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proposal for reading group: capital vol. i

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Spartacus's picture
Spartacus
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Aug 21 2008 13:15
proposal for reading group: capital vol. i

so, after traveling about all over the place and finally settling down somewhere and selling my labour, i had no more excuses and have ordered a nice, shiny, hardcover edition of capital volume 1. to be precise i got the edition published by these guys, volume 35 of a 50 volume set of nearly everything marx and engels ever wrote. if you want to get the same one, look at their catalogue for the isbn (mine's from amazon - sorry libcom, i forgot to got through your link, though i got it from the us one anyway as it worked out cheaper).

it doesn't arrive for about another month, but i thought i'd start recruiting now for a reading group. so does anyone want to read it with me? we don't have to use the exact same edition. i read cleaver's reading capital politically, the aufheben review and his response (and the entire back catalogue of aufheben available online - really, i could have chosen something more exciting to abuse an unguarded printer at work...), and the fredy perlman reproduction of everyday life, but thought reading the actual thing might be better before other secondary stuff. i was thinking of having a look at cleaver's online materials for his courses to help (here), but really the best would be to discuss it with others reading it at the same pace.

so any takers? past reading groups seemed to die a fairly early death from the searches i did, but it might be worth a try.

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jura
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Aug 21 2008 14:19
Spartacus wrote:
to be precise i got the edition published by these guys

I don't want to put you off, but why did you decide for this edition? Isn't it based on the old English translation by Moore & Aveling? A lot of people say the newer Ben Fowkes' translation (published by Penguin Classics) is better.

Spartacus wrote:
volume 35 of a 50 volume set of nearly everything marx and engels ever wrote.

Not quite. The still unfinished "complete" edition (Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe, MEGA) is 122 volumes. It had to be reduced to 122 volumes from more than 170.

Spartacus wrote:
i was thinking of having a look at cleaver's online materials for his courses to help (here), but really the best would be to discuss it with others reading it at the same pace.

There is also a reading guide by Simon Clarke. Hans Ehrbar has synthesized his own translation with lots of annotations and comments, and there is also "student edition" of it available. But I haven't read neither, so I can't recommend using them. I do recommend, though, reading I. I. Rubin's Essays on Marx's Theory of Value, perhaps after the first three chapters of Capital. And just in case you haven't noticed it on libcom yet, David Harvey is doing video lectures on the first volume, which might be helpful, but I didn't like his presentation of the first chapter.

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Tree
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Aug 21 2008 15:05

I'd certainly be interested in taking part in a reading group. I have the penguin edition with the introduction by Mandel. I tried to give Capital a go once before, but it was so tedious to read completely unaided. I definitely think I would benefit from discussing the ideas with others.

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darren p
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Aug 21 2008 21:41

I am slowly trying to get a reading group of all three volume of capital going on my website www.theoryandpractice.org.uk

Was going to do it as a web forum thing and try to start in at least a couple of months when I have done some proper publicity. I think word has to be spread far and wide before starting otherwise only a few people get involved and it all dies out pretty quickly, at least judging by past attempts!

Mike Harman
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Aug 22 2008 08:35

I've read Capital 1. but wouldn't mind going through again - although I'm half way through the Grundrisse at the moment and would want to finish that first. If it goes ahead, I'd like to do it alongside the II Rubin.

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darren p
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Aug 22 2008 08:52

I've also read vol1 and flicked through 2 and 3. Got 2/3's through the Grundrisse then lost steam...

Are people up for doing it through my forums? If word is spread far and wide I'm sure this will take off.

Mike Harman
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Aug 22 2008 09:41

Realistically, if it's not happening somewhere that I already frequent regularly, then I'll keep forgetting to check in and miss the discussions. Having said that I'm biased, and also not good at keeping up with reading groups anyway.

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Aug 23 2008 10:06

There would be a lot more passing traffic if the group was on libcom I guess. Would it be possible to set up a separate sub-forum rather than just using a single thread?

Also would be good to design a decent flyer to hand out?

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Aug 24 2008 05:09
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I don't want to put you off, but why did you decide for this edition? Isn't it based on the old English translation by Moore & Aveling? A lot of people say the newer Ben Fowkes' translation (published by Penguin Classics) is better.

because i wanted a hardcover edition as hopefully it will last longer (as well as an aesthetic preference for hardcovers), and no other edition that i could find on amazon or other major online bookshops had it unabridged in hardcover. i only found that one because it was mentioned in the marx online archive and i did an isbn search. translation is inevitably a problem with reading marx, which is another reason i'd like to read it with others as then any dodgy translation can be discussed.

i'll have a browse through those other links while i'm waiting for it to arrive. i've heard good things about rubin so reading that along side might well be a good idea.

i don't really mind where the reading group happens, though i think on libcom it would have a higher chance of surviving with passing traffic as darren says. since it's capital, if some people drop out others might find it hard to resist joining in and so replace them. plus i think catch's comment would probably apply to quite a few other people.

you can make some flyers if you want, i'd have thought just mentioning that it's going to happen on a few similar forums would probably be enough. when would people like to start? if people want to start before the end of september that's fine, i can use the marxist.org version until then, i just don't want to read the whole thing online as my eyeballs might fall out...

