Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy (Grundrisse)

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written 1857

Written: 1857–61;
Published: in German 1939–41;
Source: Grundrisse, Penguin Books in association with New Left Review, 1973 (Translated by M Nicolaus)

Also published in MECW (another translation) volumes 28 and 29.

Note from MIA[edit source]

Marx wrote this huge manuscript as part of his preparation for what would become A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (published in 1859) and Capital (published 1867).

Soviet Marxologists released several never-before-seen Marx/Engels works in the 1930s. Most were early works – like the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts – but the Grundrisse stood alone as issuing forth from the most intense period of Marx’s decade-long, in-depth study of economics. It is an extremely rich and thought-provoking work, showing signs of humanism and the influence of Hegelian dialectic method. Do note, though, Marx did not intend it for publication as is, so it can be stylistically very rough in places.

The series of seven notebooks were rough-drafted by Marx, chiefly for purposes of self-clarification, during the winter of 1857-8. The manuscript became lost in circumstances still unknown and was first effectively published, in the German original, in 1953. A limited edition was published by Foreign Language Publishers in Moscow in two volumes, 1939 and 1941 respectively, under the editorship of the Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute, Moscow. The first volume contained the introduction and the seven notebooks translated here. The second added fragments from Marx’s 1851 notebooks of excerpts from Ricardo, the fragment ‘Bastiat and Carey’ (also included in this translation), and miscellaneous related material; also extensive annotations and sources. A photo-offset reprint of the two volumes bound in one, minus illustrations and facsimiles, was issued by Dietz Verlag, Berlin (E.), in 1953, and is the basis of the present translation. It is referred to hereafter as Grundrisse. Rosdolsky states that only three or four copies of the 1939-41 edition ever reached ‘the western world’.

Note: An extract was published separately in Berlin, 1952, as a pamphlet called Formen die der Kapitalistischen Produktion vorhergehen. (Pre-Capitalist Economic Formations).