonomie
) [Capital: A Critique of Political Economy]. Karl Marx.png
Karl Marx, author of Das Kapital (Das Kapital. Kritik der politischen Ökonomie) [Capital: A Critique of Political Economy].

In the 21th century, Karl Marx is probably the most famous critic of political economy, with his three volume magnum opus Capital: A Critique of Political Economy as one of his most famous books. [25] However Marx's companion Friedrich Engels also engaged in critique of political economy in his 1844 Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy , which helped lay down some of the foundation for what Marx was to take further. [26] [27] [28] Marx's critique of political economy encompasses the study and exposition of the mode of production and ideology of bourgeois society, and its critique of Realabstraktionen ["real abstraction"], that is, the fundamental "economic", i.e., social categories present within what for Marx is the capitalist mode of production, [29] [30] for example abstract labour.[ clarification needed ] [31] [4] [32] In contrast to the classics of political economy, Marx was concerned with lifting the ideological veil of surface phenomena and exposing the norms, axioms, social relations, institutions and so on, that reproduced capital. [33]

The central works in Marx's critique of political economy are Grundrisse , A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy and Das Kapital. Marx's works are often explicitly named  for example: A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, or Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. [34] [25] [16] Marx also cited Engels' article Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy several times in Das Kapital. However Trotskyists and other Leninists tend to implicitly or explicitly argue that these works constitute and or contain "economical theories" which can be studied independently. [35] [36] [37] This was also the common understanding of Marx's work on economy that was put forward by Soviet orthodoxy. [38] [35] Since this is the case, it remains a matter of controversy whether Marx's critique of political economy is to be understood as a critique of the political economy or, according to the orthodox interpretation another theory of economics. [39] [40] The critique of political economy is considered the most important and central project within marxism which has led to, and continues to lead to a large number of advanced approaches within and outside academic circles. [16] [41] [42]

Foundational concepts

Marx's critique of the quasi-religious and ahistorical methodology of economists

Marx described the view of contemporaneous economists and theologians on social phenomena as similarly unscientific. [50] [11]

"Economists have a singular method of procedure. There are only two kinds of institutions for them, artificial and natural. The institutions of feudalism are artificial institutions, those of the bourgeoisie are natural institutions. In this, they resemble the theologians, who likewise establish two kinds of religion. Every religion which is not theirs is an invention of men, while their own is an emanation from God. When the economists say that present-day relations – the relations of bourgeois production – are natural, they imply that these are the relations in which wealth is created and productive forces developed in conformity with the laws of nature. These relations, therefore, are themselves natural laws independent of the influence of time. They are eternal laws that must always govern society. Thus, there has been history, but there is no longer any. There has been history, since there were the institutions of feudalism, and in these institutions of feudalism we find quite different relations of production from those of bourgeois society, which the economists try to pass off as natural and as such, eternal."

Marx: The Poverty of Philosophy [15]

Marx continued to emphasize the ahistorical thought of the modern economists in the Grundrisse, where he among other endeavors, critiqued the liberal economist Mill. [51]

Marx also viewed the viewpoints which implicitly regarded the institutions of modernity as transhistorical as fundamentally deprived of historical understanding. [52] [53]

Individuals producing in society, and hence the socially determined production of individuals, is, of course, the point of departure. The solitary and isolated hunter or fisherman, who serves Adam Smith and Ricardo as a starting point, is one of the unimaginative fantasies of eighteenth-century romances a la Robinson Crusoe; and despite the assertions of social historians, these by no means signify simply a reaction against over-refinement and reversion to a misconceived natural life. No more is Rousseau's contract social, which by means of a contract establishes a relationship and connection between subjects that are by nature independent, based on this kind of naturalism. [...] The individual in this society of free competition seems to be rid of natural ties, etc., which made him an appurtenance of a particular, limited aggregation of human beings in previous historical epochs. The prophets of the eighteenth century, on whose shoulders Adam Smith and Ricardo were still wholly standing, envisaged this 18th-century individual – a product of the dissolution of feudal society on the one hand and of the new productive forces evolved since the sixteenth century on the other – as an ideal whose existence belonged to the past. They saw this individual not as a historical result, but as the starting point of history; not as something evolving in the course of history, but posited by nature, because for them this individual was in conformity with nature, in keeping with their idea of human nature. This delusion has been characteristic of every new epoch hitherto.

Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, (Introduction)
Das Kapital: Kritik der politischen oekonomie [Capital: A critique of political economy] is a famous critique of political economy written by Karl Marx Zentralbibliothek Zurich Das Kapital Marx 1867.jpg
Das Kapital: Kritik der politischen oekonomie [Capital: A critique of political economy] is a famous critique of political economy written by Karl Marx

According to the french philosopher Jacques Rancière, what Marx understood, and what the economists failed to recognise was that the value-form is not something essential, but merely a part of the capitalist mode of production. [54]

On scientifically adequate research

Marx also offered a critique regarding the idea of people being able to conduct scientific research in this domain. [55] Or, as he stated it himself:

"In the domain of Political Economy, free scientific inquiry meets not merely the same enemies as in all other domains. The peculiar nature of the materials it deals with, summons as foes into the field of battle the most violent, mean, and malignant passions of the human breast, the Furies of private interest. The English Established Church, e.g., will more readily pardon an attack on 38 of its 39 articles than on 1/39 of its income. Nowadays atheism is culpa levis [a relatively slight sin, c.f. mortal sin], as compared with criticism of existing property relations."

