Marx’s “Capital:” Class 2 (Commodities)

Jul 7, 2020

Class description: In our second class, we cover the first chapter on “commodities,” where Marx begins laying the conceptual building blocks for his investigation. We cover use-value, exchange-value, and value, the two-fold character of labor and its correspondence with different forms of value, and the fetishism of commodities. Throughout, we pay special attention to the social relations embedded in commodities and that, in turn, commodity exchange helps proliferate, as well as how the reality of these relations differ markedly from bourgeois notions of independence, autonomy, and individual choice. In the last part of class, we spend time on the brief sketch of communism Marx gives at the end of the chapter.

Reading guide for the next class (Class 3: Chapters 2-3): .doc .pdf

Reading guide for this class (Class 2: Chapter 1): .doc .pdf

Course description: The U.S. economy is experiencing an intense economic crash. Despite what mainstream pundits say, the crash isn’t just the result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this course, we’ll get at some of the root causes of the crisis by collectively studying the first volume of Karl Marx’s Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Originally published in 1867, the book remains a key resource for understanding the ins and outs of capitalism. Marx wrote the book to provide a theoretical weapon for the working class and oppressed. While the book is long and some parts are quite complicated, it’s one every worker can understand through careful reading and collective discussion.

While there are valuable resources for helping work through the text, most of them are from academics who aren’t thinking about the day-to-day concerns of organizers in the struggle. So we wanted to do this collective reading from our perspective, the perspective of those committed to advancing the worldwide struggle for socialism and liberation.

Taught by educational theorist, PSL member, and Liberation School editor Derek Ford, classes are released every Tuesday. To assist you in reading, we’ll provide reading guides for each week, which we encourage you to fill out to the best of your ability.

The book is available online for free here. This is the International Publishers version, which is the original English translation of the book. The other main version is from Penguin. Either version is acceptable. The class will generally include page numbers from the online PDF, the International Publishers, and the Penguin editions.

Return to course homepage here.