Book Reviews

On Some Features of Marx’s Method

marx m

A Review of Marx’s ‘Capital’, Method and Revolutionary Subjectivity by Guido Starosta

Kaveh Boveiri

Department of Philosophy, Université de Montréal, Montréal



This review essay examines Marx’s ‘Capital’, Method and Revolutionary Subjectivity by Guido Starosta, published as Volume 112 of theHistorical Materialism Book Series. The thesis proposed here is that, notwithstanding the claim proposed in the book, according to which a genuine theory of revolutionary subjectivity has to be practical transformative criticism rather than philosophical, such a theory is doomed to remain at a high level of abstraction (as the author himself admits), thus necessitating further, specifically-philosophical engagement. It will be shown that owing to the insufficiency of such an engagement, principally in the content–form relationship based on a Marxian interpretation, the thesis that Starosta puts forward in this book is not adequate as a response to competing accounts of revolutionary subjectivity.



Guido Starosta – method – form – content – revolutionary subjectivity – Capital

Guido Starosta, (2016) Marx’s ‘Capital’, Method and Revolutionary Subjectivity,Historical Materialism Book Series, Leiden: Brill.

A post-Capital Revolutionary Subjectivity

Is the working class alienated? Is it (nonetheless) the revolutionary subject? A positive response to the first question makes a positive response to the second question challenging. This challenge is rigorously taken up by Guido Starosta, professor of the history of economic thought at the National University of Quilmes in Argentina and adjunct investigator at the Council for Scientific and Technical Research, in Marx’s ‘Capital’, Method and Revolutionary Subjectivity (hereafterMCMRS). Although Starosta has written many articles on different topics in Marxian critique and political economy, this is his first book-length work, which is based on his PhD dissertation defended in 2005 in the Department of Sociology at the University of Warwick. Earlier versions of Chapters 3, 4, and 8 were also published previously. Notwithstanding a highly technical theme, stylistically the book is well written, with clear and smooth transitions from chapter to chapter and section to section. It is written in a language that steers clear of pedantry, and the author regularly signals the progress of the overall argument, making the book more accessible than it might otherwise be to the reader not well-versed in the rich content that the book addresses. This makes it accessible both to specialists in the field and general readers, though admittedly in different ways.

The topic of the book is announced as ‘emancipatory subjectivity. More precisely, it is a scientific inquiry into social determinations of the revolutionary subjectivity of the working class’ (p. 1). In focusing on the revolutionary subjectivity of the working class, in contrast to the approach that questions the Marxian postulate of the revolutionary character of proletariat,[1] the book represents a major contribution to reviving Marxist theory in current discussions, and is hence heartily recommended. It has also the merit of familiarising us with the works of Juan Iñigo Carrera,[2] a significant but little-known Argentinian Marxist, as they are contextualised and developed by Starosta.

While the young Marx would have told us that genuine criticism transforms its subject matter, Starosta would reformulate this under the slogan of ‘practical criticism’ (p. 4), the science that the working class must be armed with (p. 287), where the subject of practice is the proletariat that becomes scientifically self-conscious in its struggles. This practical criticism does not forget that the impetus of history is not criticism but revolution,[3] and hence only such a criticism can be taken as an inherent, inseparable component of revolutionary change. Through this, Starosta aims at proving his point ‘about the revolutionary nature and contemporary relevance of the Marxian critique of political economy’ (p. 5). The critique of political economy is also introduced as ‘the dialectical critique of the capital form’ (p. 6).

Starosta’s account in the first part of the book shows how the author of the Paris Manuscripts goes from underscoring the materiality of human productive activity to the need to abolish philosophy as uncritical and alienated thought. Thereafter, he draws a distinction between dialectical logic and the dialectical method. Whereas the former applies a formalistic methodology to each particular case and content, including those of political economy, the latter ‘follows in thought thespecific necessity immanent in social forms themselves’ (p. 7). This is also shown to go beyond merely methodological implications and to be intertwined with ‘the determinations of the political action of the working class’ (p. 7). While Feuerbach succeeded in naturalising philosophy, and even in seeing the role of humanity, he could not incorporate the concrete socialisation of man, which in Marx also entailed the transcendence of philosophy. In this way Marx replaces this philosophy with ‘practical criticism’ as the ‘emancipating conscious practice’ (p. 180). Feuerbach’s materialism is superseded by Marxian social materialism and its simultaneously inherent scientific characteristic. The need to elaborate on such a development and connection led Marx to writeCapital; this is where the second part of Starosta’s volume begins.