Marx: Das Kapital (Preface to the First German Edition)

On vulgar economists

Marx also used to criticize the false critique of political economy of his contemporaries. Something he did, sometimes even more forcefully, than he critiqued the classical, and hence 'vulgar' economists. He for example rejected Lasalle's 'iron and inexorable law' of wages, which he simply regarded as mere phraseology. [56] As well as Proudhon's attempts to do what Hegel did for religion, law, etc., for political economy, as well as regarding what is social as subjective, and what was societal as merely subjective abstractions. [57] [43] In Marx's view, the errors of these authors led the workers' movement astray.

Interpretations of Marx's critique of political economy

Some scholars view Marx's critique as being a critique of commodity fetishism and the manner in which this concept expresses a criticism of modernity and its modes of socialisation. [58] Other scholars who engage with Marx's critique of political economy affirm the critique might assume a more Kantian sense, which transforms "Marx's work into a foray concerning the imminent antinomies that lie at the heart of capitalism, where politics and economy intertwine in impossible ways." [16]

Jean Baudrillard WikipediaBaudrillard20040612-cropped.png
Jean Baudrillard

Contemporary Marxian

Regarding contemporary Marxian critiques of political economy, these are generally accompanied by a rejection of the more naturalistically influenced readings of Marx, as well as other readings later deemed weltanschaaungsmarxismus ("worldview marxism"), [59] [38] [60] that was popularised as late as toward the end of the 20th century. [59] [10]

According to some scholars in this field, contemporary critiques of political economy and contemporary German Ökonomiekritik have been at least partly neglected in the anglophone world. [61]


The sociologist and philosopher Jean Baudrillard has developed a critique of Marx's political economy in his 1973 book Le Miroir de la production. He views Marx as being stuck in the very categories he wanted to critique, in particular production. [62] [63] In contrast to this, Baudrillard rather places emphasis on consumption. [64] Baudrillard claims that the structure of every sign is ingrained in every core of the commodity form. He claims that it establishes itself socially, as a total medium, a system which administers all social exchange. [65] In Baudrillard's words, “[Marxism] convinces men that they are alienated by the sale of their labor power, thus censoring the [...] hypothesis that they might be alienated as labor power.” [66]

Fisher [67]

Mark Fisher critiqued economics, claiming that is was a bourgeois "science", that molded reality after its presuppositions, rather than critically examined reality. As he stated it himself:

"From the start, “economy” was the object-cause of a bourgeois “science”, which hyperstitionally bootstrapped itself into existence, and then bent and melted the matter of this and every other world to fit its presuppositions — the greatest theocratic achievement in a history that was never human, an immense conjuring trick which works all the better because it came shrouded in that damp grey English and Scottish empiricism which claimed to have seen off all gods." [68]


There has been a growing literature of feminist viewpoints in new critique of political economy in recent years. [69] [70] [71]

Differences between critics of economy and critics of economical issues

One may differentiate between those who engage in critique of political economy, which takes on a more ontological character, where authors criticise the fundamental concepts and social categories which reproduce the economy as an entity. [2] [72] [11] [73] [4] While other authors, which the critics of political economy would consider only to deal with the surface phenomena of "the economy", have a naturalized understanding of these social processes.

Hence the epistemological differences between critics of economy and economists can also at times be very large. [51]

In the eyes of the critics of political economy, the critics of economic issues merely critique "certain practices" in attempts to implicitly or explicitly 'rescue' the political economy; these authors might for example propose universal basic income or to implement a planned economy. [72] [74] [35] [10]










