Published online by Cambridge University Press: 29 May 2020
Today Marx enjoys worldwide fame as the incomparable theorist of capitalism and its most penetrating critic. The term itself, however, rarely appears in his writings. French socialists were already using it in the 1840s and 1850s, but only to denote certain aspects of what we would now understand by capitalism. When Pierre Leroux (1797–1871) spoke of capitalism in his pamphlet against political economy Malthus and the Economists, or Will There Always Be Poor People? (1848), he was highlighting the unprecedented power of capitalists, and more specifically industrialists, in modern times. Louis Blanc (1811–82) occasionally employed the term in various editions of his book The Organization of Work (1850), referring to ‘the appropriation of capital by some to the exclusion of others’. And Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809–65), in his The General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century (1851), had the same idea in mind when he pointed to the power of capitalists in the Parisian housing market.