The first part thus lays the ground for the second part, which is rather a dialogue between Volume I of Capital and theGrundrisse. According to Starosta, this dialogue is needed to fill in the account inCapital, which he considers unsatisfactory, forin the three volumes of Capital‘Marx no longer advances, in any systematic manner, in the unfolding of the material and social determinations of the revolutionary subject’ (pp. 270–1), whereas the Grundrisseunfolds the content of the social necessity for the abolition of the capitalist mode of productionwithout specifying itsform’ (p. 287).

Chapters 4, 5, and 6 discuss different aspects of ‘commodity’, as the starting point of Marx’s exposition in Capital, and its relationship with revolutionary subjectivity. Chapter 4 deals with the commodity-form in Marx’s investigation in the critique of political economy. It is later shown that the comprehension of revolutionary subjectivity is possible only if a mediated and complex unity of the analytic movement of going from the concrete to the abstract is taken along with the returning synthetic movement from the abstract to the concrete. The latter entails the mental reconstruction of the concrete. In other words, it is the movement from the analytical apprehension of all social forms to their synthetic reproduction. This leads to the ‘constitution of the political action of wage labourers as the form taken by the revolutionary transformation of the historical mode of the human life process’ (p. 194).

Chapter 5 highlights the fetishistic characteristic of the commodity. This fetishistic characteristic goes hand in hand with the fact that the commodity is ‘the formal subject of the process of human metabolism, [that] realises its own determinations’ (p. 159). Through the socialisation of these determinations, the commodity fetishism is linked to the fetishism of capital. This is further developed in Chapter 6, where commodity fetishism is shown to be related to the subjective alienation of the producers of the commodity. At stake here is to show the subjectively alienated aspect of the commodity-form. This, according to Starosta, is to be sought by practical criticism, as the dialectical social science that penetrates into the action. Here he finds the well-known passage from The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte ‘unfortunate’. We read in that passage:

Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past.[4]

The reason for such an attitude towards this passage is that, on this occasion, Marx ‘relapsed into this representational language of external relations and spoke of conditions and circumstances for human action’ (p. 194).

The reading of the historical development of capital alienation presented in this chapter is related to the account of capital accumulation and class struggle in the following chapter. Here, following Marx’s fundamental discovery that ‘the total social capital becomes determined as the concrete subject of the movement of modern society’, the determinations of revolutionary class struggle, as a form through which the valorisation of capital realises itself, are shown to be ‘immanent in the historical movement of alienation itself’ (p. 197).

This discussion culminates in Chapter 8. Once reminded that the necessity of the revolutionary subjectivity is intertwined with the real subsumption of labour to capital (which in turn follows from the revolution in the material conditions of the social process of production) and comprehensible only if understood through it, the whole book up to this point, dealing with formal subsumption (p. 233) – in which capital draws into itself only the existing labour process (techniques, means of production, workers, etc.) – can be taken as a prelude to this chapter. What turns the workers into universal labourers, that is, the collective subject, is the determinate tendency of capital to incessantly revolutionise the material production. Through this mutation of the productive subjectivity, the development of the individuality of the workers, as producers of the social material life, the ‘free association of the individuals, or communism’ (p. 290) becomes not just possible but also necessary, which also necessitates the abolition of the workers as wage-labourers by themselves. Hence, the materiality of the real subsumption mediates ‘not only the transformative power of the worker’s political action as the form of capital’s transcendence, […] but also that of its role as moment of capital’s production’ (p. 253). This is how the twofold question presented at the beginning of this review essay, regarding the revolutionariness of the alienated working class, is answered: according to this account, the working class is alienated but also revolutionary.