See also

Notes and references

  1. 1 2 3 4 Henderson, Willie (2000). John Ruskin's political economy. London: Routledge. ISBN   0-203-15946-2. OCLC   48139638. [...]Ruskin attempted a methodological/scientific critique of political economy. He fixed on ideas of ‘natural laws’, ‘economic man’ and the prevailing notion of ‘value’ to point out gaps and inconsistencies in the system of classical economics.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Ruskin, John. Unto this Last. pp. 128–129. Observe, I neither impugn nor doubt the conclusions of the science if its terms are accepted. I am simply uninterested in them, as I should be in those of a science of gymnastics that assumed that men had no skeletons. It might be shown, on that supposition, that it would be advantageous to roll the students up into pellets, flatten them into cakes, or stretch them into cables; and that when these results were effected, the re-insertion of the skeleton would be attended with various inconveniences to their constitution. The reasoning might be admirable, the conclusions true, and the science deficient only inapplicability. Modern political economy stands on a precisely similar basis. Assuming, not that the human being has no skeleton, but that it is all skeleton, it founds an ossifiant theory of progress on this negation of a soul; and having shown the utmost that may be made of bones, and constructed a number of interesting geometrical figures with death's-heads and humeri, successfully proves the inconvenience of the reappearance of a soul among these corpuscular structures. I do not deny the truth of this theory: I simply deny its applicability to the present phase of the world.
  3. 1 2 Murray, Patrick (March 2020). "The Illusion of the Economic: Social Theory without Social Forms". Critical Historical Studies. 7 (1): 19–27. doi:10.1086/708005. ISSN   2326-4462. S2CID   219746578. "Bourgeois or capitalist production . . . is consequently for [Ricardo]," Marx writes, "not a specific definite mode of production, but simply the mode of production." [...] The illusion of the economic arises within what Marx calls the "bourgeois horizon," which trades in phenomenologically false bifurcations such as the purely subjective versus the purely objective, form versus content, forces versus relatisusons of production, the labor process versus the valorization process, distribution versus production, and more.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Louis, Althusser; Balibar, Etienne (1979). Reading Capital. Verso Editions. p. 158. OCLC   216233458. [...] 'to criticize' Political Economy cannot mean to criticize or correct certain inaccuracies or points of detail in an existing discipline nor even to fill in its gaps, its blanks, pursuing further an already largely initiated movement of exploration. 'To criticize Political Economy' means to confront it with a new problematic and a new object: i.e., to question the very object of Political Economy. But since Political Economy is defined as Political Economy by its object, the critique directed at it from the new object with which it is confronted could strike Political Economy's vital spot. This is indeed the case: Marx's critique of Political Economy cannot challenge the latter's object without disputing Political Economy itself, in its theoretical pretensions to autonomy and in the 'divisions' it creates in social reality in order to make itself the theory of the latter. [...] it queries not only the object of Political Economy, but also Political Economy itself as an object. [...] Political Economy, as it is defined by its pretensions, has no right to exist as far as Marx is concerned: if Political Economy thus conceived cannot exist, it is for de jure, not de facto reasons.
  5. Fareld, Victoria; Kuch, Hannes (2020), From Marx to Hegel and Back, Bloomsbury Academic, p. 142,182, doi:10.5040/, ISBN   978-1-3500-8267-0, S2CID   213805975 , retrieved 17 September 2021
  6. Postone 1993, pp. 44, 192–216.
  7. Mortensen. "Ekonomi". Tidskrift för litteraturvetenskap. 3:4: 9.
  8. Postone, Moishe (1995). Time, labor, and social domination : a reinterpretation of Marx's critical theory. pp. 130, 5. ISBN   0-521-56540-5. OCLC   910250140.
  9. 1 2 Jönsson, Dan. "John Ruskin: En brittisk 1800-talsaristokrat för vår tid? - OBS". (in Swedish). Sveriges Radio. Archived from the original on 5 March 2020. Retrieved 24 September 2021. Den klassiska nationalekonomin, som den utarbetats av John Stuart Mill, Adam Smith och David Ricardo, betraktade han som en sorts kollektivt hjärnsläpp ... [Transl. Ruskin viewed the classical political economy as it was developed by Mill, Smith, and Ricardo, as a kind of "collective mental lapse.]
  10. 1 2 3 Ramsay, Anders (21 December 2009). "Marx? Which Marx? Marx's work and its history of reception". Archived from the original on 12 February 2018. Retrieved 16 September 2021. When it is based on the naturalistic understanding, the entire theoretical edifice of the critique of political economy breaks down. What is left is a theory not entirely unlike Adam Smith's, one in which individual labour creates value, and the capacity to create value becomes an ontological determination of labour. With good reason, one could speak of a Smithian Marxism ...
  11. 1 2 3 Ruccio, David (10 December 2020). "Toward a critique of political economy | MR Online". Archived from the original on 15 December 2020. Retrieved 20 September 2021. Marx arrives at conclusions and formulates new terms that run directly counter to those of Smith, Ricardo, and the other classical political economists.
