Highlights of Capital, Volume 1

A 10 Session Class and Discussion with Juliet Ucelli
Thursdays, 5:30 to 7:30 pm
February 9-April 6, 2017

Capital is the indispensable sourcebook on Marx’s method for analyzing the economy, politics and struggles. Many of us have less time to study it because, as Marx predicted, we have to work longer hours— and often more than one job—in order to survive. Fortunately, even a basic familiarity with the key concepts of Volume I offers many tools for understanding capitalism’s dynamics. With current conditions, we’ve been offering this highlights approach, breaking down key concepts and sections:

• use value, value and surplus value;
• why capitalism has needed conquest, enslavement and white supremacy;
• why capitalism drives technological innovation, overwork and unemployment and leads to ecological destruction;
• how working-class people (employed and unemployed) have historically won improvements in living and working conditions.

Participant reports and life experiences are welcome!

The course provides a basic grounding for participants to pursue further study on their own or collectively. We’ll refer to new resources such as on-line and visual aids and current articles that illustrate capitalism’s developmental tendencies, which Marx calls its laws of motion.

Juliet Ucelli has taught labor economics and class/race/gender for labor unions, and was a public high school social worker. She writes on Eurocentrism in Marxist theory, the politics of inner city public schooling and Marxist understandings of human development.

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Introduction to Marxism

An eight week course with Sudeb Mitra
February 6 through March 27

The purpose of this course is to give an introduction to some of the main ideas of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, focusing on the materialist understanding of history, and the theory of surplus value.

We will make a careful study of the following texts:
“The part played by labor in the transition from ape to man”—Frederick Engels
“Posture Maketh The Man”— Stephen Jay Gould
Socialism: Utopian and Scientific—Frederick Engels
Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy—Karl Marx
​​​​​​​Communist Manifesto—Marx and Engels
​​​​​​​“Karl Marx on Capital”—Frederick Engels
​​​​​​​Value, Price and Profit—Karl Marx

The course will consist of readings and discussions. If time permits, we will also include some documents of the First International, especially the “Inaugural Address Of The International Working Men’s Association”—drafted by Marx.

Sudeb Mitra is a professor of mathematics at the Queens College of the City University of New York, and at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He is especially interested in Marx/Engels and the Sciences.

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What Is Capitalism?

Dan Karan
Mondays, 5:30 to 7:30 pm
a Nine Week Course from March 28 to May 23

Capitalism is written and talked about all the time by both its critics and defenders, yet surprisingly, the term is rarely if ever defined. Many simply assume we all know and agree on what capitalism is and so there is no need for any further description or definition. This simply isn’t true. In fact, there are huge debates and little agreement on this very question. “So what”, we hear you say? “Who cares? Does this even matter? Isn’t this just another silly armchair academic debate over how many 1-percenters can dance on the head of a pin?” Actually, it matters a lot. Why? Well, for one thing, if we don’t define what capitalism is then what does it means to be ”anti-capitalist”? Don’t we first have to know what something is to know what it is we’re against? Otherwise, how can we ever know if the movement we’re building is based on strategies, tactics, issues and demands that, even if successful, will actually move us beyond capitalism instead of once again simply reinforcing its rule?
This class will explore what capitalism is through a close and critical reading of The Origins of Capitalism by Ellen Meiksins Wood, whose range as a scholar was extraordinary, covering subjects as diverse as ancient Greece, early modern political thought, contemporary political theory, Marxism and the structure and evolution of capitalism. Sadly, Ellen Meiksins Wood died January of this year.

Some of the topics the class will cover include the relationship between capitalism and:
* Class, Race and Gender
* Waged and Unwaged Labor
* Imperialism and “Globalization”
* Money, Credit, Debt and “Financialization”
* The State
* The Environment
* Economic Crisis (Capitalism as a system of internal contradictions)
* And Many Others.

Each week we will read approximately 20-30 pages in Wood’s book along with a supplementary article on the main topic (some of those listed above) we will focus on in the upcoming session. As much as possible, the class will be participatory and discussion-based (not lecture). No prior knowledge of either Marxism or other theories of capitalism are necessary. All are welcome!

Dan Karan has been studying Marxist theory and history for more than 40 years and has been working for NYC non-profit housing and community development organizations for the last 25 years before which he worked in construction for more than a decade.

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