In the evolutionary narrative given by Starosta, Marx’s standpoint, equally opposed to the external unity of theory and praxis on the one hand and the passive unity of human and nature on the other (p. 53), evolves from a generic, anthropological negation of negation in the Paris Manuscripts in 1844, to a particular, social one. A clearer title forMCMRS would therefore be Marx’s ‘Capital’, [Dialectical] Method and Revolutionary Subjectivity. With ‘dialectical’ added to ‘method’, we will be reminded that the method is dialectical, and its dialecticality, so to speak, is to be thought of as related not to logic but to method. Dialectical method according to Starosta is to be distinguished from formal logic on the one hand and dialectical logic on the other.

In general, solidly argued as it is, the book is not without sweeping claims that are in need of further justification. One such claim is worth discussing here, since it is closely related to Marx’s methodological approach in general. The claim is as follows: ‘The existence of an inner unity underlying the different phases of Marx’s intellectual project is now part of the “ABC of Marxism”’ (p. 17).[5] This claim is in need of further elaboration, not only because the well-known rupture claim proposed by Althusser is not discussed and a reference to Simon Clarke’s response is found to be sufficient; more importantly, there is another claim of dichotomy, which has been a long-standing issue since the 1970s, that is not referred to at all. What I have in mind is what is claimed to be the real dichotomy, between the Grundrisse andCapital. This claim has been developed in nuanced ways by Alex Callinicos and Jacques Bidet since 1970s.[6] Bidet is mentioned in the text, but Callinicos not at all; more significantly, the discussion is barely addressed. Oddly enough, Starosta’s position, far from maintaining a unified standpoint among Marx’s works, is more similar to that of Sánchez Vázquez, who believes that Marx’s works ‘should be seen as a process that is both continuous and discontinuous, of which each work forms a part’.[7] While no book with such an expansive theme can be expected to be exhaustive, the failure to take sufficient account of important secondary literature – in general, and, on this claim in particular – reduces the strength of the book.

The Form–Content Connection

Since the intrinsic connection between the specifically dialectical form of social science and its radical transformative content is of central importance for this book, it is probably worth evaluating Starosta’s account in this respect. This is not a theme limited to any particular section of the book, but the leading thread present all over it (pp. 4, 146, 230), reflected equally in the usage of the word ‘form’ in the title of several chapters.

Starosta’s discussion regarding Marx’s dialectical method in Capital, in the second part of MCMRS, particularly Chapters 4 and 5, is inspiring. Here, he relates enquiry and exposition[8] to analytic and synthetic moments, and shows how what is impossible in the former moment becomes the function of the latter: whereas the analytic moment tells us the ‘what’ of real relations, for the ‘why’ of those relations we have to wait for the synthetic moment.

That said, significant challenges arise from the complications in comprehension of passages found in the works of the so-called mature Marx. Here, without intending to propose a positive response to such challenges, I would like to underscore some that are not sufficiently elaborated on in MCMRS and relate them to Starosta’s discussion.[9]

Let us begin with a passage from a letter Marx wrote to Kugelmann three years after the publication of the first edition of Capital. There we read:

Lange is naïve enough to say that I ‘move with rare freedom’ in empirical matter. He has not the slightest idea that this ‘free movement in matter [freie Bewegung im Stoff]’ is nothing but a paraphrase for the method of dealing with matter – that is, the dialectical method.[10]

This passage is importantly related to Starosta’s account. On the one hand, it reaffirms the dialectical method, as proposed by him. At stake here is the distinction between dialectical logic and the dialectical method, since Starosta writes:

Hegel argues, in the Phenomenology of Spirit he had already shown the workings of the ‘scientifically correct method’ as the ideal reproduction of the ‘inner self-movement’ of the object of cognition, which is governed by the ‘dialectic which it possesses within itself.’ (p. 60.)

Furthermore, in this letter, Marx relates dialectic to the free movement in matter in which he moves freely. The question once more is how this ‘matter’ finds its place in a comprehensive account of Marx’s methodology.