  12. Peperell, Nicole. "Beyond reification: Reclaiming Marx's Concept of the Fetish Character of the Commodity" (PDF). Kontradikce: A Journal for Critical Thought. The critical edge of Marx's analysis does not derive, therefore, from any sort of declaration that this impersonal social relation does not exist, or is not 'truly' impersonal. Instead, it derives from the demonstration of how such a peculiar and counter-intuitive sort of social relation  one that possesses qualitative characteristics more normally associated with our interactions with non-social reality  comes to be unintentionally generated in collective practice.
  13. Patterson, Orlando; Fosse, Ethan. "Overreliance on the Pseudo-Science of Economics". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 9 February 2015. [...] the real-world implementation of mainstream economic ideas has been a string of massive failures. Economic thinking undergirded the "deregulation" mantra leading up to the Great Recession of 2007-2009 and has fared no better in attempts to "fix" the ongoing crisis in Europe. [...] nowhere is the discipline's failure more apparent than in the area of development economics. In fact, the only countries that have effectively transformed from the "Third" to the "First World" since World War II violated the main principles of current and previous economic orthodoxies: [...] Only recently have economists come to accept the primacy of institutions in explaining and promoting economic growth, a position long held by sociologists [...] (OpEd)
  14. Badeen, Dennis; Murray, Patrick. "A Marxian Critique of Neoclassical Economics' Reliance on Shadows of Capital's Constitutive Social Forms" (PDF).
  15. 1 2 "The Poverty of Philosophy - Chapter 2.1". Retrieved 16 September 2021.
  16. 1 2 3 4 Ruda, Frank; Hamza, Agon (2016). "Introduction: Critique of Political Economy" (PDF). Crisis and Critique. 3 (3): 5–7.
  17. Ruskin, John (1877). Unto This Last, and Other Essays on Political Economy. Sunnyside, Orpington, Kent: George Allen via Project Gutenberg.
  18. 1 2 3 4 5 Jönsson, Dan. "John Ruskin: En brittisk 1800-talsaristokrat för vår tid? - OBS". (in Swedish). Sveriges Radio. Retrieved 16 September 2021.
  19. Swann, G M Peter (2001). ""No Wealth But Life": When Does Mercantile Wealth Create Ruskinian Wealth?" (PDF). European Research Studies Journal. IV (3–4): 5–18.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  20. "Ruskin the radical: why the Victorian critic is back with a vengeance". The Guardian. 30 August 2018. Archived from the original on 30 August 2018. Retrieved 12 November 2021. "In some ways, Ruskin seems like the most Victorian of the Victorians, so not applicable to our lives now," says David Russell, associate professor of English at Corpus Christi College Oxford. "People get hung up on how eccentric some of his ideas were, but the core of his claims remains relevant and important. That is to say: our aesthetic experience, our experience of beauty in ordinary life, must be central to thinking about any good life and society. It’s not just decoration or luxury for the few. If you are taught how to see the world properly through an understanding of aesthetics, then you’ll see society properly.”
  21. "From Labor to Value: Marx, Ruskin, and the Critique of Capitalism". Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  22. Henderson, Willie (2000). John Ruskin's political economy. London: Routledge. p. 100. ISBN   0-203-15946-2. OCLC   48139638. Ruskin’s criticism of Mill is that he based the science of political economy on ‘the opinions of the public’ as expressed by market prices, i.e. on ‘fuddled’ thought induced by contemplating the shadow of value rather than thinking upon, by implication, a true (Platonic) object of cognition.
  23. "Gandhi's Human Touch | Articles on and by Mahatma Gandhi". Retrieved 16 November 2021.
  24. Marx, Karl (1867–1894). Das Kapital : Kritik der politischen Ökonomie [Capital: A Critique of Political Economy]. ISBN   978-3-7306-9034-5. OCLC   1141780305.
  25. 1 2 Conttren, V. (2022). "István Mészáros: The Critique of Political Economy". Conttren, V. doi:10.17605/OSF.IO/65MXD.{{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  26. "Deutsch-Franzosische Jahrbucher" [German-French Yearbooks]. Retrieved 16 September 2021.
  27. Liedman, Sven-Eric. "Engelsismen" (PDF). Fronesis (in Swedish) (28): 134. Engels var också först med att kritiskt bearbeta den nya nationalekonomin; hans "Utkast till en kritik av nationalekonomin" kom ut 1844 och blev en utgångspunkt för Marx egen kritik av den politiska ekonomin[Engels was the first to critically engage the new political economy his Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy came out in 1844 and became a starting point for Marx's own critique of the political economy]
  28. Murray, Patrick (March 2020). "The Illusion of the Economic: Social Theory without Social Forms". Critical Historical Studies. 7 (1): 19–27. doi:10.1086/708005. ISSN   2326-4462. S2CID   219746578. "There are no counterparts to Marx's economic concepts in either classical or utility theory." I take this to mean that Marx breaks with economics, where economics is understood to be a generally applicable social science.
  29. "Marx Ekonomikritik". Fronesis (in Swedish) (28). Retrieved 1 September 2021.
  30. Bellofiore, Riccardo (2016). "Marx after Hegel: Capital as Totality and the Centrality of Production" (PDF). Crisis & Critique. 3 (3): 31.
  31. Jung, Henrik (1 January 2019). "Slagen av abstraktioner: Förnuftiga och reala abstraktioner i Marx ekonomikritik". Lychnos: Årsbok för idé- och lärdomshistoria (in Swedish). ISSN   0076-1648. Marx consistently reveals the social abstraction of the substance of value and capital, i.e. abstract labour, as a Realabstraktion dominating individuals in bourgeois society through money and capital.
