V. I.   Lenin

A Characterisation of Economic Romanticism





That the appraisal given here of the sentimental Sismondi in relation to scientifically “objective” Ricardo is correct, is fully confirmed by the opinion Marx expressed in the second volume of Theories of Surplus-Value, which appeared in 1905 (Theorien über den Mehrwert, II. B., I. Th., S. 304 u. ff. “Bemerkungen über die Geschichte der Entdeckung des sogenannten Ricardoschen Gesetzes”).[2] Contrasting Malthus as a wretched plagiarist, a paid advocate of the rich and a shameless sycophant, to Ricardo as a man of science, Marx said:

“Ricardo regards the capitalist mode of production as the most advantageous for production in general, as the most advantageous for the creation of wealth, and for his time Ricardo is quite right. He wants production for the sake of production, and he is right. To object to this, as Ricardo’s sentimental opponents did, by pointing to the fact that production as such is not an end in itself, means to forget that production for the sake of production is nothing more nor less than the development of the productive forces of mankind, i.e., the development of the wealth of human nature as an end in itself. If this end is set up in contrast to the welfare of individuals, as Sismondi did, it is tantamount to asserting that the development of the whole human race must be retarded for the sake of ensuring the welfare of individuals, that, consequently, no war, we shall say for example, can be waged, because war causes the death of individuals. Sismondi is right only in opposition to those economists who obscure this antagonism, deny it” (S. 309). From his point of view Ricardo has every right to put the proletarians on a par with machines, with commodities in capitalist production. “Es ist dieses stoisch, objektiv, wissenschaftlich,” “this is stoicism, this is objective, this is scientific” (S. 313). It goes without saying that this appraisal applies only to a definite period, to the very beginning of the nineteenth century.


[1] This postscript was written for the 1908 edition.—Ed.

[2] Theories of Surplus-Value, Vol. II, Part I, p. 304, et seq. “Notes on the History of the Discovery of the So-called Ricardian Law.”[3]Ed.

[3] Karl Marx, Theorien über den Mehrwert, Bd. I, Hb. 2, S. 304, 1923. For pages cited here see pp. 309 and 313.

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