A related problem arises in rereading a well-known passage, from the Afterword to the second edition of Capital. After underscoring the need for aformal distinction between the method of exposition and the method of enquiry, Marx writes that the method of enquiry ‘hasto appropriate the material in detail, to analyse its different forms of development and to track down their inner connection’.[11] After this threefold function of the method of enquiry is accomplished, a reconstruction in the form of reproduction of the life of the subject matter becomes possible. Related to our discussion is, on the one hand, the need to elaborate on the form–matter relation presented here, and on the other, the formal difference between the method of enquiry and the method of exposition. With the introduction of the aforementioned threefold function, a formal distinction, which is the subject of unending disagreement, seems to be significant.[12]

However, the question may be asked whether Marx holds a formal distinction to be always significant. This leads us to the third and last passage in need of further elaboration. In Notebook II of the Grundrisse, and in his discussion of money, Marx criticises an investigation in which ‘the highest distinction which occurs isa formal and hence irrelevant one.[13] The challenge for any elaboration of such a discussion is to provide an alternative consistent reading for such apparently inconsistent passages. Although the terms used by Starosta are in general chosen cautiously, and he elaborates even on terms such as ‘compelled’ (p. 291), this precision is generally absent in the cardinal discussion of the form–content distinction.[14]

Given the importance of Hegel’s Science of Logic in MCMRS, a comparison between them may be helpful. The content–form discussion is expansively elaborated on in the Science of Logic.[15] In the second book (Essence), Hegel introduces ‘content’ as the third moment against ‘form’, after ‘essence’ as the first moment and ‘matter’ as the second. In Starosta’s account, on the other hand, whereas ‘form’ is distinguished from content (p. 92), and the dual movement of abstract to concrete and from the concrete to the abstract is taken to be the same as the movement between content (abstract) and form (concrete), the reason for counterposing content against form and not matter and essence, is not argued for. In other words, it is not clear whether Starosta believes this to be Marx’s explicit choice, whether it is his own reading of Marx’s choice. In the first case, there is need for reference as evidence from Marx’s text, in the second for argumentation. This becomes even more imperative when we realise that according to Starosta the revolutionary subjectivity is intertwined with the form–content discussion: the class struggle as a form is not ‘the most general content of the movement of the social life’ but thenecessary form in which the valorisation of capital realises its determinations’ (p. 8). In the absence of an argued account of the relation of form with these opposing or counterpoising moments, the work is left with a major shortcoming.

Moreover, without such clarifications, some passages are not easy to follow. For instance, when he defends the thesis that ‘the critique of political economy is the scientific self-consciousness of the working class about its own social determinations as an alienated yet revolutionary subject’ (p. 4), what comes after is not quite clear: ‘because of this determination, itself the product of its dialectical form, social science becomes determined as practical criticism’ (p. 4). It is difficult to understand how the determination is taken to be the product of its dialectical form.

The discussion of form, as is well known, is tightly intertwined with the notion of abstraction. Starosta, in his turn, acknowledges this importance: ‘the difference in the respective kinds of abstraction emerges as a result of the very form of the process of cognition on the basis of which those abstractions are identified’ (p. 130). He then acknowledges such a difference in form in both the synthetic moment and in the analytic moment. In this respect, although I agree with Starosta that ‘Hegel substitutes an inherently idealist method of abstraction for a proper dialectical analysis of real material forms’ (p. 88), we need also to be reminded that Marx equally holds that the function of the power of abstraction is what makes such an analysis possible. Proposing ‘abstraction versus analysis’ (p. 88) seems therefore to be imprecise.[16] For a further elaboration, one has to show whether a Marxian process of abstraction follows what is taken to be a traditional one (where the nature of the essence of what is abstracted, the concrete from which it is abstracted and the remaining residue are thought to be the crucial components of abstraction)[17] or a different standpoint is to be adopted. This makes a more detailed discussion of the similarities between different types of abstraction and a position regarding ‘different levels of abstraction’ (p. 160) equally important.[18]

The announced task of the last chapter, namely ‘to flesh out more explicitly that immanent connection between the content and form of the abolition of capital’ (pp. 287–8) can be achieved only if a sufficient elaboration on such complications has already been given.

From the somewhat abstruse discussion so far, one may ask how these methodological questions are reflected in the practical-social field. This is what I turn to now.

