An Abridgment

Book Cover "Capital: An Abridgment" in white on a light blue-green background with a stylised line drawing of Karl Marx in the center of the page.
Otto Rühle
Second Edition
Short book
131 pages

Otto Rühle’s abridgement of Capital Vol 1, putting aside contemporary factual material, illustrations, polemics, is a good lead-in for the full book. Engels rightly called Capital “The bible of the working class”. Plus, an introduction and study notes.


As Karl Korsch remarked: “The investigation Marx undertakes in the first volume of Capital is only formally limited to the productive process of capitalism. In actual fact, in his treatment of this aspect, Marx grasps and portrays the totality of the capitalist mode of production, and the bourgeois society that emerges from it”.

Otto Rühle was the second, after Karl Liebknecht, of the German Social Democratic Party’s parliamentary deputies to rebel after August 1914 against the long-sacred party discipline which had at first made them vote for war credits in World War One. He was a member of the Spartacus League led by Rosa Luxemburg, and then of the early German Communist Party.

Later, exiled in Mexico after the Nazi seizure of power, he had friendly relations with Leon Trotsky despite many political differences. He served on the Dewey Commission which investigated the Moscow Trial charges against Trotsky.

His abridged version of Capital, paring it down to the essential theoretical arguments, putting aside current factual material, illustrations, polemics, was published in 1939. In a foreword, Trotsky wrote: "The abridgement of the first volume of Capital – the foundation of Marx’s entire system of economics – was made by Mr. Otto Rühle with great care and with profound understanding of his task".

To this day the abridgement remains the best lead-in to Capital for readers daunted by the bulk of the whole book.

Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • Ch. 1: Commodities
  • Ch. 2: Exchange
  • Ch. 3: Money, or the Circulation of Commodities
  • Ch. 4, 5, 6: The General Formula for Capital. The Buying and Selling of Labour Power
  • Ch. 7: The Labour Process and the Process of Producing Surplus-value
  • Ch. 8: Constant Capital and Variable Capital
  • Ch. 9: The Rate of Surplus-value
  • Ch. 10: The Working Day
  • Ch. 11: Rate and Mass of Surplus-value
  • Ch. 12: The Concept of Relative Surplus-value
  • Ch. 13: Co-operation
  • Ch. 14: Division of Labour and Manufacture
  • Ch. 15: Machinery and Modern Industry
  • Ch. 16: Absolute and Relative Surplus-value
  • Ch. 17: Changes in the Magnitude of the Price of Labour-power and in Surplus Value
  • Ch. 18: Various Formulae in the Rate of Surplus Value
  • Ch. 19: The Transformation of the Value (and Respectively the Price) of Labour-power into Wages
  • Ch. 20: Time-wages
  • Ch. 21: Piece-wages
  • Ch. 22: National Differences of Wages
  • Ch. 23: Simple Reproduction
  • Ch. 24: Conversion of Surplus-value into Capital
  • Ch. 25: The General Law of Capitalist Accumulation
  • Chs. 26-32: Primitive Accumulation and the Historical Tendency of Capitalist Accumulation


  • Other Extracts from Capital
  • An Eleven Week Course on Capital
  • Further Reading

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