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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Karl Marx: No Pain, No Gain! (I paraphrase)

"no royal road to science"

Occasionally, when students insist that a reading assignment is difficult or complain about the amount of work (in fact a reasonable amount, if one stops to consider that college is or should be the equivalent of a full-time job), or when I come across a badly written and badly reasoned news article or policy document, I ask myself what the best advice or response is. One could do worse than to cite Karl Marx.

From the Preface to to the 1872 French edition of Capital  l:
To the citizen Maurice Lachâtre

Dear Citizen,

I applaud your idea of publishing the translation of “Das Kapital” as a serial. In this form the book will be more accessible to the working class, a consideration which to me outweighs everything else.

That is the good side of your suggestion, but here is the reverse of the medal: the method of analysis which I have employed, and which had not previously been applied to economic subjects, makes the reading of the first chapters rather arduous, and it is to be feared that the French public, always impatient to come to a conclusion, eager to know the connexion between general principles and the immediate questions that have aroused their passions, may be disheartened because they will be unable to move on at once.

That is a disadvantage I am powerless to overcome, unless it be by forewarning and forearming those readers who zealously seek the truth. There is no royal road to science, and only those who do not dread the fatiguing climb of its steep paths have a chance of gaining its luminous summits.

Believe me,
dear citizen,
Your devoted,

Karl Marx
London
March 18, 1872

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