The Accumulation of Capital

By Rosa Luxemburg

Entry 9588


From: holdoffhunger [id: 1]


Untitled Anarchism The Accumulation of Capital

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(1871 - 1919)

Rosa Luxemburg (German: [ˈʁoːza ˈlʊksəmbʊʁk] (About this soundlisten); Polish: Róża Luksemburg; also Rozalia Luksenburg; 5 March 1871 – 15 January 1919) was a Polish Marxist, philosopher, economist, anti-war activist and revolutionary socialist who became a naturalized German citizen at the age of 28. Successively, she was a member of the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania (SDKPiL), the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), the Independent Social Democratic Party (USPD) and the Communist Party of Germany (KPD). (From:


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First Published: 1913. Source: (Rare Masterpieces Of Philosophy And Science) The Accumulation of Capital; Edited by Dr. W. Stark, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd; 1951. Printed in Great Britain by Butler and Tanner Limited; Frome and London; Typography by Sean Jennett. No copyright notice. Translated: (from the German) by Agnes Schwarzschild (Doctor Iuris). Transcription/Markup: Brian Baggins. Proofing Status: Chris Clayton (9/2006); Stephen Mikesell (8/2007). Please help by proofing this document (compare it with the original version in PDF) and send in corrections to the archive administrator. (From:
KARL MARX made a contribution of lasting service to the theory of economics when he drew attention to the problem of the reproduction of the entire social capital. It is significant that in the history of economics we find only two attempts at an exact exposition of this problem: one by Quesney, the father of the Physiocrats, at its very inception; and in its final stage this attempt by Marx. In the interim, the problem was ever with bourgeois economics. Yet bourgeois economists have never been fully aware of this problem in its pure aspects, detached from related and intersecting minor problems: they have never been able to formulate it precisely, let alone solve it. Seeing that the problem is of paramount importance, their attempts may al... (From:
So far we have taken account only of the individual capitalist in our survey of reproduction; he is its typical representative, its agent, for reproduction is indeed brought about entirely by individual capitalist enterprises. This approach has already shown us that the problem involves difficulties enough. Yet these difficulties increase to an extraordinary degree and become even more complicated, when we turn our attention from the individual capitalist to the totality of capitalists. A superficial glance suffices to show that capitalist reproduction as a social whole must not be regarded simply as a mechanical summation of all the separate processes of individual capitalist reproduction. We have seen, for instance, that one of the fun... (From:
LET us recapitulate the conclusions to which Smith’s analysis has brought us: There is a fixed capital of society, no part of which enters into its net revenue. This fixed capital consists in ‘the materials necessary for supporting their useful machines and instruments of trade’ and ‘the produce of labor necessary for fashioning those materials into the proper form’.(1) By singling out the production of such fixed capital as of a special kind, and explicitly contrasting it with the production of consumer goods, Smith in effect transformed fixed capital into what Marx calls ‘constant capital’ – that part of capital which consists of all material means of production, as opposed to labor power... (From:
Let us now consider the formula c + v + s as the expression of the social product as a whole. Is it only a theoretical abstraction, or does it convey any real meaning when applied to social life – has the formula any objective existence in relation to society as a whole? It was left to Marx to establish the fundamental importance of c, the constant capital, in economic theory. Yet Adam Smith before him, working exclusively with the categories of fixed and circulating capital, in effect transformed this fixed capital into constant capital, though he was not aware of having achieved this result. This constant capital comprises not only those means of production which wear out in the course of years, but also those which are completely a... (From:
In our study of the reproductive process we have not so far considered the circulation of money. Here we do not refer to money as a measuring rod, an embodiment of value, because all relations of social labor have been expressed, assumed and measured in terms of money. What we have to do now is to test our diagram of simple reproduction under the aspect of money as a means of exchange. Quesnay already saw that we shall only understand the social reproductive process if we assume, side by side with the means of production and consumer goods, a certain quantity of money.(1) Two questions now arise: by whom should the money be owned, and how much of it should there be? The answer to the first question, no doubt, is that the ... (From:
