Marx’s Capital, Volume I

Freedom Socialist Party 2015 Trotsky School
Course Outline and Readings

BLOCK ONE: Economic life and the life of thought

Political Economy (first of two sessions)

Required Recommended

Political economy (second of two sessions)

Required Recommended

Marx’s precursors

Required Recommended Supplementary
  • George Novack, “The Marxist Revolution in Logic” in An Introduction to the Logic of Marxism
  • Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, by Engels. Available as a booklet and in Marx & Engels — Basic Writings on Politics & Philosophy  [Library]

Dialectical materialism (first of two sessions)

Required for first session:
  • From Lenin’s Foreign Languages Press book Karl Marx (aka The Teachings of Karl Marx from International Publishers, Little Lenin Library, with a couple additional chapters), the first two sections of “The Marxist Doctrine”
  • Novack’s Logic of Marxism, Lecture V, “The Dialectical Method: I”
  • “Logic for Beginners,” edited by Clara Fraser after the 1984 Trotsky School [Handout]
  • Blake, excerpt from Chapter 41, “Dialectical and Historical Materialism”: “Dialectical Materialism” and “Economic Illustrations of Dialectical Materialism”;view=1up;seq=646
  • Novack, Logic of Marxism: first three paragraphs of Preface; Lecture One up to Point 3; Chapters 6 through 8
  • Novack, from Origins of Materialism, “The Real Basis of Materialism.” [Handout] [Bookstore]

Dialectical materialism (second of two sessions)

Required Recommended Supplementary
  • Novack, “Leon Trotsky’s Views on Dialectical Materialism,” in Polemics in Marxist Philosophy, pp. 357-384 [Library]
  • Trotsky’s The Transitional Program for Socialist Revolution, “Completing the Program and Putting It to Work” [Library]
  • One-page handout: “Key Methods of Logic, and Philosophical Starting Points”
  • Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, Chapter 7, “The Backbone of Night,” starting with “For thousands of years” to end
  • From Margaret Alic’s Hypatia’s Heritage: “From the Alexandrians to the Arabs” [Library]
  • Neil deGrasse Tyson on reason and faith

Historical materialism

Required Recommended Supplementary

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BLOCK TWO:  Commodities and the labor law of value (Capital, vol. I, section I)

Marx’s method in Capital

  • First paragraph of Capital - S1
  • Mandel’s introduction to the Penguin Classics Capital, first five paragraphs of Point 1, “The Purpose of Capital.” [Handout]
  • “Preface to the First German Edition,” Capital
  • “Afterword to the Second German Edition,” paragraph 14 to end, Capital
  • “Preface to the French Edition,” Capital
  • “Preface to the Third German Edition,” Capital
  • “Preface to the Fourth German Edition,” Capital

Capital, Section One

Paragraphs 2-4: Use-value

  • From David Harvey’s A Companion to Marx’s Capital: Chapter One, Section One, first five paragraphs
  • From Blake: Chapter 6, Commodities and Value, first two paragraphs
  • From David Harvey’s A Companion to Marx’s Capital: Preface and Introduction
  • Blake: Preface

Paragraphs 5-9: Exchange-value

Required Recommended
  • Blake, “Wealth Is Not Related to Goods” through “The Generality of Exchange Value”
  • Mandel, An Introduction to Marxist Economic Theory: “Commodities, Use-Value and Exchange-Value”
  • Blake, from Chapter 40, “Sources of Marxian Economic Theory” — from “The Physiocrats” through “Theory of Interest by Fructification”

Paragraphs 10-12: Abstract human labor and value

Required Recommended Supplementary

Paragraphs 13-15: Socially necessary labor time

  • Harvey, paragraphs 12 through 17
  • Marx’s A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, paragraphs six through 18
  • Blake: “The Magnitude of Value” through “How Capitalism Realizes Value”
  • Trotsky, “The Living Thoughts of Karl Marx” — “The Law of Labor Value”
  • Mandel, An Introduction to Marxist Economic Theory: “Author’s Note to the Second Edition: On Socially Necessary Labor” [Library]
  • From Marx’s “Value, Price and Profit:” paragraph nine through 14 of “Value and Labor”

Paragraphs 16-17: Productivity, and synthesis of Section 1

  • Harvey: paragraph 18 up to “Section 2: The Dual Character of the Labour Embodied in Commodities”
  • Blake, “The Theory of Labor-Time” through “Law of Quantity of Value”
Recommended Supplementary
  • From Marx’s “Value, Price and Profit”: paragraph 15 through 19 of “Value and Labor”
  • Marx’s Critique, paragraphs 19 through 29

Review Section One

  • Mandel’s introduction to Capital: The plan of Volume I. Handout.

BLOCK THREE: What else is Volume I about?

