Reading Marx's 'Capital': Tips, Questions, Theory, Support and Bookclub Bunfight...

Discussion in 'theory, philosophy & history' started by Riklet, Mar 21, 2012.

  1. Riklet

    Riklet procrastinación

    I've been following the 'urban sectarianism' thread and one of the ideas which came up (credit to Fozzie Bear due) was the idea of starting a thread about Capital, to act both as a 'reading group' and a place for advice and discussion. Feel free to rename the title if appropriate!

    I guess primarily this is aimed at those those trying to read Capital (particularly vol. 1) for the first time, those who tried n gave up, those who are interested and of course those who have read it and can provide indispensable advice. In lots of ways this is there already in various other threads, but maybe bringing them together a bit would be no bad thing.

    This is U75 so there is no point in trying to say "no buns" but also it'd be a shame for people trying/struggling reading Capital to be unable to make much use of this thread (it's stuck in my mind recently how many people apparently get 'put off' posting here and whatnot). Then again, this is U75, and people do say Capital gets quite exciting at points ;)
  2. butchersapron

    butchersapron blood on the walls

    Good luck, will help where i can - but getting to grips with it yourself is the best way to make it count. More people the better. So sign up folks.
    Riklet likes this.
  3. Riklet

    Riklet procrastinación

    As you might guess I am currently reading Capital Vol. 1 (on kindle so bit easier to cart about!), and it's going a bit better this time. I gave it a go last year but Chapter 1 claimed yet another victim as I didn't get too far. Perhaps it's my life/mindset currently, or maybe stuff sunk in a bit anyway, but David Harvey's video classes combined with a look at Wages, Price and Profit mean i'm pretty keen to stick the first three chapters out.

    There was/is some great advice on the Factionalism/Sectarianism thread here about skipping forward to chapter 4 instead of giving up, so I have that at the back of my mind as an option, in terms of reading chapters 1-3 properly later on...

    Things I have found useful:

    Wages, Price and Profit
    The ReadingCapital video classes with David Harvey on Youtube.
  4. JimW

    JimW 支那暗杀团

    Cheers for starting this. I got through the first three chapters late last year, watching the Harvey vids too. Put it down as took on a long book translation that was/is doing my head in a bit, but nearly done with that and will be back in the saddle. Found I was getting a lot of insights but would not claim to have grasped anything in full. From reading various advice, not letting that put me off.
  5. starfish

    starfish No dialogue. Just plot.

  6. JimW

    JimW 支那暗杀团

    Would have thought son of a peer, public school-boy and Cambridge grad Tristram MP would have understood all about having other people pay your way through life. Probably less about writing anything worthwhile or of political value as a result, though.

    ETA: response to a deleted post, if anyone's wondering
  7. danny la rouge

    danny la rouge Hoc vellum voluntater album mansum est

    Good stuff.
  8. Fozzie Bear

    Fozzie Bear Well-Known Member

    Thanks for starting this Riklet!

    I got vol 1 at the weekend and have made a start on it. I think one of the mistakes I made last time was to try and read the huge introduction and the prefaces, after which my enthusiasm had dried up a bit. I just dived in to the meat of it this time.

    I've enjoyed the stuff about exchange value vs use value so far. The book is at home and I have jotted down some questions that I'll try and post up when I get a minute.
  9. Smokeandsteam

    Smokeandsteam Well-Known Member

    Count me in. I've recently finished the book (along with the Harvey book and lectures).

    I'd really welcome engagement in discussion on the key themes, ideas, questions and rich sources he uses.

    Thanks for starting this Riklet
  10. Pickman's model

    Pickman's model Every man and every woman is a star

    Yeh well done riklet, it's something i've put off for years reading capital
  11. magneze

    magneze mnemonic beef

    I've now read the first three chapters along with Harvey's companion to them. I've also watched his first lecture, but not two and three which deal with chapters 1-3 directly.

    Chapter 1 is definitely the hardest so far. The style of writing is almost impenetrable on one reading in many places. However, much of it really seemed to be reiterating the ideas and connections around commodities and values. I don't think the concepts are as complex as the chapter makes them appear. Chapters 2 & 3 are much better covering why money exists and exchange.
    girasol likes this.
  12. danny la rouge

    danny la rouge Hoc vellum voluntater album mansum est

    You're right: the concepts aren't too complex. There's a lot of boring material that does somewhat distract from the message in the first chapter, especially in the section on Exchange Value.
  13. love detective

    love detective secret pint

    while some of it is boring (and particularly in that section you mention of chapter 1), there's a lot of rich literary flourishes though in the chapter as a whole - this one below is a favorite of mine

    xslavearcx and The Pale King like this.
  14. magneze

    magneze mnemonic beef

    This is where the Harvey book really helps, because after reading the chapter I was thinking - hang on, it seems simple enough but why was it explained in such a complex way?
  15. danny la rouge

    danny la rouge Hoc vellum voluntater album mansum est

    Indeed. Furthermore, the very thing that might put beginners off - its density and complexity - is actually often what rewards re-reading. There is a lot of stuff that comes in from not just economics, but literature, history, art, and other cultural sources, references and analogies. Most of which I probably still miss, not knowing many of the allusions.
    Smokeandsteam likes this.
  16. danny la rouge

    danny la rouge Hoc vellum voluntater album mansum est

    Yes, I have Harvey's book, but haven't read it all. I do remember thinking that I wished there had been something like that when I first attempted Capital. Similarly, I haven't watched all of the videos, but they also seem really good. In my youth, I had to make do with various Marxist-Leninist relatives!
    xslavearcx and magneze like this.
  17. Fozzie Bear

