Joseph Choonara's recent guide is designed to be read by individuals or groups of individuals tackling Capital for the first time. Choonara has written a number of highly accessible books and articles on Marxist economics and this introduction is an excellent guide to Marx's book based on his own experience running Capital reading groups for students and workers. He breaks Capital down into chapters that should be read together and then highlights key points from each section. It's clearly written, emphasises the key points of Marx's ideas and suggests further reading for those who want to understand specific points. Choonara is not afraid of pointing out where Marx's work is unclear. Crucially Choonara emphasises that key to understanding Marx's book is understanding Marx's method in Capital.
Marx begins, Choonara explains, by "stripping away complicating featires of reality to grasp its driving forces in their purest and simplest form". He then moves "from the abstract to the concrete". It's very easy to see this in action in Marx's work and Choonara gives a number of examples.
Take the example of money, the section where Marx takes the reader through an argument about the universal equivalent for exchanging commodities. Choonara explains:
Marx's sequence of steps is not necessarily a historical argument about how money emerged. Money could come about through any number of processes. It is an argument about how, in a capitalist society in which commodity production becomes general, a universal equivalent is a logical necessity. It is not possible to imagine a capitalist mode of production without money.Understanding Marx's approach helps clarify the process of argument which, in turn, makes the book easier to follow. Secondly Choonara doesn't discuss Capital in isolation from Marx's other work. Unlike some writers on Capital he highlights the continuity in Marx's work. As Choonara writes:
Rather than seeing the transition as one from a young humanist Marx who spoke about alienation to a mature Marx concerned only with a 'scientific' understanding of capitalist structures, it is better to see the process as one of a deepening and refining of the concept of alienation.This helps place Capital not as a isolated masterpiece, but as the result of a life of revolutionary activity and thought on the part of its author. Joseph Choonara's book is an excellent introduction to Capital and I wish that it had been available 25 years ago when I first became active in revolutionary politics.
Choonara - Unravelling Capitalism
Choonara & Kimber - Arguments for Revolution
Marx - Value, Price and Profit
Marx - Capital