The Marxian economics reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Apr-2004
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Marxian economics

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Marxian economics are Marx's contributions to a school of socialist political economy, as well as further developments by subsequent socialists of this system. Thus it can be seen as a current within the broader school of socialist economics, containing ideas that other socialists would agree with, as well as ideas that they would disagree with. Marx died before completing his work, so it has been the task of his "followers" to complete his work (such as Friedrich Engels, who wrote Capital volumes II and III from Marx's notes), to defend Marxian economic ideas from attacks on them by economists such as Eugen von Boehm-Bawerk, and to expand his ideas as capitalism changes, which many have done from Lenin to Paul Sweezy.

Marx's economic theories

Marx's master work on political economy was Capital, volumes I, II, III and IV. Marx wrote Capital volume I, but died before he could complete the rest. Friedrich Engels, Marx's closest collaborator, wrote Capital volume II and volume III from Marx's notes. Karl Kautsky published volume IV of Capital (it was also called "Theories of Surplus Value"). Marx also had other economic writings - Critique of Political Economy is an early work that he incorporated much of into Capital, especially the beginning of volume I. Grundisse was a work unpublished for many years, it is notes Marx was making in preparation for writing Capital.

It should be noted that Marx derived many of his economic ideas from the same "bourgeois economists" that modern pro-capitalist economists still credit with discovering economic ideas which they still hold, such as Adam Smith and David Ricardo. Some of the ideas espoused by these men, such as that value comes from labor, are part of Marx's analysis, while modern pro-capitalist economists have theories where value does not come from labor but from other places.

The first sentence of Capital, volume I is "The wealth of those societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails, presents itself as 'an immense accumulation of commodities,' its unit being a single commodity." Marx begins his analysis of capitalism with an analysis of the commodity, which he says is an object which is unique to capitalism.

Marx notes various kinds of value - use-value, which is something like utility. The use-value of a carrot would be that you eat it and do not feel hungry. He also notes another kind of value - exchange-value or value itself. This is the value given to a commodity by labor time valorized in it, when exchanged with another commodity with an equivalent among of labor time valorized in it. Thus, if someone spent an hour digging for an ounce of gold, and exchanged the gold for a bushel of apples someone had gathered for an hour, then a bushel of barrels would be worth an ounce of gold (and vice versa). Marx also notes how gold has historically often become what people used as money in capitalism. Marx notes how people often enter into commodity fetishism, seeing only that a barrel of apples is worth an ounce of gold, instead of that an hours worth of labor time looking for gold is the same as an hour's worth of labor picking apples.