Revolutionary Subjectivity and Subjectivities

On the basis of what has been shown so far, we can perhaps say that the claim of liberation or transcendence of philosophy seems to boomerang and reveal the shortcomings of such a position. But this is not the whole issue; a closely connected problem is the absence of any discussion of the challenges of other potential treatments of the method and subjectivity – non-revolutionary subjectivity in general and reformist subjectivity in particular – as neighbouring conceptions.

First let us note that according to Starosta ‘the theoretico-political challenge for the critique of political economy is to discover the form determination that immanently carries the objective potentiality for their conscious self-abolition as such personifications’ (p. 232). In acknowledging this, he recognises the crucial challenge to theory of Marxism in our era. Nonetheless, the twofold question arises here: whether this potentiality is the only one, and what is the methodological elaboration on the realisation of such potentiality in the process of class struggle.

We know that according to Marx trade unions are the schools of socialism.[19] What we need to know is how the changes in the workplace in our modern era have influenced what Starosta highlights as ‘the current state of radical intellectual labour’ (p. 1). In this respect, although we may not agree with those Marxist thinkers who claim that parts of the proletariat are ‘at their weakest state at any point in historical memory’,[20] we seem to have to respond methodologically, or methodological-mindedly as Starosta puts it, to such obstructions in the way of practical organisation towards the realisation of a revolutionary subjectivity. Put differently, we need a scenario that shows us the necessary path from the reproduction of the working class and the valorisation of capital to the abolition of the working class through its real subjectivity. We need to know how the reproduction of the working class leads to the free association of individuals as the determinate revolutionary negation of capital, how the necessary connection between consciousness and the ‘genuine and necessary bond between consciousness and action’ (p. 190)[21] is to be created – all the more, since the ‘practical criticism’ is of pivotal importance in our discussion.

In this regard, Starosta’s treatment of Marx’s discussion of class in itself and class for itself[22] is right, inasmuch as he states that there is ‘no rigid separation between economic struggles and class struggles’ (p. 113), which is also consistent with seeing unity in the difference between content and form (p. 230). Nonetheless, he does not adequately elaborate on the way he believes revolutionary subjectivity can be distinguished from a non-revolutionary subjectivity in general and reformist subjectivity in particular. His references to reform remain scanty, and his own position on the distinctive characteristics of a revolutionary subjectivity even more so, let alone on how they are reflected in his discussion of method.

Several questions therefore remain unanswered: how do the demands for rights within the capitalist mode of production rise towards the demands to control the social organisation? Does this method entail a path for the subjectivity in the forms of councils, parliamentary actions, parties, trade unions? Which path is to be taken based on this account of revolutionary subjectivity while considering the point that ‘the capitalist mode of production, by its very nature, excludes all rational improvement beyond a certain point’ (p. 263)? While similar accounts of the relationship between different aspects of social struggle, at least in highly technical language, are abundant in the literature,[23] Starosta is silent on these questions.

Given that ‘the central theoretico-practical question traced in the book’ is ‘the determinations of revolutionary subjectivity’ (p. 173), it is not always clear what Starosta’s positive response to a potentially reformist position is. To put it differently, we remain uninformed about how a revolutionary approach is represented methodologically in contrast to a reformist approach. This is despite the fact that Starosta says that the account he proposes is ‘the only method which allows us immanently to ground forms of consciousness and will within the movement of present-day social relations’ (p. 193). If the reader searches for what Starosta means by the contextualisation expected to stem from ‘present-day social relations’, this is a promise that is not kept. In failing to do so, the book does not contextualise, either sociologically or even socially, the problems in the field that such methodologically minded works are expected to tackle, if they are not to remain at a negatively abstract level. Thus, the theoretical orientation of ‘practical criticism’ needs a more developed discussion than what Starosta offers.


Although Starosta accuses several Marxists of remaining at a high level of abstraction (p. 182), he admits (p. 315) that this is also true of his own work. The point may be put as follows: so long as it remains at a universal level rather than a singular one, any discussion of Marx’s works is doomed to remain abstract. In other words, any ‘methodologically-minded critical reconstruction’ of Marx’s works at this level remains inevitably philosophical. Thus, despite Starosta’s attempt to include ‘more concrete mediations than Marx’ (p. 315), the overcoming of philosophy for such themes seems to have to remain to a large extent philosophical, and any attempt to transcend philosophy unphilosophically without engaging in the systematic development of political economy will be doomed to fail. The reason is that a general reformulation of this particular mode of production, namely the capitalist mode of production, once this generalisation both makes comprehensible the previous modes of production and, admittedly inevitably vaguely, sheds light on the alternative future mode of production stemming from the inherent contradictions of the current one, results in a philosophy of this transcendence. One may go even further and question the legitimacy of this segregation of different realms of human knowledge (philosophy, sociology, political economy, history, arts, etc.).

