While there is arguably nothing more fundamental to our everyday lives, in the U.S. the discussion of political economy is regularly mystified and obscured. When it is addressed in schools or the media, it is always from the viewpoint of the capitalist class (who don’t always understand it themselves—for reasons we will see). At the same time, we’re faced with a looming recession when the working class hasn’t yet recovered from the 2007-2008 economic crisis.
In 1867, Karl Marx published the first volume of Capital:A Critique of Political Economy. The book remains a key resource for understanding the ins and outs of life under capitalism, even 150+ years later. As the only volume of Capital published in Marx’s lifetime, it remains an indispensable text to those in (and around) the Marxist movement. No other work of Marx’s can do more to clarify Marxism and to dispel misconceptions about it.
Marx wrote Capital to provide a theoretical weapon for the working class and oppressed. It’s a difficult book that requires discipline to get through, and we hope that these notes help you along the way. As always, we recommend studying collectively with friends and comrades.
Liberation School originally generated these notes when we led an open class on the book in early 2018.
Edition referenced in the notes:
Marx, K. (1867/1967). Capital: A critique of political economy (vol. 1), trans. S. Moore and E. Aveling. New York: International Publishers. 768 pages.
This is the original English translation of the book, and it’s better both for literary and political reasons (which we cover in the notes). It is available directly from International Publishers and other sites. It’s also online for free here. If you have another translation, that will of course work as well.
Quite note: There are several companions and guides to Capital (of varying qualities and orientations). We ask that you read the text on its own throughout the course rather than consult these. It’s important to read what others have to say about the book, but only after you have given it a first read through. And read it all the way through, including the footnotes (where Marx does quite a bit of work, and delivers a good bit of sass as well).
Class 1: pages 13-144 (Prefaces-Chapter 3)
Class 2: pages 145-221 (Chapters 4-9)
Class 3: pages 222-350 (Chapters 10-14)
Class 4: pages 351-475 (Chapter 15)
Class 5: pages 476-573 (Chapters 16-24)
Class 6: pages 574-724 (Chapter 25-33)