Daniel B
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Aug 24 2008 19:31

I'm also up for this, whether on libcom or elsewhere. My only resevation is how long you intend this to continue as if your copy won't arrive for at least a month, Spartacus, we may not get through it too soon. I'm mnot being impatient, it's just that I'm off on my travels before too long and I'd hate to start and miss the end!

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Aug 25 2008 13:46

Maybe it would be good to follow the structure of those David Harvey video lectures. Then we have a timetable set out and lots of material to discuss.

What do people think to this idea?

And when shall we start?

It might also be worth looking at this thread:
http://libcom.org/forums/feedback-content/suggestion-creation-sub-forum-reading-groups-24082008

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Aug 25 2008 14:56

as i said, i'm happy to start before my hardcopy arrives and use the online version until it does. i'm not sure about pace, any veterans like to suggest one? i read chapter 1 ages ago, and it was pretty dense, but i've heard it's one of the hardest (and most important) chapters, so we might want to spend longer on it than on others.

Daniel B
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Aug 25 2008 15:07

Well I'm all for starting asap, I'll just have to rush schopenhauer. I like the idea of limiting the time for reading and discussing on each chapter otherwise I think there'll be a lot of theoretical speculation which might be better off after having read the whole book, rather than more specific point of discussion brought up by each chapter.

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Aug 25 2008 17:38

Well if we stick to the structure of the Harvey lectures it splits the book into 13 sections and gives a week for each which doesn't sound to unreasonable? This will be the 3rd time I've read it and it's not as hard going as some people make out.

Starting in 3-4 weeks time?

radicalgraffiti
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Aug 25 2008 18:44
darren p wrote:
Well if we stick to the structure of the Harvey lectures it splits the book into 13 sections and gives a week for each which doesn't sound to unreasonable? This will be the 3rd time I've read it and it's not as hard going as some people make out.

Starting in 3-4 weeks time?

Whats the structure of the Harvey lectures?

Mike Harman
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Aug 25 2008 19:40

Maybe two weeks for each section? Including reading and discussing it, seems like one week would be a bit short.

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Aug 26 2008 08:32

2 weeks would be fine for me also. But then the project would take 6 months to do! But a slower pace would make things easier.

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Aug 26 2008 11:46

considering how long it took old karl to write the thing and how long each translation must have taken, i don't think 6 months is too long. two weeks for each sounds better than one week, i don't think i'd be able to keep up otherwise. and those sections seem reasonable.

Daniel B
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Aug 26 2008 15:25

ok so two weeks per section it is then and starting mid september?

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Aug 28 2008 11:43
Spartacus wrote:
as i said, i'm happy to start before my hardcopy arrives and use the online version until it does. i'm not sure about pace, any veterans like to suggest one? i read chapter 1 ages ago, and it was pretty dense, but i've heard it's one of the hardest (and most important) chapters, so we might want to spend longer on it than on others.

i'd say chapter 3 is probably the hardest, but once you're past that you're laughing - it's worth spending as much time as it takes to properly understand the first three chapters as you can run into trouble later on if you just breeze lightly through this stuff, although as you do move on through the rest of the book (and the other volumes), there is a lot more light shined on the concepts that are introduced in the first three chapters and they gradually reveal themselves more fully as a result of this, so conversely don't worry too much if you don't have what you feel is complete knowledge of these at first - you can only really get that full knowledge of the stuff in the first chapters once you've read the whole thing (and the other volumes). a lot of the stuff in this early part seems like it's just marx asserting things without providing any explanation or reasoning why he makes these assertions, and you just have to grasp onto these things without really understanding why, these reasons are then only really revealed further on in the book (and the other volumes)

i was surprised by both how engrossing and enjoyable it is to read, and it flows very well and logically as it moves on, it's almost like a mystery/who dunnit novel in the way things are unfolded & revealed as you move through the chapters, the literary references in it are also very illuminating and an added bonus

the style of writing changes quite a lot from section to section, sometimes a dour accountancy style and the next something wonderful like this

