Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy

Written during the winter of 1857-8, the Grundrisse was considered by Marx to be the first scientific elaboration of communist theory. A collection of seven notebooks on capital and money, it both develops the arguments outlined in the Communist Manifesto (1848) and explores the themes and theses that were to dominate his great later work Capital.

Here, for the first time, Marx set out his own version of Hegel’s dialectics and developed his mature views on labour, surplus value and profit, offering many fresh insights into alienation, automation and the dangers of capitalist society. Yet while the theories in Grundrisse make it a vital precursor to Capital, it also provides invaluable descriptions of Marx’s wider-ranging philosophy, making it a unique insight into his beliefs and hopes for the foundation of a communist state.

This is a series of seven notebooks rough-drafted by Marx, chiefly for purposes of self-clarification. The manuscript became lost in circumstances still unknown and was first effectively published, in the German original, in 1953. Among the many of Marx’s works which first appeared in print in the twentieth century, the Grundrisse represents unquestionably the most significant new development, comparable in importance only to the Theories of Surplus Value and the Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 (‘Paris Manuscripts’).

Marx considered these workbooks to contain the first scientific elaboration of the theoretical foundations of communism. Besides their great biographical and historical value, they add much new material, and stand as the only outline of Marx’s full political-economic project. The manuscripts display the key elements in Marx’s development and overthrow of the Hegelian philosophy. They cast a fresh light on the inner logic of Capital, and are a sourcebook of inestimable value for the study of Marx’s method of inquiry. The Grundrisse challenges and puts to the test every serious interpretation of Marx yet conceived.

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