THE shortcomings of the diagram of simple reproduction are obvious: it explains the laws of a form of reproduction which is possible only as an occasional exception in a capitalist economy. It is not simple but enlarged reproduction which is the rule in every capitalist economic system, even more so than in any other.(1) Nevertheless, this diagram is of real scientific importance in two respects. In practice, even under conditions of enlarged reproduction, the greater part of the social product can be looked on as simple reproduction, which forms the broad basis upon which production in every case expands beyond its former limits. In theory, the analysis of simple reproduction also provides the necessary starting point for all scientific... (From:
The first enlargement of reproduction gave the following picture. I. 4,400c + 1,100v + 1,100s = 6,600 II. 1,600c + 800v + 800s = 3,200 Total: 9,800 This already clearly expresses the interdependence of the two departments – but it is a dependence of a peculiar kind. Accumulation here originates in Department I, and Department II merely follows suit. Thus it is Department I alone that determines the volume of accumulation. Marx effects accumulation here by allowing Department I to capitalize one-half of its surplus value; Department II, however, may capitalize only as much as is necessary to assure the production and accumulation of Department I. He makes the capitalists of Department II consume 600s as against the ... (From:
COMPLETE abstraction from the circulation of money, though making the process of accumulation so smooth and simple in the diagram of enlarged reproduction, has great disadvantages of its own, we see. There was much to be said for this method in the analysis of simple reproduction, where consumption is the be-all and end-all of production. Money there had an ephemeral part, mediating the distribution of the social product among the various groups of consumers – the agent for the renewal of capital. In the process of accumulation, however, the money form has an essential function: it no longer serves as a mere agent in the circulation of commodities – here it has come to be a feature of capital itself, an element in the circulatio... (From:
THE flaw in Marx’s analysis is, in our opinion, the misguided formulation of the problem as a mere question of ‘the sources of money’, whereas the real issue is the effective demand, the use made of goods, not the source of the money which is paid for them. As to money as a means of circulation: when considering the reproductive process as a whole, we must assume that capitalist society must always dispose of money, or a substitute, in just that quantity that is needed for its process of circulation. What has to be explained is the great social transaction of exchange, caused by real economic needs. While it is important to remember that capitalist surplus value must invariably pass through the money stage before it can be... (From:
First Round Sismondi-Malthus v. Say-Ricardo-MacCulloch THE first grave doubts as to the divine character of the capitalist order came to bourgeois economists under the immediate impact of the first crises of 1815 and 1818-19 in England. Even then it had still been external circumstances which led up to these crises, and they appeared to be ephemeral. Napoleon’s blockade of the Continent which for a time had cut off England from her European markets and had favored a considerable development of home industries, in some of the continental countries, was partly responsible; for the rest the material exhaustion of the Continent, owing to the long period of war, made for a smaller demand for English products than had been expected whe... (From:
SISMONDI’S emphatic warnings against the ruthless ascendancy of capital in Europe called forth severe opposition on three sides: in England the school of Ricardo, in France J.B. Say, the commonplace vulgarizer of Adam Smith, and the St. Simonians. While Owen in England, profoundly aware of the dark aspects of the industrial system and of the crises in particular, saw eye to eye with Sismondi in many respects, the school of that other great European, St. Simon, who had stressed the world-embracing conception of large industrial expansion, the unlimited unfolding of the productive forces of human labor, felt perturbed by Sismondi’s alarms. Here, however, we are interested in the controversy between Sismondi and the Ricardians whic... (From:
MACCULLOCH’s reply to Sismondi’s theoretical objections evidently did not settle the matter to Ricardo’s own satisfaction. Unlike that shrewd ‘Scottish arch-humbug’, as Marx calls him, Ricardo really wanted to discover the truth and throughout retained the genuine modesty of a great mind.(1) That Sismondi’s polemics against him and his pupil had made a deep impression is proved by Ricardo’s revised approach to the question of the effects of the machine, that being the point on which Sismondi, to his eternal credit, had confronted the classical school of harmony with the sinister aspects of capitalism. Ricardo’s followers had enlarged upon the doctrine that the machine can always create as many... (From:
SISMONDI’S essay against Ricardo in the Revue Encyclopédique of May 1824, was the final challenge for J.B. Say, at that time the acknowledged ‘prince of economic science’ (prince de la science économique), the so-called representative, heir and popularizer of the school of Adam Smith on the Continent. Say, who had already advanced some arguments against Sismondi in his letters to Malthus, countered the following July with an essay on The Balance Between Consumption and Production in the Revue Encyclopédique, to which Sismondi in turn published a short reply. The chronology of Sismondi’s polemical engagements was thus inverse to the sequence of the opposing theories, for it had been Say who first ... (From:
At the same time as Sismondi, Malthus also waged war against some of the teachings of Ricardo. Sismondi, in the second edition of his work as well as in his polemics, repeatedly referred to Malthus as an authority on his side. Thus he formulated the common aims of his campaign against Ricardo in the Revue Encyclopédique: ‘Mr. Malthus, on the other hand, has maintained in England, as I have tried to do on the Continent, that consumption is not the necessary consequence of production, that the needs and desires of man, though they are truly without limits, are only satisfied by consumption in so far as means of exchange go with them. We have affirmed that it is not enough to create these means of exchange, to make them circula... (From:
Second Round The Controversy Between Rodbertus and von Kirchmann THE second theoretical polemics about the problem of accumulation was also started by current events. If the first English crisis and its attendant misery of the working class had stimulated Sismondi’s opposition against the classical school, it was the revolutionary working-class movement arisen since which, almost twenty-five years later, provided the incentive for Rodbertus’ critique of capitalist production. The risings of the Lyons silk weavers and the Chartist movement in England were vastly different from the shadowy specters raised by the first crisis, and the ears of the bourgeoisie were made to ring with their criticism of the most wonderful of all f... (From:
Rodbertus digs deeper than v. Kirchmann. He looks for the roots of evil in the very foundations of social organization and declares bitter war on the predominant Free Trade school – not against a system of unrestricted commodity circulation or the freedom of trade which he fully accepts, but against the Manchester doctrine of laissez-faire within the internal social relations of economy. At that time, after the period of storm and stress of classical economics, a system of unscrupulous apologetics was already in full sway which found its most perfect expression in the ‘doctrine of harmony’ of M. Frédéric Bastiat, the famous vulgarian and idol of all Philistines, and quite soon the various Schultzes were to fl... (From:
To begin with, what does it mean that a decrease in the workers’ share is bound immediately to engender overproduction and commercial crises? Such a view can only make sense provided Rodbertus takes the ‘national product’ to consist of two parts, vide the shares of the workers and of the capitalists, in short of v + s, one share being exchangeable for the other. And that is more or less what he actually seems to say on occasions, e.g. in his first Letter on Social Problems: ‘The poverty of the working classes precludes their income from giving scope to increasing production. The additional amount of products from the entrepreneurs’ point of view lowers the value of the aggregate product so far as to bar prod... (From:
THE third controversy about capitalist accumulation takes place in an historical setting quite different from that of the two earlier ones. The time flow is the period from the beginning of the eighties to the middle of the nineties, the scene Russia. In Western Europe, capitalism had already attained maturity. The rose-colored classical view of Smith and Ricardo in a budding bourgeois economy had long since vanished ... the self-interested optimism of the vulgarian Manchester doctrine of harmony had been silenced by the devastating impact of the world collapse in the seventies, and under the heavy blows of a violent class struggle that blazed up in all capitalist countries after the sixties. Even that harmony patched up with social reformi... (From:
