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Economic theory and political thought in German social democracy : An essay in the 'Rezeption' of Marx's Capital with particular reference to Kautsky, Parvus, Hilferding and Luxemburg

Pugh, G. T (1983) Economic theory and political thought in German social democracy : An essay in the 'Rezeption' of Marx's Capital with particular reference to Kautsky, Parvus, Hilferding and Luxemburg. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86224) (KAR id:86224)


This thesis investigates the political import of economic theory and analysis within German social democracy. Part I (Ch. 1) briefly discusses the Lassallean origins of social democracy with reference to Lassalle's economic doctrines. It continues (in Ch. 2) by analysing the prime contribution of Marx's Capital to shaping the Marxism that displaced Lassalleanism, and came to be embodied in the Erfurt Programme. as the SPD's official doctrine. The main results of my research, however, are presented in the four chapters of Part II. Here, I approach the Political logic and influence of economic theory, by way of case studies of four politically influential social democratic economic theorists: Karl Kautsky; Parvus; Rudolf Hilferding; and Rosa Luxemburg. In addition to developing the main theme of this thesis, each of these may be taken as a contribution to the literature on these particular theorists, as well as to the historiography of German social democracy (in particular, in the period 1890-1914). Marx's Capital was the basis of social democratic economic theory in the period under consideration. Consequently, analysing the development and political implications of social democratic economic theory contributes to the study of the appropriation, interpretation and influence - the 'Rezeption', in short - of Capitol. Moreover, in so doing, I attempt to provide a theoretical critique, and to indicate the actual content as well as methodological shortcomings, misinterpretations and lacunae in the social democratic 'Rezeption' of Capital. My theoretical critique is undertaken from a 'fundamentalist' interpretation of Capital, and illuminates the theoretical limitations - together with the political implications - of the most advanced attempts to move beyond the Erfurt Programme towards a scientific guide to political action in the imperialist epoch. Finally, this thesis is also intended as a minor contribution to the political reading of Capital.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86224
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 09 February 2021 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: Political science
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 16:36 UTC
Last Modified: 14 Feb 2022 11:22 UTC
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