  32. Fareld, Victoria; Kuch, Hannes (9 January 2020). From Marx to Hegel and back capitalism, critique, and utopia. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Bloomsbury Academic. pp. 150, 143. ISBN   978-1-350-08268-7. OCLC   1141198381.
  33. Freeman, Alan. "The psychopathology of Walrasian Marxism" (PDF). Munich Personal RePEc Archive . Archived (PDF) from the original on 10 April 2018. ‘Economic’ categories, appearing as inhuman things with a mind of their own – prices, money, interest rates – are for Marx the disguised form of relations between people.
  34. Balibar, Étienne (2007). The philosophy of Marx. London: Verso. p. 18. ISBN   978-1-84467-187-8. OCLC   154707531. The expression 'critique of political economy' figures repeatedly in the title or programme of Marx's main works [...] To these we may add a great many unpublished pieces, articles and sections in polemical works.
  35. 1 2 3 Volkov, Genrikh Nikolaevich (1982). The Basics of Marxist-Leninist Theory. Progress guides to the social sciences. Moscow: Progress. pp. 51, 188, 313. OCLC   695564556.
  36. Ernest, Mandel (1973). An introduction to Marxist economic theory. Pathfinder. ISBN   0-87348-315-4. OCLC   609440295.
  37. Brooks, Mick. "An introduction to Marx's Labour Theory of Value". In Defence of Marxism. Retrieved 16 September 2021.
  38. 1 2 Ramsay, Anders. "Marx? Which Marx? Marx's work and its history of reception". Archived from the original on 12 February 2018. Retrieved 16 September 2021. During a second phase, a less "economistic" Marx emerged. The publication of the writings of the young Marx, above all the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, revealed a different Marx, one less preoccupied with technology, and less deterministic. It became possible to criticise "Marx through Marx", a critique which had particular importance in the eastern European state socialist systems.
  39. "Excerpt from discussion on SPSM listserv on whether Capital can be understood as a "Critique" of Political economy or as "Marxist" political economy, highlighting the view of Juan Inigo".
  40. Wolff, Jonathan; Leopold, David (2 September 2021). Zalta, Edward N. (ed.). The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University via Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  41. "Programme of the French Worker's Party". Retrieved 27 October 2021.
  42. 1 2 Postone 1993.
  43. 1 2 3 4 Marx, Karl; Nicolaus, Martin (1993). Grundrisse : foundations of the critique of political economy (rough draft). London: Penguin Books in association with New Left Review. pp. 296, 239, 264. ISBN   0-14-044575-7. OCLC   31358710.
  44. "Marx's Critique of Classical Economics". Archived from the original on 9 March 2001. Retrieved 2 October 2021. These points made here by Marx are particularly important in view of the fact that it is almost a commonplace amongst those sympathetic to, as well as those hostile to, Marx to assume that he shared a basically similar value theory with that of his classical forerunners, namely a labour theory of value. I believe, however, this notion – of a ‘labour theory of value’ in Marx – is at best confusing and at worst quite wrong.
  45. Pradella, Lucia (2015). Globalisation and the critique of political economy : new insights from Marx's writings. Abingdon, Oxon. p. 147. ISBN   978-1-317-80072-9. OCLC   897376910. The analysis of the production process as a whole, namely, as a reproduction process, removed the illusion of the autonomy of value, revealing that capital entirely consists of objectified labour. Workers are faced with their own labour, objectified in means of production and of subsistence, which becomes capital, thus recreating the conditions for their exploitation.
  46. Saitō, Kōhei (2017). Karl Marx's ecosocialism: capitalism, nature, and the unfinished critique of political economy. New York. ISBN   978-1-58367-643-1. OCLC   1003193200. Marx's critique of classical political economy as a critique of the fetishistic (that is, ahistorical) understanding of economic categories, which identifies the appearance of capitalist society with the universal and transhistorical economic laws of nature. Marx, in contrast, comprehends those economic categories as "specific social forms" and reveals the underlying social relations that bestow an objective validity of this inverted world where economic things dominate human beings.
  47. Behrens, Diethard (1993). Gesellschaft und Erkenntnis. Freiburg i. Br.: Ça ira. pp. 71–72. ISBN   3-924627-34-7. OCLC   30457885.
  48. Marx, Karl. "Economic Manuscripts: Appendix I: Production, Consumption, Distribution, Exchange". Archived from the original on 8 February 2002. Retrieved 4 October 2021. Individuals producing in society, and hence the socially determined production of individuals, is, of course, the point of departure. The solitary and isolated hunter or fisherman, who serves Adam Smith and Ricardo as a starting point, is one of the unimaginative fantasies of eighteenth-century romances a la Robinson Crusoe [...] The prophets of the eighteenth century, on whose shoulders Adam Smith and Ricardo were still wholly standing, envisaged this 18th-century individual [...] They saw this individual not as a historical result, but as the starting point of history; not as something evolving in the course of history, but posited by nature, because for them this individual was in conformity with nature, in keeping with their idea of human nature. This delusion has been characteristic of every new epoch hitherto. [...]

