Review of Volume One of Capital for the Staats-Anzeiger fur Wurttemburg

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Author(s) Friedrich Engels
Written December 1867

Written: between December 12-13, 1867;
First published: in the Staats-Anzeiger fur Wurttemburg , No. 306, December 27, 1867

K. Marx. Capital. Critique of Political Economy. Volume One. Hamburg, Meissner, 1867[edit source]

When we take the above work into consideration we certainly do got do so on account of the specifically socialist tendency which the author openly displays already in the preface.

We do so because, apart from this tendency, the work contains scientific expositions and factual material which deserve every consideration. We shall not enter into the scientific part either, since this is far from our purpose, and confine ourselves to the factual matters alone.

We do not believe that any work exists--either in German or a foreign language--in which the analytical fundamentals of more recent industrial history from the Middle Ages to the modern day are so clearly and completely summed up as on pages 302-495 of the present book in the three chapters: Co-operation, Manufacture and Large-scale Industry. Every single aspect of industrial progress is here emphasised in its proper place, according to merit, and even if the specific tendency comes through here and there, one must do the author justice for never moulding the facts to suit his theory but, on the contrary, seeking to present his theory as the result of the facts. He takes these facts always from the best sources, and where the latest state of affairs is concerned, from sources which are as authentic as they are at present unknown in Germany: the English Parliamentary Reports. German businessmen who consider their industry not merely from the standpoint of day-to-day business but regard it as an essential link in the whole development of large-scale modern industry in all countries and hence also take an interest in matters not directly concerning their own industry, will here find a copious source of instruction and will thank us for having directed their attention to it. For the time when every trade existed singly and quietly for itself alone has indeed long passed, now they all depend on one another and on the progress being made in distant lands as well as in the closest neighbourhood and on the changing economic situation of the world market. And if, as may well be, the new Customs Union agreements lead to a reduction in the present protective tariffs, all our manufacturers are likely to ask to he made better acquainted with the history of modern industry in general, so as to learn in advance how best to conduct themselves when such changes occur. Higher education, which up to now has saved us Germans again and again, in spite of the political dismemberment, would also in this case be the best weapon we could use against the crude materialism of the English.

This leads us to another point. With the new Customs Union legislation the moment may soon arrive when a uniform regulation of the working hours in the factories of the Union states will be demanded by the manufacturers themselves. It would be obviously unfair if in one state the working hours, especially of women and children, were entirely at the discretion of the manufacturer, while in another they were subject to considerable limitations. It will be difficult to avoid coming to an understanding on common regulations in this respect, and the more so if the protective tariffs were actually lowered. In this respect, however, we Germans have greatly insufficient, one could even say, no experience at all, and are entirely dependent on the lessons to be drawn from the legislation of other countries, particularly England, and from its fruits. And here the author has done a great service to German industry by giving the history of English factory legislation and its results in the greatest detail from official documents. (Cf. pp. 207-81 and 399-496, and passim.) This whole aspect of English industrial history is as good as unknown in Germany, and one will be surprised to learn that since a Parliamentary Act of the current year placed no fewer than a million and a half workers under government control, not only almost all industrial but even most of domestic and part of agricultural labour in England are now subjected to the supervision of officials and direct or, indirect time limits. We ask our manufacturers not to be deterred by the tendency of this book from seriously studying particularly this part of it; sooner or later the same question will surely be put before them!