THE representatives of Russian ‘populism’ were convinced that capitalism had no future in Russia, and this conviction brought them to the problem of capitalist reproduction. V.V. laid down his theories on this point in a series of articles in the review Patriotic Memoirs and in other periodicals which were collected and published in 1882 under the title The Destiny of Capitalism in Russia. He further dealt with the problem in The Commodity Surplus in the Supply of the Market,(1)Militarism and Capitalism,(2)Our Trends,(3) and finally in Outlines of Economic Theory.(4) It is not easy to determine Vorontsov’s attitude towards capitalist development in Russia. He sided neither with the purely slavophil theory which deduced the... (From:
THE second theorist of populist criticism, Nikolayon, brings quite a different economic training and knowledge to his work. One of the best-informed experts on Russian economic relations, he had already in 1880 attracted attention by his treatise on the capitalization of agricultural incomes, which was published in the review Slovo. Thirteen years later, spurred on by the great Russian famine of 1891, he pursued his inquiries further in a book entitled Outlines of Our Social Economy Since the Reform. Here he gives a detailed exposition, fully documented by facts and figures, of how capitalism developed in Russia, and on this evidence proceeds to show that this development is the source of all evil, and so of the famine, also, so far as the ... (From:
We now turn to the criticism of the above opinions as given by the Russian Marxists. In 1894, Peter v. Struve who had already given a detailed appraisal of Nikolayon’s book in an essay On Capitalist Development in Russia,(1) published a book in Russian,(2) criticizing the theories of ‘populism’ from various aspects. In respect of our present problem, however, he mainly confines himself to proving, against both Vorontsov and Nikolayon, that capitalism does not cause a contraction of the home market but, on the contrary, an expansion. There can be no doubt that Nikolayon has made a blunder – the same that Sismondi had made. They each describe only a single aspect of the destructive process, performed by capitalism o... (From:
The second critic of ‘populist’ skepticism, S. Bulgakov, is no respecter of Struve’s ‘third persons’ and at once denies that they form the sheet-anchor for capitalist accumulation. ‘The majority of economists before Marx’ he declares, ‘solved the problem by saying that some sort of ‘third person’ is needed, as a deus ex machina, to cut the Gordian knot, i.e. to consume the surplus value. This part is played by luxury-loving landowners (as with Malthus), or by indulgent capitalists, or yet by-militarism and the like. There can be no demand for the surplus value without some such extraordinary mediators; a deadlock will be reached on the markets and the result will be over-product... (From:
We have left this theorist to the end, although he already developed his views in Russian in 1894, i.e. before Struve and Bulgakov, partly because he only gave his theories their mature form in German at a later date,(1) and also because the conclusions he draws from the premises of the Marxist critics are the most far-reaching in their implications. Like Bulgakov, Tugan Baranovski starts from Marx’s analysis of social reproduction which gave him the clue to this bewildering maze of problems. But while Bulgakov, the enthusiastic disciple of Marx, only sought to follow him faithfully and simply attributed his own conclusions to the master, Tugan Baranovski, on the other hand, lays down the law to Marx who, in his opinion, did not kn... (From:
THE Russian ‘legalist’ Marxists, and Tugan Baranovski above all, can claim the credit, in their struggle against the doubters of capitalist accumulation, of having enriched economic theory by an application of Marx’s analysis of the social reproductive process and it schematic representation in the second volume of Capital. But in view of the fact that this same Tugan Baranovski quite wrongly regarded said diagram as the solution to the problem instead of its formulation, his conclusions were bound to reverse the basic order of Marx’s doctrine. Tugan Baranovski’s approach, according to which capitalist production can create unlimited markets and is independent of consumption, leads him straight on to the the... (From:
In the first section, we ascertained that Marx’s diagram of accumulation does not solve the question of who is to benefit in the end by enlarged reproduction. If we take the diagram literally as it is set out at the end of volume ii, it appears that capitalist production would itself realize its entire surplus value, and that it would use the capitalized surplus value exclusively for its own needs. This impression is confirmed by Marx’s analysis of the diagram where he attempts to reduce the circulation within the diagram altogether to terms of money, that is to say to the effective demand of capitalists and workers – an attempt which in the end leads him to introduce the ‘producer of money’ as a deus ex machin... (From:
