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Approaches to Marx's Capital Volume II

Lecturer: Rory Dufficy

Originally Taught: Summer School 2019

This course aims to introduce and explain Volume Two of Karl Marx’s Capital, looking at the text not as an outdated handbook or, alternatively, as a religious tome, nor yet as a work of ‘economics’, but instead as a massive attempt to account for an entirely new object of study: a mode of production.

Capital Volume II remains the least studied volume of Marx’s major work, yet, in its focus on the market and on circulation – a concept bracketed entirely in Volume One – it is perhaps the most relevant to contemporary political economy. What this volume shows is how the central ideas of Marx’s conceptualisation of the capitalist mode of production, above all the concept of value developed in Volume One, cannot be grasped fully without situating them within a broader capitalist market. So where Volume One explores the hidden abodes of the factory and workhouse, Volume Two ventures into the stockyards, ports and warehouses of the first truly global mode of production.

The lectures will focus on key chapters in the text that allow the book to be elucidated most thoroughly. This means certain chapters, primarily ones where Marx elucidates and critiques previous expositions of the concepts he discusses, have been excised.  Students are encouraged to read the full work, however, and the chapters not discussed in detail will be briefly summarised where necessary. A list of further reading will be supplied to all students. Although all the key concepts from Capital Volume I will be reviewed as necessary in this course, it is recommended that students have some familiarity with the ideas developed there.

Note: The translation used will be the one published by Penguin Classics, translated by David Fernbach. All page numbers (which are preserved in every edition) refer to this translation.

Course Schedule

Lecture 1: Introduction to Capital Volume II & The Three Circuits of Capital

This lecture will outline the place of Capital Volume II within Marx’s overall project and look at its textual history, as well as introducing the general concepts of money capital Marx will use throughout the book.

Reading: Capital Volume II, Chapters 1-3 (pp. 109-179)

Lecture 2: Circulation

This lecture will explore Marx’s discussion of the costs specific to the circulation of capital, and the place of temporality in his understanding of the movements of capital.

Reading: Capital Volume II, Chapters 4-6 (pp. 180-229)

Lecture 3: Turnover

Building on the discussion of temporality in Lecture 2, this lecture will explore the turnover of individual capitals, and delve more specifically into Marx’s understanding of the dual temporalities of Production Time and Circulation Time.

Reading: Capital Volume II, Chapters 7-9 (pp. 233-267); Chapters 12-14 (pp. 306-333)

Lecture 4: Value in Process

In this lecture, concepts Marx has developed in Volume I of Capital, in particular Surplus-Value, are reintroduced. This lecture will examine how these concepts have been transformed when seen from the perspective of circulation as opposed to production.

Reading: Capital Volume II, Chapters 15-18 (pp. 334-434)

Lecture 5: Reproduction

This lecture will bring together the concepts developed over the preceding lectures, and examine how Marx conceptualises the reproduction of capital as a total process.

Reading: Capital Volume II, Chapters 20-21 (pp. 468-599)


Rory Dufficy completed a Ph.D. in English at Western Sydney University in 2016 and is teaches Literature at Deakin University. He is currently writing a book entitled An Epoch of Possibility: The Avant-Garde in the 20th Century.