Capital Volume I Part III & Looking Ahead To Part IV

This evening I completed my reading of the third part of Karl Marx’s Capital, Volume I, entitled “The Production of Absolute Surplus-Value.”  I found Part III to be quite enjoyable and full of tons of information, and I definitely learned a lot in this part.

I won’t go into too much detail about the nitty gritty details of all the chapters, but I definitely want to focus on Chapter 10 “The Working Day.”  This chapter, which was, in my opinion, more historical in nature than theoretical, reinforced to me the reason why I studied history at GW in my undergraduate program.

The chapter was around 50 pages long, and in it, Marx goes into detail on the struggle of changing the length of the working day, and how, particularly in England, how the labor laws were changed, but working conditions never really changed.  Marx goes into detail about the different variations of England’s Factory Laws, and the deplorable working conditions for children and adults alike.

I was quite disturbed when Marx went into detail about how workers were treated in a matchmaking plant.  Between all the sulfur and phosphorous, and other working conditions, including how they had to eat meals near all the machinery, and sleep near it, that many more people didn’t die.  It really drove home the point about how lucky we all truly are that we, for the most part, don’t have to work in such deplorable environmental conditions.  These vivid descriptions of working conditions makes me be thankful for the labor movement we had in this country and how, as a result of their actions, that we aren’t working in the deplorable conditions Marx describes in this chapter of Capital.

This chapter also drove home an important fact to me, the exploitation of workers during the industrial age.  Not that we don’t have it today.  But the historical context demonstrated that the longer you put your laborers to work, for a set wage, the more capital the owners of industry could generate.  That’s one of the more important things I got out of this chapter.  Definitely an interesting chapter that I’m glad Marx included in this volume.

Next up is Part IV:  The Production of Relative Surplus-Value.  Part IV is divided into the following chapters:

  • Chapter 12:  The Concept of Relative Surplus-Value
  • Chapter 13:  Co-operation
  • Chapter 14:  The Division of Labour and Manufacture
  • Chapter 15:  Machinery and Large-Scale Industry

By my count, Part IV includes the longest chapter in the book, and that is Chapter 15, Machinery and Large-Scale Industry.  I’m looking forward to reading each of these chapters, but I’m particularly looking forward to Chapters 14 and 15.

I’m definitely very pleased with the pace and progress I’m making with Capital, Volume I.  I’m also not feeling as intimidated by the content as I was with Grundrisse, or when I began reading this book.  I’m not sure if that has to do with the fact that I’m reading a commentary to go with it, or I’m just understanding the concepts better.  Whatever it is, I’m definitely enjoying this volume of Capital, and I hope to continue to learn as much as I have so far.

If you have or haven’t read Capital, I’d love to get your thoughts!


About Jeremy

Husband, book lover, Civil War Buff. If I could read for a living I would, but unfortunately, it doesn't pay the bills!


  1. Capital Volume I Part IV & Looking Ahead To Part V | Beltwayliterature - March 16, 2011

    […] I, entitled, “The Production of Relative Surplus-Value.”  As I mentioned in my post Capital Volume I Part III & Looking Ahead To Part IV, this part included the longest chapter in the book, Chapter 15.  Clocking in at 140+ pages, it […]

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