    Fozzie Bear Well-Known Member

    Thanks for pointing this out (and your comments about chapters1-3 in the other thread) - it has helped me persevere. :cool:

    I keep thinking about linen and coats. :oops:

    Looks like Harvey has some of his lectures downloadable as mp3s now too. Good for the commute.
  18. Athos

    Athos Well-Known Member

  19. ItWillNeverWork

    ItWillNeverWork Messy Crimbobs, fellow humans.

    Attempts at online reading groups tend to do that I think. It is difficult to synchronise people's reading so that conversation can take place in a structured way; all it takes is a busy week for one participant, and they are no longer on the same chapter as everyone else. This results in a high dropout rate, and the thread disappears into the ether.

    An idea might be to set up a message board that has a sub-forum for each chapter/section of the book. That way, anyone can pop in at any time to talk with people about the particular bit of the book they happen to be at.

    eta: I don't know if the mods would be interested in setting up a sub-forum as a capital reading group, but this idea seems to pop up quite regularly so maybe it's something we could request?
    Smokeandsteam likes this.
  20. love detective

    love detective secret pint

    yep - real life capital reading groups are much more fun

    Ptolemy, hmmph, Riklet and 2 others like this.
  21. ItWillNeverWork

    ItWillNeverWork Messy Crimbobs, fellow humans.

    Failing that, it takes less than 5 minutes to set something like that up ourselves.
  22. Smokeandsteam

    Smokeandsteam Well-Known Member

    Yes, reading the Harvey book switched me on to the richness of the text that Marx uses, alludes to and critiques. The more you read Capital the more you begin to work out where some off the stuff originates from. It's brilliant stuff.
  23. Smokeandsteam

    Smokeandsteam Well-Known Member

  24. ItWillNeverWork

    ItWillNeverWork Messy Crimbobs, fellow humans.

    I hope so too. Here is my suggestion as to how to make it work. I'll put in a request to the powers-that-be for either a new sub-forum to be added here, or a sticky that links to our own board. At least then there is some degree of permanence so that the group has a better chance of this succeeding this time round.
    Smokeandsteam likes this.
  25. Smokeandsteam

    Smokeandsteam Well-Known Member

    I think that's a good idea. Then people can post when they've got time. I liked that message board thing you designed btw!
  26. ItWillNeverWork

    ItWillNeverWork Messy Crimbobs, fellow humans.

    Thanks. Although I didn't so much design it as type 'free message boards' into google and sign up for the first thing that popped up.
  27. Fozzie Bear

    Fozzie Bear Well-Known Member

    Could we not just start a few new threads in this forum? One per chapter?

    edit - or a sub-forum, yeah. I'd prefer to keep stuff here, as it will give me a kick up the arse to keep reading it when I'm on here talking bollocks about music instead.
  28. ItWillNeverWork

    ItWillNeverWork Messy Crimbobs, fellow humans.

    Well that was kind of what was tried before, but even if it gets off its feet this time, the result will be lots of threads in separate places. A way round this could be to have a 'meta thread' that links to all other threads in an organised manner. That way, at least there is a common stop-off point for people wanting to get involved - new participants can then get immediate access to any conversations that have taken place previously.
    Fozzie Bear likes this.
  29. danny la rouge

    danny la rouge Hoc vellum voluntater album mansum est

    How about people post comments and/or questions on what they've read and where they're up to, and people respond if they have anything to say on that point?

    I've read volume one several times, and I'm happy to chip in if I can add anything helpful. Not that I'm claiming to be an authority.
  30. Fozzie Bear

    Fozzie Bear Well-Known Member

    I'm part way through Chapter One, having started reading it on Monday. So far I have found the explanations of exchange value and use value to be very clear but some of the detail is a bit bewildering. I have listened to most of Harvey's introduction and that helped as did the comments here.

    I've not got the book and my notes here, so this will have to be from memory, but here goes:

    Initially I kept thinking of exceptions to what he was saying (for example mp3s being commodities not being composed of natural materials or indeed "matter") but resolved not to do that and to keep things simple and ride it out. The consensus here seems to be that the time to critically engage with Chapter 1 is when you've finished the book?

    I can almost see how commodities are composed only of labour (in terms of exchange value) but psychologically there's a nagging thought in my head about the raw materials? Surely they have a bearing on the exchange value as much as the labour does?

    I also need to reread the stuff about the twofold nature of labour.

    He seems to introduce "value" as a third category in addition to exchange value and use value? :confused:

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