Quote:
A commodity appears, at first sight, a very trivial thing, and easily understood. Its analysis shows that it is, in reality, a very queer thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties. So far as it is a value in use, there is nothing mysterious about it, whether we consider it from the point of view that by its properties it is capable of satisfying human wants, or from the point that those properties are the product of human labour. It is as clear as noon-day, that man, by his industry, changes the forms of the materials furnished by nature, in such a way as to make them useful to him. The form of wood, for instance, is altered, by making a table out of it. Yet, for all that the table continues to be that common, every-day thing, wood. But, so soon as it steps forth as a commodity, it is changed into something transcendent. It not only stands with its feet on the ground, but, in relation to all other commodities, it stands on its head, and evolves out of its wooden brain grotesque ideas, far more wonderful than "table-turning" ever was.
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Sep 1 2008 14:49

I'd be up for starting reading the last week in september, then discussing starting two weeks after??

Perhaps we should start spreading the word around..

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Sep 3 2008 10:00

Er, Has this one died before it's began??

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Sep 3 2008 11:49

well my copy arrived this morning, so i'm ready to start whenever. do we want to come up with a deadline for reading up to the end of chapter 2 by say, friday 19th? or the following friday? the monday after? maybe monday actually, i'm more likely to post during the week, and i'm guessing it would be more interesting to discuss than whatever people normally do at work...

feel free to pimp this wherever you feel appropriate. i think if it's active enough we'll attract plenty of passing traffic here anyway, and i won't have time to do any advertising myself, but obviously anyone who wants to let others know, please do.

jonnylocks
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Sep 3 2008 12:25

I am down for this and agree with following the David Harvey lectures' structure. It would be great to have a sub-forum and a sticky that recommends posters actually read the assigned section (my preference).

Daniel B
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Sep 3 2008 16:07

So are starting this now? As in we finish chapter one and two by Monday 22nd September?

jonnylocks
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Sep 3 2008 17:31
Spartacus wrote:
do we want to come up with a deadline for reading up to the end of chapter 2 by say, friday 19th?
darren p wrote:
ok so two weeks per section

FWIW this is good for me.

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Sep 3 2008 20:41

Concur with two weeks and the harvey structure. Monday 22nd is better IMO.

tigersiskillers
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Sep 3 2008 22:19

I'll try to keep my eye on this and chip in if I can - I'm actually halfway through Volume 2 at the moment, but have been meaning to have a look at David Harvey's lectures.

There are several guides for readers available (eg Marx's Capital by Ben Fine and Alfredo Saad-Filho and How to read Marx's Capital by Stephen Shapiro, both published by Pluto), which can be useful to refer to if you're finding certain passages quite dense or obtuse. The caveat is that many will be pushing their own particular take - eg the writer's grand solution to the transformation problem - but this doesn't usually interfere with the basic concepts.

idioxote
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Sep 3 2008 23:34
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to be precise i got the edition published by [url=http://www.intpubnyc.com/]these

I don't want to put you off, but why did you decide for this edition? Isn't it based on the old English translation by Moore & Aveling? A lot of people say the newer Ben Fowkes' translation (published by Penguin Classics) is better.

The Fowkes transaltion is miles better than the Moore-Aveling version. It doesn't just update the language into a more modern and less Victorian style of English but restores whole sentences removed from the previous edition which were removed on the authority of Engels who felt that they may have been too obscure for English readers. Additionally, the new (though by now over thirty years old) edition of Capital includes all of Marx's copious footnotes and references, plus the crucial tract on the Results of the Immediate Process of Production.

I read the old version of Captial Vol I several times, both in its American Modern Library edition and the abridged McLellan version put out by Oxford University Press. The Penguin-Fowkes edition, which I am reading now, is a massive advancement - and I don't speak much German so I',m not exaclty an authority on these matters!

However, even the Fowkes reportedly has its limitations. A Marxian scholar with whom I used to correspond (but who sadly died recently) said that even this edition pales next to original German book - and even the French text, which I believe Marx translated himself.

Nevertheless, I'd be up for reading along too.

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Sep 3 2008 23:48
idioxote wrote:
However, even the Fowkes reportedly has its limitations. A Marxian scholar with whom I used to correspond (but who sadly died recently) said that even this edition pales next to original German book - and even the French text, which I believe Marx translated himself.

The French edition was translated by J. Roy, but Marx substantially revised it.

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Sep 4 2008 11:29

ok, 22nd of september it is.

with regards to the edition i chose, hopefully those with other translations or the original german can clarify points that they feel are so much better in the other editions when we come to them. presumably the old translation doesn't completely muddy marx's argument though, or did everyone not a german or french speaker completely misunderstand/misinterpret the book before fowkes?

as for the style of english, i'm quite a fan of victorian english, i wish that was what i was teaching to taiwanese kids rather than american english...