The nature and significance of Marx's critique of classical political economy

Pilling, Geoffrey (1983) The nature and significance of Marx's critique of classical political economy. (PhD thesis), Kingston Polytechnic,


The thesis is concerned with a series of methodological aspects of Karl Marx's economic writings, notably Capital. These methodological questions are explored by means of a critical review of Marx's relationship to the school of classical political economy in Britain. Here emphasis is placed on David Ricardo. The aim of the thesis is to demonstrate that it is impossible to understand fully the revolution wrought by Marx in the field of political economy without having fundamental regard for the philosophical foundation of Marx's Capital. It is argued that Hegel is above all the key figure here and that a proper consideration of the influence of his philosophy in shaping Marx's intellectual development is of paramount importance. After an initial survey in which it is held that these matters have received little adequate attention in the past, attention is directed towards the major elements of Marx's critique of classical economics. Stress is placed on the empiricism which underlay much of this political economy and the consequences which this philosophical stance involved. To develop the argument, Marx's notion of labour is examined in detail. A more general analysis of the concepts employed by Marx in his work follows, designed to demonstrate concretely the fundamental nature of Marx's critique of the work of his predecessors. The opening chapters of Capital are subjected to a close textual scrutiny in order to highlight the dialectical character of Marx's work. Finally the nature of the notion of fetishism is explored with a view to establishing its centrality for Marx as well as to explain its absence from the work of the classical economists.

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