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Reading Marx's Capital

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Yorkie Bar
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Sep 2 2009 21:31
Reading Marx's Capital

What help and advice can y'all give on reading Capital for the first time? It's in English, unfortunately, since I can't read German - the Penguin Classics edition translated by Ben Fowkes.

~J.

Parker
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Sep 2 2009 22:19

it was mentioned on here just recently: David Harvey's online lecture course is very helpful.

davidharvey.org

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Joseph Kay
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Sep 2 2009 22:36

it's a lot less difficult than its reputation. it's long, but not particularly complex (especially compared to a lot of popular lefty stuff, e.g. the situationists).

Harvey's lectures are quite useful for understanding the structure of the argument (the logical progression between categories Marx presents, starting with commodities). General advice is just to read it critically - like anything. something to bear in mind is that Marx is doing an 'immanent critique' - adopting the concepts and categories of his opponents, the political economists, and showing that even if you accept their assumptions (that markets reach stable equilibrium etc), the conclusions should lead to a communist critique of capitalism.

definitely worth reading though, Marx's analysis basically underpins any decent communist analysis of capitalism.

Lampang
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Sep 3 2009 03:47

I've just started it. I'm up to chapter 7 - the first 3 chapters (especially chapter 3) aren't fun but it seems to get much easier after those. I'm reading it alongside the Harvey lectures, which have been very useful. Engels also wrote a synopsis, which you can download at http://www.appstate.edu/~stanovskydj/marxfiles.html, along with some other material on Capital.

Spassmaschine
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Sep 3 2009 06:41
Quote:
'm up to chapter 7 - the first 3 chapters (especially chapter 3) aren't fun but it seems to get much easier after those.

I.I. Rubin's Essays on Marx's Theory of Value are really good at helping the first 3 chapters make sense, in my opinion. There are a few cheap copies of it floating around online. Don't know how it compares to the Harvey lectures.

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jura
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Sep 3 2009 07:39

Harvey's lectures are good, though I think he does make a few mistakes in the exposition of the first three chapters. And as there are usually two chapters per one lecture, it seemed to me that he kind of swooshes through all of it and skips out some interesting (if less important) details. Some of what he says (always talking about the dialectic of this or that without explaining much about it, except that it's about "motion" etc.) also seemed quite vague to me. For the more technical aspects of the later chapters, Harvey's book Limits to Capital was quite useful to me, but that's a huge book in itself. The German brochure Wie das Marxsche Kapital lesen by Heinrich is a very close commentary to the first two chapters and so far the best guide that I've found, but unfortunately it's only available in German yet.

Of the freely available reading guides, I think Harry Cleaver's illustrated study guide is quite interesting (though he completely leaves out the first chapter and recommends starting with the historical parts on primitive accumulation, which I disagree with), as is Simone Clarke's guide (Word document), which is somewhat shorter though. Speaking of Harry Cleaver, I wouldn't recommend Reading Capital Politically as a guide to reading. It may be interesting (and a matter of debate and critique) as an original interpretation of some of the categories in the 1st chapter etc., but it's terrible if you take it as a commentary - it's does not stick too closely to Marx's text and completely omits the part on fetishism, so it will probably just confuse a first-time reader of Capital.

As captian soap already mentioned, Rubin's legendary book is just excellent for the first three chapters. Unfortunately, it does not go beyond that. (Though, BTW, I recently read somewhere that while in prison, Rubin wrote material for another book titled "Essays on Marx's theory of money" which was discovered later, but it still wasn't published in Russia.)

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Joseph Kay
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Sep 3 2009 07:43

the other good tip of course is feel free to post up any questions or difficulties on the theory board. there's quite a few posters here who are pretty up on their Marx and who can explain stuff in plain English.

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Steven.
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Sep 3 2009 12:24

Yes, following on from Joseph, there was a capital reading group here with discussions chapter by chapter. So any questions on a particular chapter you can add to the threads, which are all linked to from the Reading group thread here:
http://libcom.org/forums/theory/marxs-capital-vol-1-online-reading-group-22092008

They also all contain one on libcom posters synopsis of each chapter.

Yorkie Bar
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Sep 3 2009 12:42
Joseph Kay wrote:
the other good tip of course is feel free to post up any questions or difficulties on the theory board.

Thanks JK, I'll do that.

Cheers for all the suggestions, I'll have a look at Harvey, Cleaver, Clarke and Rubin. Will let you know how I get on.

~J.

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Red Marriott
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Sep 3 2009 12:48

Fredy Perlman's intro to Rubin's book is here;
http://libcom.org/library/commodity-fetishism-fredy-perlman

Yorkie Bar
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Sep 3 2009 13:24

First question posted here.

~J.

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waslax
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Sep 4 2009 06:50
Ret Marut wrote:
Fredy Perlman's intro to Rubin's book is here;
http://libcom.org/library/commodity-fetishism-fredy-perlman

Perlman's intro to Rubin's book is very, very good, in my opinion, and I am far from being alone in thinking that. Also, it is at least as much about Marx and Capital as it is about Rubin and his book. So ... highly recommended. It's also very readable.

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Chilli Sauce
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Sep 4 2009 15:21
Lampang wrote:
the first 3 chapters (especially chapter 3) aren't fun but it seems to get much easier after those.

I just wanted to echo this (I'm also the one who started the thread on David Hardy). I'm in chapter 8 myself and all I can say is: just bang on through those first 3 chapters, esp the first three-quarters of chap 1. As long as you get the basic arguments, it'll be more than enough to grasp the rest of book. As for me, I intend to re-read chaps 1-3 once I finish the book.

Best of luck, keep us updated.

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Chilli Sauce
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Sep 4 2009 15:24
Quote:
something to bear in mind is that Marx is doing an 'immanent critique' - adopting the concepts and categories of his opponents, the political economists, and showing that even if you accept their assumptions (that markets reach stable equilibrium etc), the conclusions should lead to a communist critique of capitalism.

I just want to say, it's posts like this that make JK one of my favorite libcom posters.