As a warning, this post has nothing to do with the US elections.
Right now, the undergraduate social theory class for which I am GSI-ing* is covering Marx’s Capital. Capital is a tough book for sociology majors, and graduate students, even in comparison to some of the rest of the quite dense canon. One reason it’s so dense, I think, is because most sociologists lack familiarity with both Hegelian thought and 19th century political economy.** Having read big chunks of Smith, Malthus, Ricardo, and Mill, for example, can make Marx a lot easier to swallow. Marx’s Labor Theory of Value is not quite so radical when lined up next to Smith and Ricardo, who said many of the same things, albeit with a very different political take.*** Economics soon shifted away from the labor theory, towards marginalism, and I wonder if Marx’s reputation suffered because of it. While Smith and Ricardo themselves are lionized by contemporary economics, their labor theories of value are downplayed or ignored in favor of other insights, while Marx’s is made central and used to critique him.
This leads to the post’s title question. How did Marx’s contemporaries viewed his work. Marginalism was on the rise by the 1870s, but it was not yet the only game in town. How did the Smithians, Ricardians and Millsians of the late 19th century view Marx? I assume they were mostly ideologically opposed to his take on things, although perhaps not uniformly, but what was their theoretical critique of Marx like?
Any recommended citations or primary sources would be much appreciated!
* Equivalent to TA-ing, but with a better union.
** I certainly did when I started graduate school in sociology.
*** Hence Samuelson’s derisive comment that Marx was a “minor post-Ricardian.”