MARX’S diagram of enlarged reproduction cannot explain the actual and historical process of accumulation. And why? Because of the very premises of the diagram. The diagram sets out to describe the accumulative process on the assumption that the capitalists and workers are the sole agents of capitalist consumption. We have seen that Marx consistently and deliberately assumes the universal and exclusive domination of the capitalist mode of production as a theoretical premise of his analysis in all three volumes of Capital. Under these conditions, there can admittedly be no other classes of society than capitalists and workers; as the diagram has it, all ‘third persons’ of capitalist society – civil servants, the libera... (From:
CAPITALISM arises and develops historically amid a non-capitalist society. In Western Europe it is found at first in a feudal environment from which it in fact sprang the system of bondage in rural areas and the guild system in the towns – and later, after having swallowed up the feudal system, it exists mainly in an environment of peasants and artisans, that is to say in a system of simple commodity production both in agriculture and trade. European capitalism is further surrounded by vast territories of non-European civilization ranging over all levels of development, from the primitive communist hordes of nomad herdsmen, hunters and gatherers to commodity production by peasants and artisans. This is the setting for the accumulation... (From:
The second condition of importance for acquiring means of production and realizing the surplus value is the commodity exchange and commodity economy should be introduced in societies based on natural economy as soon as their independence has been abrogated, or rather in the course of this disruptive process. Capital requires to buy the products of, and sell its commodities to, all non-capitalist strata and societies. Here at last we seem to find the beginnings of that ‘peace’ and ‘equality’, the do ut des, mutual interest, ‘peaceful competition’ and the ‘influences of civilization’. For capital can indeed deprive alien social associations of their means of production by force, it can compel th... (From:
An important final phase in the campaign against natural economy is to separate industry from agriculture, to eradicate rural industries altogether from peasant economy. Handicraft in its historical beginnings was a subsidiary occupation, a mere appendage to agriculture in civilized and settled societies. In medieval Europe it became gradually independent of the corvée farm and agriculture, it developed into specialized occupations, i.e. production of commodities by urban guilds. In industrial districts, production had progressed from home craft by way of primitive manufacture to the capitalist factory of the staple industries, but in the rural areas, under peasant economy, home crafts persisted as an intrinsic part of agriculture. E... (From:
THE imperialist phase of capitalist accumulation which implies universal competition comprises the industrialization and capitalist emancipation of the hinterland where capital formerly realized its surplus value. Characteristic of this phase are: lending abroad, railroad constructions, revolutions, and wars. The last decade, from 1900 to 1910, shows in particular the world-wide movement of capital, especially in Asia and neighboring Europe: in Russia, Turkey, Persia, India, Japan, China, and also in North Africa. Just as the substitution of commodity economy for a natural economy and that of capitalist production for a simple commodity production was achieved by wars, social crises and the destruction of entire social systems, so at presen... (From:
IMPERIALISM is the political expression of the accumulation of capital in its competitive struggle for what remains still open of the non-capitalist environment. Still the largest part of the world in terms of geography, this remaining field for the expansion of capital is yet insignificant as against the high level of development already attained by the productive forces of capital; witness the immense masses of capital accumulated in the old countries which seek an outlet for their surplus product and strive to capitalize their surplus value, and the rapid change-over to capitalism of the pre-capitalist civilizations. On the international stage, then, capital must take appropriate measures. With the high development of the capitalist coun... (From:
MILITARISM fulfills a quite definite function in the history of capital, accompanying as it does every historical phase of accumulation. It plays a decisive part in the first stages of European capitalism, in the period of the so-called ‘primitive accumulation’, as a means of conquering the New World and the spice-producing countries of India. Later, it is employed to subject the modern colonies, to destroy the social organizations of primitive societies so that their means of production may be appropriated, forcibly to introduce commodity trade in countries where the social structure had been unfavorable to it, and to turn the natives into a proletariat by compelling them to work for wages in the colonies. It is responsible for... (From:


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