    The further back we trace the course of history, the more does the individual, and accordingly also the producing individual, appears to be dependent and to belong to a larger whole. [...] It is not until the eighteenth century that in bourgeois society the various forms of the social texture confront the individual as merely means towards his private ends, as external necessity. But the epoch which produces this standpoint, namely that of the solitary individual, is precisely the epoch of the (as yet) most highly developed social (according to this standpoint, general) relations. Man [...] is not only a social animal but an animal that can be individualised only within society.
  49. Marx, Karl. "Critique of the Gotha Programme-- I". Archived from the original on 23 August 2002. Retrieved 12 October 2021. Thirdly, the conclusion: "Useful labor is possible only in society and through society, the proceeds of labor belong undiminished with equal right to all members of society." A fine conclusion! If useful labor is possible only in society and through society, the proceeds of labor belong to society [...] The first and second parts of the paragraph have some intelligible connection only in the following wording: "Labor becomes the source of wealth and culture only as social labor", or, what is the same thing, "in and through society".
  50. Peperell (2018). "Beyond reification: Reclaiming Marx's Concept of the Fetish Character of the Commodity" (PDF). Kontradikce: A Journal for Critical Thought. 2: 35. [...] it becomes clearer that Marx intends to draw a distinction between social phenomena that could either be understood purely in cultural terms or solely in terms of intersubjectively-meaningful social phenomena, and a different kind of social phenomenon, one that Marx suggests social actors can create unintentionally, prior to integrating it into meaningful intersubjective belief systems. This distinction becomes important to Marx's claim that political economy only retroactively discovers certain social patterns that Marx regards as intrinsic to capitalist production, and is important to understanding why Marx's concept of the fetish is distinct from many attempts to thematize ideology, which often understand ideology in terms of false consciousness or incorrect belief.
  51. 1 2 Marx. "Grundrisse". Archived from the original on 2 February 2002. The aim is, rather, to present production – see e.g. Mill – as distinct from distribution, etc., as encased in eternal natural laws independent of history, at which opportunity bourgeois relations are then quietly smuggled in as the inviolable natural laws on which society in the abstract is founded. This is the more or less conscious purpose of the whole proceeding. In distribution, by contrast, humanity has allegedly permitted itself to be considerably more arbitrary. Quite apart from this crude tearing-apart of production and distribution and of their real relationship, it must be apparent from the outset that, no matter how different distribution may have been arranged in different stages of social development, it must be possible here also, just as with production, to single out common characteristics, and just as possible to confound or to extinguish all historic differences under general human laws.
  52. Ruccio, David (10 December 2020). "Toward a critique of political economy | MR Online". Archived from the original on 15 December 2020. Retrieved 20 September 2021. Second, Marx's concern is always with social and historical specificity, as against looking for or finding what others would consider being given and universal.
  53. Duarte, Filipe (4 February 2019). "Marx's method of political economy". Progress in Political Economy (PPE). Retrieved 14 February 2022. Social phenomena exist, and can be understood, only in their historical context.
  54. Rancière, Jacques (August 1976). "The concept of 'critique' and the 'critique of political economy' (from the 1844 Manuscript to Capital)". Economy and Society. 5 (3): 352–376. doi:10.1080/03085147600000016. ISSN   0308-5147 via JSTOR.
  55. Marx, Karl (1887) [1867]. Capital: A Critique of Political Economy (PDF). Vol. I: The Process of Production of Capital via
  56. Bellofiore, Riccardo, ed. (27 May 2009). Rosa Luxemburg and the Critique of Political Economy. Routledge. p. 161. doi:10.4324/9780203878392. ISBN   978-1-134-13507-3.
  57. "The Poverty of Philosophy - Chapter 2.1". Retrieved 25 September 2021.
  58. Pimenta, Tomás Lima (August 2020). "Alienation and fetishism in Karl Marx's critique of political economy". Nova Economia. 30 (2): 605–628. doi: 10.1590/0103-6351/4958 . ISSN   1980-5381.
  59. 1 2 "Läs kapitalet - igen" [Capital - again](PDF). Fronesis. 28: 12 (p.5 in the pdf). [His striving to develop a materialist ontology and a unitary theory, which could speak on all parts of reality, made a wider use for the schools and parties in the east which far into the sixties and seventies stood for different forms of worldview marxism.]
  60. "Läs kapitalet - igen" [Read Capital - again](PDF). Fronesis. 28: 10 (p.3 in the pdf).
  61. O’Kane, Chris (29 January 2018). "On the Development of the Critique of Political Economy as a Critical Social Theory of Economic Objectivity: A Review of Critical Theory and the Critique of Political Economy by Werner Bonefeld". Historical Materialism. 26 (1): 175–193. doi:10.1163/1569206X-12341552. ISSN   1465-4466. [...] a number of important critical- theoretical approaches to the critique of political economy [...] have been largely neglected in the anglophone world.
  62. Baudrillard, Jean (1975). The mirror of production. p. 17. ISBN   0-914386-06-9.
  63. Baudrillard. "Arbete". Fronesis. 9–10: 149–170.
  64. Baudrillard, Jean (1975). The mirror of production. St. Louis: Telos Press. pp. 126–127. ISBN   0-914386-06-9. OCLC   2192359.
  65. Baudrillard, Jean (1981). For a critique of the political economy of the sign. Telos press. p. 146.
  66. Baudrillard, Jean (1975). The mirror of production. St. Louis: Telos Press. p. 3. ISBN   0-914386-06-9. OCLC   2192359.
  67. Fisher, Mark (13 November 2018). K-punk. pp. 605–607. ISBN   9781912248292.
  68. Fisher, Mark (2018). K-punk : the collected and unpublished writings of Mark Fisher (2004-2016). Darren Ambrose, Simon Reynolds. London, UK. p. 620. ISBN   978-1-912248-28-5. OCLC   1023859141.
  69. Gibson-Graham, J. K. (2006). The end of capitalism (as we knew it) : a feminist critique of political economy (First University of Minnesota Press ed.). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN   978-0-8166-9844-8. OCLC   218708717.
  70. Scholz, Roswitha (2013). "Patriarchy and Commodity Society: Gender Without the Body". Mediations. 27 (1–2).
  71. Dimitrakaki, Angeliki (4 May 2018). "Feminism and the Critique of the Political Economy of Art".{{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  72. 1 2 Henderson, Willie (2000). John Ruskin's political economy. London: Routledge. ISBN   0-203-15946-2. OCLC   48139638. It could be argued that Ruskin, like Plato, is addressing the problems of society as a whole rather than addressing economic issues. Nonetheless, he approaches such concerns through a critique of political economy.
  73. Arthur, Christopher (2004). The new dialectic and Marx capital. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill. pp. 232–233, 8.
  74. Ayres, Robert (12 August 2020). "How Universal Basic Income Could Save Capitalism". INSEAD Knowledge. Retrieved 17 September 2021.
  75. Patterson, Orlando; Fosse, Ethan (9 February 2015). "Overreliance on the Pseudo-Science of Economics". (OpEd)
  76. Hamza, Agon. "Re-reading Capital 150 years after: some Philosophical and Political Challenges" (PDF). Continental Thought & Theory: A Journal of Intellectual Freedom: 158–159. This is the Žižekian lesson: Marx’s critique of political economy is not only a critique of the classical political economy (Smith, Ricardo...), but it is also a form of critique, a transcendental one according to Žižek, which allows us to articulate the elementary forms of social edifice under capitalism itself. And this ‘transcendental’ framework, cannot be other than philosophical.
  77. Broady, Donald (1978) (
  78. "Litteraturens värden - Lunds universitet" (in Swedish). Retrieved 2 September 2021.
  79. "Vad är ekonomi?-citat". (in Swedish).
  80. "Rätten till lättja" . Retrieved 2 September 2021.