The ‘methodologically-minded’ standpoint Starosta adopts therefore has a twofold negative impact. As far as the philosophical discussion is concerned, several closely related issues are left undeveloped; and as far as the sociological discussions are concerned, his work remains abstract, as he admits. It is thus simultaneously neither abstract enough as to the form–content relationship, nor concrete enough as regards the relationship between revolutionary subjectivity and other forms of subjectivity.

All that being said, one has to admire how the treatment of the few pages that Marx wrote on method has in Starosta’s hands resulted in such an inspiring book, equally for those interested in Marxist philosophy, sociology, and political economy, but also for activists aiming at delving deeply into the difficulties related to a revolutionary socio-political orientation. In so doing, Guido Starosta’s book is an outstanding effort at revitalising important points in Marxist theory. In reading it with the critical spirit present throughout the book, however, we are equally shown the ways for future attempts to generalise and deepen these discussions.


Bidet, Jacques 2005, ‘La dialectique du Capital. Critique et reconstruction méta/structurelle’, inActes du Colloque ‘La dialectique aujourd’hui’, organised by Lucien Sève and Bertell Ollman, Paris: Espaces Marx.

Bonefeld, Werner 1992, ‘Social Constitution and the Form of the Capitalist State’, in Open Marxism, Volume I: Dialectics and History, edited by Werner Bonefeld, Richard Gunn and Kosmas Psychopedis, London: Pluto Press.

Boveiri, Kaveh 2017, ‘Zur These eines epistemologische Bruchs zwischen dem Kapital und den Grundrissen’, in Materialistische Dialektik bei Marx und über Marx hinaus, edited by Stefano Breda, Kaveh Boveiri and Frieder Otto Wolf, Berlin: Freie Universität Berlin.

Callinicos, Alex 2014, Deciphering Capital: Marx’s ‘Capital’ and Its Destiny, London: Bookmarks.

Fineschi, Roberto 2013, ‘The Four Levels of Abstraction of Marx’s Concept of “Capital”. Or, Can We Consider the Grundrisse the Most Advanced Version of Marx’s Theory of Capital?’, in In Marx’s Laboratory: Critical Interpretations of the ‘Grundrisse’, edited by Riccardo Bellofiore, Guido Starotsa and Peter D. Thomas,Historical Materialism Book Series, Leiden: Brill.

Gandler, Stefan 2015, Critical Marxism in Mexico: Adolfo Sánchez Vázquez and Bolívar Echeverría, Historical Materialism Book Series, Chicago: Haymarket Books.

Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich 1999 [1812/13/17], Hegel’s Science of Logic, translated by A.V. Miller, Amherst, NY: Humanity Books.

Ilyenkov, Evald Vasil’evich 1982 [1960], The Dialectics of the Abstract and the Concrete in Marx’s ‘Capital’, Moscow: Progress Publishers.

Iñigo Carrera, Juan, n.d., personal website, available at: <>.

Lobkowicz, Nicholas 1968, ‘Abstraction and Dialectics’, The Review of Metaphysics, 21, 3: 468–90.

Lukács, Georg 1971 [1919–23], History and Class Consciousness: Studies in Marxist Dialectics, translated by Rodney Livingstone, London: Merlin Press.

Marcuse, Herbert 2007 [1964], One Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society, London: Routledge.

Marx, Karl 1928 [1870], ‘Letter to Kugelmann, 27 June 1870’, in Marx/Engels Collected Works, Volume 43, Moscow: Progress Publishers.

Marx, Karl 1976a [1867], Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Volume One, translated by Ben Fowkes, Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Marx, Karl 1976b [1847], The Poverty of Philosophy: Answer to the Philosophy of Poverty by M. Proudhon, inMarx/Engels Collected Works, Volume 6, London: Lawrence and Wishart.

