This course welcomes new readers of Capital and Marx, as well as those who want to complete or deepen past readings of the book. The two goals are (1) develop a rich understanding and curiosity about Marx’s theory of the Capitalist Mode of Production, and (2) de-mystify commonly used concepts, phrases, and arguments derived from this book.
I will contextualize our reading of Capital in the field of competing interpretations (in particular, Value Form Theory, Marxist Humanism, Communization Theory, Marxist-Feminism, Leninism, and Marxism-Leninism-Maoism), but we will do no secondary reading, instead focusing on close readings of key passages in Capital.
Each week, I will highlight several concepts that are essential to the section we are reviewing (see schedule below). By the end of the course, participants should have a working understanding of these concepts as used by Marx.
Bring a copy of any Version of Capital Volume 1. I will have both the Fowkes and Moore & Aveling English translations on hand. The most common English version is the Penguin Edition of Volume 1 translated by Ben Fowkes. Choosing this edition has the benefit of being the most widely cited and widely owned. The second most available English translation is published most recently by New World Paperbacks in the 1970s and 80s, and translated originally in 1887 by Moore and Aveling. I slightly prefer some of the wording of this translation, as I find it more precise (if sometimes more wordy). Either of these, or any language translation you prefer, is welcome – I find having multiple translations can enhance our conversation.
Every session we will cover approximately 2 Parts of Capital, which comprises roughly 200 pages, give or take. Read the full section if you are able, and if you are not, I will assign a “bare minimum” reading of 10-20 pages, and a “more thorough” reading of 30-60 pages.
Schedule for Reading Capital Vol 1
Session 1 Key Concepts: Commodities (& Fetishism of); General Equivalent; Value; Labor-Power
Part 1 Commodities and Money
Part 2 The Transformation of Money into Capital
Session 2 Key Concepts: Surplus Value, Constant and Variable Capital
Part 3: The Production of Absolute Surplus-Value
Part 4: The Production of Relative Surplus Value, pt 1
Session 3 Key Concepts: Absolute vs. Relative Surplus Value; Productivity of Labor;
Part 4: The Production of Relative Surplus Value, pt 2
Part 5: The Production of Absolute and Relative Surplus Value
Session 4 Key Concepts: Capitalist Accumulation, Growth, Totality, The Rising Organic Composition of Capital (Bonus: The Tendency of the Rate of Profit to Fall – TRPF)
Part 6: Wages
Part 7: The Process of Accumulation of Capital
Session 5 Key Concepts: Originary Accumulation (aka primitive accumulation); Colonialization (Bonus: Uneven Geographic Development, Accumulation by Dispossession, Racial Capitalism).
Part 8: So-Called Primitive Accumulation