Further reading


General articles

  • (In Swedish) - Mortensen, Anders - Att göra "penningens genius till sin slaf". Om Carl Jonas Love Almqvists romantiska ekonomikritik - Vetenskapssocieteten i Lund. Årsbok.

Scholarly articles

  • Granberg, Magnus "Reactionary radicalism and the analysis of worker subjectivity in Marx’s critique of political economy"


Critique of political economy

On Marx critique of political economy

Neue Marx-Lektüre
  • Elbe, Ingo (2010). Marx Im Westen. Die neue Marx-Lektüre in der Bundesrepublik seit 1965[Marx in the west. The new reading of Marx in the Federal Republic since 1965]. Berlin: Akademie Verlag. ISBN   9783050061214. OCLC   992454101.
Classic works
  • Lietz, Barbara (1987). "Ergänzungen und Veränderungen zum ersten Band des Kapitals (Dezember 1871 - Januar 1872)" [Additions and changes to the first volume of Das Kapital (December 1871 - January 1872)]. Marxistische Studien: Jahrbuch des IMSF. Vol. 12. p. S. 214–219. OCLC   915229108.
  • Marx, Karl - Grundrisse
  • Ruskin, John, Unto this Last LibriVox.


Related Research Articles

The labor theory of value (LTV) is a theory of value that argues that the economic value of a good or service is determined by the total amount of "socially necessary labor" required to produce it.

The means of production is a concept that encompasses the social use and ownership of the land, labor, and capital needed to produce goods, services, and their logistical distribution and delivery.

Commodity fetishism Concept in Marxist analysis

In Marxist philosophy, the term commodity fetishism describes the relationships of production and exchange as social relationships among things and not as relationships among people. As a form of reification, commodity fetishism presents value as inherent to the commodities, and not arising from the interpersonal relations that produced the commodity. Commodity fetishism is presented in the first chapter of Capital: Critique of Political Economy (1867) to explain that the social organization of labour is mediated through market exchange, the buying and selling of goods and services (commodities); thus, capitalist social relations among people—who makes what, who works for whom, the production-time for a commodity, etc.—are social relations among objects.

Marxism Economic and sociopolitical worldview

Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis that uses a materialist interpretation of historical development, better known as historical materialism, to understand class relations and social conflict as well as a dialectical perspective to view social transformation. It originates from the works of 19th-century German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. As Marxism has developed over time into various branches and schools of thought, currently no single, definitive Marxist theory exists.

Moishe Postone was a Canadian historian and social theorist. He was Professor of History at the University of Chicago, where he was part of the Committee on Jewish Studies.

<i>The Mirror of Production</i>

The Mirror of Production is a 1973 book by the French sociologist and philosopher Jean Baudrillard. It is a systematic critique of Marxism. Baudrillard's thesis is that Karl Marx’s theory of historical materialism is too rooted in assumptions and values of political economy which Marx attempted to critique to provide a sufficient framework for radical action. The fault of Marxism is in prioritizing the very concepts that founded capital, e.g. necessity, value, and labor.