Marx, Karl 1979 [1852], The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, inMarx/Engels Collected Works, Volume 11, London: Lawrence and Wishart.

Marx, Karl 1989 [1861–3], Economic Manuscripts of 1861–63, inMarx/Engels Collected Works, Volume 32, New York: International Publishers.

Marx, Karl 1993 [1857–8], Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy, translated by Martin Nicolaus, Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels 1978, Die deutsche Ideologie, inMarx–Engels–Werke, Volume 3, Berlin: Dietz Verlag.

McLellan, David (ed.) 2000, Karl Marx: Selected Writings, Second Edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ollman, Bertell 2003, Dance of the Dialectic: Steps in Marx’s Method, Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.

Paolucci, Paul 2011, Marxism and the Politics of Abstraction, Leiden: Brill.

Post, Charlie 2009, ‘Exploring the Roots of the Crisis’, Solidarity, available at: <>.

Sánchez Vázquez, Adolfo 1977, The Philosophy of Praxis, Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press.

Smith, Tony 1993, Dialectical Social Theory and Its Critics: From Hegel to Analytical Marxism and Postmodernism, Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Starosta, Guido 2016, Marx’s ‘Capital’, Method and Revolutionary Subjectivity,Historical Materialism Book Series, Leiden: Brill.


[1] Cf. Marcuse 2007, p. 193: ‘The reality of the labouring classes in advanced industrial society makes the Marxian “proletariat” a mythological concept; the reality of present-day socialism makes the Marxian idea a dream’ (see also p. 227).

[2] Iñigo Carrera and Starosta have also recorded their lessons on the second volume of Capital, to which the reader familiar with Spanish may refer here: <>.

[3] ‘daß Nicht die Kritik, sondern die Revolution die treibende Kraft der Geschichte auch der Religion, Philosophie und sonstigen Theorie ist’ (Marx and Engels 1978, p. 38).

[4] Marx 1979, p. 103.

[5] Starosta repeats a similar claim later in the book: ‘In the last 30 years, […] the controversy over the unity in Marx’s thought broadly settled’ (Starosta 2016, p. 18; my emphasis).

[6] Bidet 2005; Callinicos 2014.

[7] Sánchez Vázquez 1977, p. 97.

[8] He uses both ‘presentation’ and ‘exposition’ as translations for Darstellung. To be consistent and more precise, I will use only the latter.

[9] For an attempt along these lines, see Boveiri 2017.

[10] Marx 1928, p. 528.

[11] Marx 1976a, p. 103; emphasis added.

[12] Although Starosta states (Starosta 2016, p. 126, n. 27) that he finds Roberto Fineschi’s discussion of the method of exposition and the method of enquiry interesting, he does not provide the reader with his own interpretation of the relationship between them.

[13] Marx 1993, p. 248; emphasis added.

[14] Here are just some examples: ‘form and matter of cognition’ (Starosta 2016, p. 59); ‘form and the materiality of human life’ (p. 202); form and materiality (p. 238); the materiality of the forms of the real subsumption of labour to capital (p. 253); ‘not only formally but even materially’ (p. 259); material content and form (p. 263); material content (p. 232). To make things more complex, he adds substance to the list. Marx needs, it is stated, to separate ‘form from its content or substance’ (p. 131).

[15] Hegel 1999, pp. 444–56.

[16] His reference to the ‘power of abstraction’ as a methodological apparatus, so to speak, is limited to a footnote (Starosta 2016, p. 124, n. 21) where he refers to the Economic Manuscripts of 1861–3, in which the role of this power isnot clarified.

[17] Lobkowicz 1968.

[18] The literature is quite rich in this respect: from Ilyenkov 1982 as one of the pioneers, to Ollman 2003, Paolucci 2011, and Fineschi 2013. None of these works is mentioned by Starosta!

[19] McLellan (ed.) 2000, p. 583.

[20] Post 2009.

[21] Lukács 1971, p. 2.

[22] Marx 1976b, pp. 210–11.

[23] For an example, see Smith 1993, Chapter 1, especially pp. 17–21.