After the defeat of the 1848-50 revolutions in Europe, Marx acknowledged that he failed to provide an adequate analysis of the economic foundation of society and turned from a focus on organizing to an intense, life-long study of political economy. Catalyzed by the first global economic crisis in 1857 and after 10 years of concentrated study, he started the first of seven notebooks to self-clarify his work up to that point. Not published or available outside the USSR until 1953, Martin Nicolaus provided the first—and only —English translation of all seven notebooks in 1973 as the Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy. As Nicolaus asserts, Marx considered this effort to be ‘the first scientific elaboration of the theoretical foundations of communism’. Moreover, represented by both brief and often lengthy segments of planned works, it contains what Nicolaus argues is the only outline of the entire political economic project Marx hoped—but was mostly unable—to complete. As Nicolaus suggests, the Grundrisse provides fresh insights into the ‘inner logic’ of Capital and perhaps the most important source for understanding Marx’s method; particularly as it develops and ‘turns Hegel’s philosophy on its feet’. Moreover, it perhaps most clearly unites what some have, instead, argued is a separation between Marx’s early ‘humanism’ and his later economic work. Indeed, in the Foreword to the Grundrisse, Nicolaus argues that it “challenges and puts to the test every serious interpretation of Marx yet received”.
The second half of the MEP class focuses on the heart of the Grundrisse, the second and final ‘Chapter on Capital’ that dissects the exploitation of labor and the contradiction between labor and capital.
GIL GARDNER has interests in radical prisoner education and political economic analysis. He has taught in, developed and administered college programs and in prisons for 40 years, including initiating Marxist education in Colorado’s state prisons. Gil’s writing and research includes works on the history of prison industry in the U.S. and he is presently completing an introduction to the works of Marx.