Reading Karl Marx’s Capital: Volume 1

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Why?

I believe someone who is interested in understanding interrelations between people, countries, and concepts needs to know many topics including but not limited to philosophy, politics, Economy, and sociology. I am interested in all those topics and without studying (not reading) the Capital I have a feeling of being illiterate. Even though I do not call myself a Marxist, I feel it is a necessary read for everyone into even one of the mentioned topics.

How?

Capital is not an easy read. Many readers give up after a few pages or a few chapters. That’s why before reading it I tried to find out how to read it in an understandable and unboring way. After some search,  I thought a logical approach is to follow David Harvey‘s methodology and tips, as a teacher who taught the Capital for forty years in a row. Harvey has posted all the material (including videos and audios of his lectures) in the Reading Capital section of his website. I am going to post a summary of each Harvey’s lectures in two or three paragraphs.

Introduction

Reading Marx’s Capital Vol 1 – Class 1, Introduction

Harvey believes that Marx wrote this book based on three conceptual blocks:

1- Political Economy: Marx intensely criticized mostly English philosophers (e.g., John Locke, Hume, Adam Smith, Ricardo, Malthus, Dugald Stewart, and minor figures) in three volumes of “Theories of surplus value“. Mostly by writing essays from those philosophers, and criticizing them. A foundation of his Capital book is based on Theories of surplus value.

2- German classical critical philosophy: German philosophers like Hegel, and others who themselves influenced by Greek philosophy. Harvey says he is not very expert in this branch, but reading Hegel makes understanding the Capital a lot easier.

3- Utopian socialist tradition: mostly influenced by 1830s and 1840s French philosophy (e.g., Fourier, Proudhon,  Saint Simon). Although Marx tried to distance himself from Utopian socialism and to convert utopian socialism project to a scientific socialism project, he was profoundly influenced by that.

To analyze the world, people usually start with seeing the reality, then dig down to find the concepts and foundations behind this reality, then go back again to surface to observe the appearance and interpret things in another way. This brick-by-brick approach is usually the way most authors explain their theories, but Marx’s method is like an onion. He starts from the core and builds layers to reach to the surface, that’s why many people stop reading it after a few chapters because it appears that the concepts are not going anywhere!

  • Volume 1 only discusses production; it is only a piece of a puzzle.
  • Marx uses dialectic methods that are hard for university students who had been learned everything in other ways. Children are more dialectic than people in academia!
  • Capitalism is always in movement. Perpetually on the road. It is always changing and in motion as the only way it works.

Chapter 1

  • Commodity
  • Use value
  • Exchange value

— to be completed!

References

  • Cover image was taken from http://www.idcommunism.com/2018/05/karl-marxs-200th-birth-anniversary-man-who-changed-the-world-forever.html

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