M. Abul Fazl Frederick Engels wrote in the Preface of the third volume of Marxs Capital: I even suspect that if Mr George Bernard Shaw had been familiar with this theory of profit, he would have likely fallen to with both hands, discarding Jevons and Karl Menger, to build anew the Fabian church of the future upon this rock (p 10). (Engels was referring to the theory of profit of Prof Lexis, who held that profit arose essentially from selling a commodity above its value, i.e. from swindle.) Bernard Shaw did not oblige immediately but wrote a quarter of a century later: Marxs contribution to the abstract economic theory of value, by which he set much store, was a blunder which was presently corrected and superseded by the theory of Jevons (The Intelligent Womans Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovi-etism and Fascism, Pub by Constable and Company, London, 1949, p 500). Jevons was the chief accountant of an Australian railway. Upon retiring and returning to England, he took to writing economic theory and stated flatly that the value of a good, as distinct from its price, was nonsense. A goods value was the sum for which it was exchanged. And this was determined by supply and demand. He said: Value in exchange expresses nothing but a ratio, and the term should not be used in any other sense. To speak simply of the value of an ounce of gold is as absurd as to speak of the ratio of the number of seventeen. (The Theory of Political Economy, Penguin, London, 1970, p 128). Well, one good flowing from the rejection of the concept of value is the impossibility of exploitation or unequal exchange in the course of the normal conduct of business in capitalism. It can occur only in the shape of picking of pocket, mugging, swindling etc. Actually I can understand Jevonss approach, having myself studied accounting as part of my MBA course and worked as an accountant for a year. When a pen is bought for five rupees, it is entered as a debit and its price as credit. Five rupees have been spent to acquire it. So its worth i.e. price in exchange, is five rupees. Where does value come into it? And, in that world of neat entries, leading to a balance in account sheets, there is no place for Marxs thesis that the key point in economic relations that constitute the capitalist system is the contract between the worker and the capitalist, wherein the worker sells not his labour but his labour-power, his capacity to work. Every other exchange in the system is determined by that one contract. One does wish all complex social relations could be reduced to the simplicity of Jevonss theory. Theorists like him are no more than claquers of sociology. The young of today may not have heard of Shaw, except those studying literature. He was very influential in the first half of the twentieth century. His prose is still unmatched. My father had been very fond of him. So I also launched on him and, by the time I got to the college, I had read most of his complete works, except his reviews of musicals but including his four novels, of which I must be the only reader alive today. (No one read his novels even when Shaw was at the height of his fame.) As to myself, I suppose I had no choice in the little dusty village of Daraza, where I was waiting for the college in Karachi, where I was to seek admission, to open. Shaw may have gone over to the Bolshevik Revolution. But, for England, he still favoured the Fabian programme, which proposed to bring socialism by nationalising the rent. So they were at par with Ricardo. I was entirely convinced. And so, years later, during my short stint of teaching finance, when the students asked me about socialism, it was this Fabian scheme that I explained to them. They seemed to have been not only satisfied but also in agreement. When I got to the college, no one seemed to care about Shaw. Jean-Paul Sartres works had arrived in Pakistan two or three years earlier and I was told to read Being and Nothingness. Not having a background in philosophy, I could not make head or tail of it. Actually, I thought most of the text was unnecessary. So I gave up after a few dozen pages. The strange thing was that, while the communist movement had classified Sartres views as a part of bourgeois philosophy, it was the Leftist students in the college who read and promoted him. I was fascinated by their discussions in the common room, with their sentences full of commitment, choice etc. Most interesting was these living persons pronouncing life an absurdity. What do the young read today, that is, if they read, I do not know. And I am certain they do not care what we read or liked. They care about socialism less. It is understandable. Every generation has its own dreams. All previous dreams are demodes, even boring. Capitalism is triumphant and the young find a future in it for themselves, though the actual system, as opposed to propaganda, is prone to a crisis every few years, needing unbroken resuscitation. As Stiglitz says: Markets lie at the heart of every successful economy but markets do not work well on their own (Freefall, Allan Lane, London, 2010, p xii). I think Marxs Capital is still capitalisms most accurate and comprehensive description - and analysis. Here I recall the visit of a Soviet delegation to Pakistan in the last days of Gorbachev. Its members were young and all praise for capitalism, with the passion of new converts. One of them was so carried away that he exclaimed: Even a hundred Marxes would not understand modern capitalism. Restrained by politeness due to a guest, I did not tell him that he should not confuse Marx with himself. I wonder what he is now, a millionaire or a pauper? The writer is a former ambassador.