Two-fold nature of the labor embodied in commodities

  • Section 2 of Part I of Capital
  • Blake: “Value a Transient Category” through the end of Chapter 6
  • Harvey: [Marx] Section 2: The Dual Character of the Labour Embodied in Commodities (pages 27-30)

The forms of value, money, and gold

  • Harvey, [Marx’s] Section 3: The Value Form, or Exchange-Value (read this before Capital Section 3) (pages 30-37)
  • Capital, Chapter 1, Section 3: from beginning up to Point 2, “The relative form of value”; from Point 3, “Transition from the general form of value to the money-form” to the end of Section 3
  • Capital, all of Section 3
  • Harvey: [Marx’s] Chapter 2: The Process of Exchange; and [Harvey’s] Chapter Two, “Money” (pages 47-83)
  • Blake, Chapter 7, “The Forms of Value”
  • Engels on Marx’s Capital, Chapter 1: “Commodities and Money” (Commodities as Such; The Process of Commodity Exchange; and Money, or the Circulation of Commodities)
  • Capital, Chapters II and III
  • Blake, Chapter 10, “Money, or the Circulation of Commodities”
  • Novack, Logic of Marxism, Lecture 8, “The Categories of Dialectical Logic”

The fetishism of commodities

  • Capital, Chapter 1, Section 4: “The Fetishism of Commodities and the Secret Thereof”
  • Harvey, [Marx] Section 4: The Fetishism of the Commodity and its Secret (pages 38-47)
  • Blake: Chapter 8, Why Karl Marx’s Theories Are So Complex; and from Chapter 41 (Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism), “Note: The Role of Antagonisms and Fetiches”

The transformation of money into capital

  • Blake, Chapter 11, “Capital”
  • Capital, Part II, Chapter 6, The Buying and Selling of Labour-Power
  • Harvey: Capital, Part II (pages 85-107)
  • Capital, the rest of Part II (The Transformation of Money into Capital)

Absolute surplus-value

  • Capital, Part III, Chapter 7, Section 2: The Production of Surplus-Value
  • Clara Fraser, “More Socialism for Skeptics,” in both Socialism for Skeptics and in Revolution, She Wrote [Library]
  • Blake, Chapter 13, Absolute Surplus-Value
  • Harvey: from [Harvey] Chapter 4 (“The Labor Process and the Production of Surplus-Value”) up to [Marx’s] Chapters 8 & 9 (pages 109-127)
  • Trotsky, The Living Thoughts of Karl Marx: “Inequality and Exploitation” [Library]
  • Capital, Part III, Chapter 7, Section 1: The Labour-Process or the Production of Use-Values
  • Engels, On Marx’s Capital, in Part I: Review Number 3, “Karl Marx on Capital”
  • Mandel’s An Introduction to Marxist Economic Theory, “The Origin and Nature of Surplus-Value”
  • ISO, “What do we mean by exploitation?”

Constant capital and variable capital

  • Capital, Part III, Chapter 8, Constant Capital and Variable Capital
  • Harvey: from [Harvey] Chapter 4 (“The Labor Process and the Production of Surplus-Value”), the beginning of his section on Marx’s Chapters 8 & 9, up to “This leads into Chapter 9” (pages 127-130)
  • Blake, Chapter 14, Constant and Variable Capital
  • Mandel, An Introduction to Marxist Economic Theory, “The Growth in the Organic Composition of Capital,” in Part II (Capital and Capitalism)
  • Harvey, “ A Commentary on the Value Composition of Capital,” Chapter 10, pages 263-267
  • Blake, Chapter 26, The Tendency of the Rate of Profits to Decline

Relative surplus-value; automation

  • Capital, Part IV, Chapter 12, The Concept of Relative Surplus-Value
Recommended Supplementary

Wages and degree of exploitation

Required Recommended Supplementary

Accumulation of capital

  • Capital, from Part VIII, The So-Called Primitive Accumulation: Chapter 26, The Secret of Primitive Accumulation; Chapter 31, Genesis of the Industrial Capitalist; and Chapter 32, Historical Tendency of Capitalist Accumulation
  • Blake, Chapter 23, The Accumulation of Capital, up to “The Separation of Surplus-Value into Capital and Revenue”
  • Capital, Part VII, The Accumulation of Capital: opening paragraphs; Chapter 23, Simple Reproduction; and Chapter 24, Section 1, Capitalist Production on a Progressively Increasing Scale, etc.
  • Blake, Chapter 3: Origin of the Capitalist System
  • Mandel, An Introduction to Marxist Economic Theory, from Part 2: Origins of the Capitalist Mode of Production; and Origins and Definition of the Modern Proletariat
  • Harvey, Chapter 11, The Secret of Primitive Accumulation
  • Harvey, Chapter 10, Capitalist Accumulation
  • Luxemburg, The Accumulation of Capital: Chapter 32, Militarism as a Province of Accumulation

** *** **

BLOCK FOUR:  Economic and Philosophic Perspectives Since Marx

Key Economic Theories of the 20th and 21st centuries

  • Karl Marx, The German Ideology (from Part I, Feuerbach. Section B, “The Illusion of the Epoch): “Ruling Class and Ruling Ideas”  [Library]
  • Richard D. Wolff & Stephen A. Resnick, Contending Economic Theories: Neoclassical, Keynesian, and Marxian — Chapter 1, “Three Different Theories,” pp. 1-33 (optional 33-49). [Handout]


Required Recommended

The role of the union bureaucracy as the transmitter of ruling-class ideology

Required Recommended

Is inequality inevitable?

Required Recommended Afternoon session

Schemes for capitalist salvation

Required Recommended

Left perspectives on achieving economic justice

  • Cornish, “Toxic Capitalism and the Socialist Cure,” Recommended Supplementary

Critical Appraisal of Economic Analyses—Student Presentations

Required:  Choose an article from recent Left or bourgeois media to summarize and critique. See Susan for suggestions if needed.

The philosophic front in the class war

  • Woo and Williams, “The Philosophic Front of the Class Struggle:  Deconstructing the Chaos of Fuzzy Thinking,” page 1 to the top of page 7.  [Handout]
  • “Post-modernism is the new black”:

Marxist Philosophy after Marx

Recommended Supplementary

The FSP’s contributions to Marxist Theory