<i>Das Kapital, Volume III</i> Book by Karl Marx

Capital. A Critique of Political Economy. Volume III: The Process of Capitalist Production as a Whole, is the third volume of Capital: Critique of Political Economy. It was prepared by Friedrich Engels from notes left by Karl Marx and published in 1894.

Throughout modern history, a variety of perspectives on capitalism have evolved based on different schools of thought.

Immiseration thesis Marxist theory on wage growth

In Marxist theory and Marxian economics, the immiseration thesis, also referred to as emiseration thesis, is derived from Karl Marx's analysis of economic development in capitalism, implying that the nature of capitalist production stabilizes real wages, reducing wage growth relative to total value creation in the economy, leading to the increasing power of capital in society.

Base and superstructure Model of society in Marxist theory

In Marxist theory, society consists of two parts: the base and superstructure. The base refers to the mode of production which includes the forces and relations of production into which people enter to produce the necessities and amenities of life. The superstructure refers to society's other relationships and ideas not directly relating to production including its culture, institutions, political power structures, roles, rituals, religion, media, and state. The relation of the two parts is not strictly unidirectional. The superstructure can affect the base. However the influence of the base is predominant.

Socially necessary labour time Amount of time performed by an average worker to produce a given commodity

Socially necessary labour time in Marx's critique of political economy is what regulates the exchange value of commodities in trade and consequently constrains producers in their attempt to economise on labour. It does not 'guide' them, as it can only be determined after the event and is thus inaccessible to forward planning.

Value criticism is a social theory which draws its foundation from the Marxian tradition and criticizes the contemporary mode of production. Value criticism was developed partly by critical readings of the traditions of the Frankfurt School and critical theory. Prominent adherents of value criticism include Robert Kurz, Moishe Postone and Jean-Marie Vincent.

Socialist mode of production Marxian economy centered around use value, planning and contribution-based distribution

The socialist mode of production, sometimes referred to as the communist mode of production, or simply (Marxian) socialism or communism as Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels used the terms communism and socialism interchangeably, is a specific historical phase of economic development and its corresponding set of social relations that emerge from capitalism in the schema of historical materialism within Marxist theory. The Marxist definition of socialism is that of production for use-value, therefore the law of value no longer directs economic activity. Marxist production for use is coordinated through conscious economic planning. According to Marx, distribution of products is based on the principle of "to each according to his needs", however soviet models have often distributed products based on the principle of "to each according to his contribution". The social relations of socialism are characterized by the proletariat effectively controlling the means of production, either through cooperative enterprises or by public ownership or private artisanal tools and self-management. Surplus value goes to the working class and hence society as a whole.

<i>Das Kapital</i> Foundational theoretical text of Karl Marx

Das Kapital, also known as Capital: A Critique of Political Economy or sometimes simply Capital, is a foundational theoretical text in materialist philosophy, critique of political economy and politics by Karl Marx. Marx aimed to reveal the economic patterns underpinning the capitalist mode of production in contrast to classical political economists such as Adam Smith, Jean-Baptiste Say, David Ricardo and John Stuart Mill. While Marx did not live to publish the planned second and third parts, they were both completed from his notes and published after his death by his colleague Friedrich Engels. Das Kapital is the most cited book published before 1950 in the social sciences.

Marxian economics School of economic thought

Marxian economics, or the Marxian school of economics, is a heterodox school of political economic thought. Its foundations can be traced back to Karl Marx's critique of political economy. However, unlike critics of political economy, Marxian economists tend to accept the concept of the economy prima facie. Marxian economics comprises several different theories and includes multiple schools of thought, which are sometimes opposed to each other; in many cases Marxian analysis is used to complement, or to supplement, other economic approaches. Because one does not necessarily have to be politically Marxist to be economically Marxian, the two adjectives coexist in usage, rather than being synonymous: They share a semantic field, while also allowing both connotative and denotative differences.

The proletariat is the social class of wage-earners, those members of a society whose only possession of significant economic value is their labour power. A member of such a class is a proletarian. Marxist philosophy considers the proletariat to be exploited under capitalism, forced to accept meager wages in return for operating the means of production, which belong to the class of business owners, the bourgeoisie.

<i>Grundrisse</i> Unfinished manuscript by Marx on critique of economics

The Grundrisse der Kritik der Politischen Ökonomie is an unfinished manuscript by the German philosopher Karl Marx. The series of seven notebooks was rough-drafted by Marx, chiefly for purposes of self-clarification, during the winter of 1857–8. Left aside by Marx in 1858, it remained unpublished until 1939.

Historical materialism Marxist historiography

Historical materialism is Karl Marx's theory of history. Marx locates historical change in the rise of class societies and the way humans labour together to make their livelihoods. For Marx and Engels, the ultimate cause and moving power of historical events are to be found in the economic development of society and the social and political upheavals wrought by changes to the mode of production. Historical materialism provides a profound challenge to the view that the historical process has come to a close and that capitalism is the end of history. Since Marx's time, the theory has been modified and expanded. It now has many Marxist and non-Marxist variants.

Criticism of value-form

There are five main lines of scholarly criticism of Marx's idea of the form of value.

Capital is a central concept in Marxian critique of political economy, and in marxian thought more generally.