His [Karl Marx’s] characterisation of capitalism is elegant in its simplicity. Each day, he argued, workers produced a greater value of goods than was necessary to support themselves; capitalists appropriated what was left over. Workers could not get hold of that surplus because they did not own capital (machinery, buildings and so on). But as they produced more, they created more capital, thus reinforcing the domination by the capitalists. A “system ostensibly resting upon equal and fair exchange could consistently yield a surplus to one of the parties to the exchange.”

False consciousness

Karl Marx: Greatness and Illusion. By Gareth Stedman Jones. Allen Lane; 750 pages; £35. To be published in America by Belknap in October. COMMUNISM collapsed nearly 30 years ago, but the influence of Karl Marx lives on. Marxist approaches are found in some of the most interesting history and sociology being published today.

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