This class was initially held in person and online during spring 2018. Notes and videos from each class are below, and can assist anyone as they make their way through the first volume of Marx’s Capital. If you have any questions, let us know!
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 usually don’t understand it themselves—for reasons we will see). At the same time, with the ongoing impact of the 2007-8 economic crisis, Occupy Wall Street, and the 2016 Bernie Sanders campaign (not to mention the Bolivarian Revolution and other international events), capitalism has re-entered popular discussion. So too has talk of overcoming and finding alternatives to capitalism.
In this open course we will collectively study the first volume of Karl Marx’s Capital: A critique of political economy. Originally published in 1867, the book remains a key resource for understanding the ins and outs of life under capitalism, even over 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. Although it can be intimidating in its length and requires discipline to get through, when studied collectively it can be an accessible book that offers many entry points (once we get through part I–that part is difficult). The only people who may have a hard time understanding it are those who have never had to work a day in their lives–the 1 percent.
So whether this is your first time picking up a book of Marx’s or your umpteenth time reading the book, whether you are brand new to activism or a steeled organizer, whether you identify as a socialist or not, you are encouraged to join us!
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 will cover in class). 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 recommend 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)