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Capital (Das Kapital) | Quotes


The commodity is ... an external object, a thing which through its qualities satisfies human needs.

Narrator, Vol. 1, Part 1, Chapter 1

Marx gives a very basic introductory definition of the commodity, which is one of the most important and foundational concepts in the text.


Every useful thing ... may be looked at from the ... points of view of quality and quantity.

Narrator, Vol. 1, Part 1, Chapter 1

Marx is discussing the properties of the commodity, which will then lead to his two categories of value: exchange-value and use-value. Every commodity has both a use-value and an exchange-value.


All its sensuous characteristics are extinguished.

Narrator, Vol. 1, Part 1, Chapter 1

The it in this quotation is the commodity, and the "sensuous characteristics" are the defining characteristics of a commodity which make it useful and thus give it a use-value. If the use-value is taken away, these "sensuous characteristics" are lost.


The value of a commodity represents human labor pure and simple.

Narrator, Vol. 1, Part 1, Chapter 1

Marx argues that a commodity is a manifestation of human labor and thus that its value is represented by how much labor is required to produce it.


Money necessarily crystallizes out of the process of exchange.

Narrator, Vol. 1, Part 1, Chapter 2

In this passage Marx explains the phenomenon of money, wherein something without actual inherent value becomes representative of the value of an actual commodity and can be exchanged for that commodity.


Work, thrift and greed are therefore his three cardinal virtues.

Narrator, Vol. 1, Part 1, Chapter 3

Here Marx describes the nature of the hoarder (of money), whose goal is to sell as much as possible and buy as little as possible.


While the miser is merely a capitalist gone mad, the capitalist is a rational miser.

Narrator, Vol. 1, Part 2, Chapter 4

Marx gives his opinion of capitalists, whom he argues live to increase their wealth and capital by continuously putting their capital into circulation.


Bathed in the fire of labor, appropriated as part of its organism ... they are indeed consumed.

Narrator, Vol. 1, Part 3, Chapter 7

Marx is describing the roles of machines in production. He illustrates the machine as something that must be soaked in the labor of a worker and active in order to stay useful.


Capital is dead labor which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labor.

Narrator, Vol. 1, Part 3, Chapter 10

Marx's negative opinion of capitalism is crystallized here. He sees the capitalist system as something that allows capitalists to suck the life out of workers by exploiting them for their labor.


The instrument of labor [in] the form of a machine ... becomes a competitor of the worker.

Narrator, Vol. 1, Part 4, Chapter 15

Machines, Marx explains, are not introduced to manufacture in order to take some of the burden off the worker but to instead make the worker become even more efficient. Incidentally, machines often replace some workers' jobs and thereby put laborers out of work.


To be a productive worker is therefore not a piece of luck, but a misfortune.

Narrator, Vol. 1, Part 5, Chapter 16

In the capitalist system a productive worker, or a worker who works efficiently, is good only for the capitalist, because the worker produces more surplus-value, which turns into the capitalist's capital and profit. The extra productivity does not in any way come back to the worker in the form of wages.


A society can no more cease to produce than it can cease to consume.

Narrator, Vol. 1, Part 7, Chapter 23

Marx describes the cycle of production and consumption, which is actually a cycle of reproduction, because the cycle is constantly being renewed.


What flows back to the worker [as] wages is a portion of the product he ... reproduces.

Narrator, Vol. 1, Part 7, Chapter 23

Marx illustrates how the worker is an integral part of the capitalist system. The worker is paid a small amount, which is actually a portion of the commodity that they make. This is important, because if the worker was producing and taking to market their own commodity, they would be making significantly more money.


Growth of capital implies growth of its variable constituent [or] the part invested in labor-power.

Narrator, Vol. 1, Part 7, Chapter 25

As capital grows and is reinvested, the need for labor-power also grows. Thus, as capital grows, the capitalist must invest more in labor-power, both in the form of higher wages (as demand for labor increases) and more laborers.


The agricultural folk [were] forcibly expropriated from the soil ... turned into vagabonds, and then ... tortured.

Narrator, Vol. 1, Part 6, Chapter 20

The brutal process that Marx describes here is the foundation for the capitalist system in England. In the 16th century peasants were forced from their land and homes and became beggars. The ruling powers that took their livelihoods from them then punished them horribly for being vagabonds. This, Marx argues, is the group who would become the working class, as they were already beaten down and poor.

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