“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle.
Freeman and slave, patrician and plebian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of contending classes.” —Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto
For a 150 years, Karl Marx’s Das Kapital has fascinated, frustrated and or confounded readers. It is most often read as a work of political economy whose aim is to understand how the capitalist economy works or even philosophically for its method (the influence of Hegel and his method continues to be debated). However Marx himself intended Capital to serve as a “weapon” in the hands of the working class. This makes Capital first and foremost a political work. But what does it mean to read capital politically? To answer this question, this class will examine Reading Capital Politically by Harry Cleaver (the most well known American exponent of what has come to be labelled “class struggle” or “Autonomist” Marxism after the Italian “Autonomia” movement of the 1970s). For the autonomists, Marx’s maxim that class struggle is the “motor force” of history is to be taken literally and not viewed as simply some literary metaphor. But what does this mean in the real world? How does this work? And, how should we read capital politically?
Reading for this class will include:
Reading Capital Politically by Harry Cleaver (https://libcom.org/files/cleaver-reading_capital_politically.pdf) Capital Volume 1, Chapter 1 (https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch01.htm) CyberMarx by Nick Dyer-Witheford Chapter 4 (on Autonomist Marxism) https://libcom.org/library/cyber-marx-nick-dyer-witheford
Dan Karan has been studying Marxism for 40 years and was a student of John Gerassi, Jean-Paul Sartre’s official biographer.