Now that Marxists are as threatening to the social order as members of the Bull Moose Party, can we possibly read Das Kapital in an objective way? Michael Fitzpatrick thinks so, and argues that there's nothing remotely like Capital.
One way of looking at the book is that the empirical social analysis in Capital works and the theory doesn't. So, Capital works as an analysis of Capitalism and its limitations, even if we reject the dialectic, which I reject simply as a sort of quasi mysticism. I think Marx pretty much nails industrial capitalism, although he didn't see the ways in which it could reform itself. But, Fitzpatrick says that I'm wrong there- the dialectic is not as Hegelian and mechanistic as people like me think it is.
"Marx shows how the process of capital accumulation tends towards falling profitability expressed in periodic crises. However, contrary to the interpretations of many admirers as well as critics, Marx does not advance a mechanistic thesis of collapse or predict the inevitable downfall of capitalism. He recognises that crises are both an expression of declining profitability and a mechanism for restoring it. He identifies a series of counteracting tendencies to the dominant disintegrative dynamic of capitalism. His analysis supports neither fatalists eagerly anticipating the fall of capital nor those who believe that revolutionary will is in itself sufficient to bring the system to an end. The key factor in the fate of capitalism was the role of class struggle, as the subjective bearer of change in the objective conditions given by the tendency towards breakdown."
And, for the most part, that was defeated before it got started. Point taken. Fitzpatrick is probably right that Capital is sociological analysis, and not mechanistic theory. It's worth remembering Marx's famous comment that he was not a Marxist. Also, he notes that Capital might be remembered best as literature, an area in which its value is most easily demonstrated. I'm not a Marxist either, but I understand why people return time and again to Capital to explain those aspects of our post-industrial world that are most bewildering and confusing.