Karl Marx developed his foundational thought and research for Capital in his notes of 1857-58 written during the first global economic crisis.  Undiscovered for nearly fifty years and with only a few copies reaching the West from a limited 1939-40 publication in the USSR, these notes were first published in English as the Grundrisse:  Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy in 1973.

In the Grundrisse Marx arguably bridges his early writings on philosophy and Hegel, and the writing and revisions of Capital. We will undertake a close, word by word reading of the text with a view to understanding the concepts that evolve within it. This first term will begin with the chapter on money. Subsequent sessions on the chapter on capital will comprise two additional following terms. We will be using the current Penguin edition.

The Capital Studies Group has been meeting on and off for seven years. We are a diverse group of students, activists and teachers who have dedicated themselves to a chronological reading of the Grundrisse and then Volume One through Three of Capital.

Unearthing The Grundrisse (continuation)

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.

The Grundrisse, The Chapter on Capital

Saturday sessions on essential works of Marx
Reading and discussion sessions with Sam Salour and others
This group will meet on Saturdays until June 17

“Forces of production and social relations — two different sides of the development of the social individual — appear to capital as mere means, and are merely means for it to produce on its limited foundation. In fact, however, they are the material conditions to blow this foundation sky-high…” —Karl Marx, The Grundrisse

Perhaps the most curious and least understood aspect of Marx’s work is his method of analysis. Marx viewed all his economic laws as tendencies and it is hard to deny that those tendencies are becoming more and more the realities of today’s capitalism. However, to understand our society we need to do more than reading and accepting his concepts, we must critically analyze them and look for the way of thinking that produced them. It is with this goal in my mind that we should embark on a journey through the long and complex sentences of The German Ideology and the Grundrisse. These works are perhaps the best representation of the process of thinking that found its culmination in Capital and we will be engaging with it during our study. Without a doubt, this will be a long and arduous process but we should always keep in mind that “there is no royal road to science and only those who do not dread the fatiguing climb of its steep paths have a chance of gaining its luminous summits. Starting April 1 we will read from The Chapter on Capital from the Penguin edition of Marx’s Grundrisse. These three-hour sessions will have a 30 minute break at 12:30

No one turned away for inability to pay. $10 per session suggested fee.