Marx’s “Capital:” Class 5 (The working day and relative surplus-value)

Aug 5, 2020

Class description: In this class we continue our investigation into exploitation (i.e., the production of surplus-value), beginning with the struggle over the commodity of labor-power and the contradiction between its exchange-value and use-value. We look historically and theoretically at the establishment of a “normal” working day, which leads us to consider the function of the state and the contradiction between the interests of individual capital and the interests of collective capital. Throughout, Marx pays attention to the fundamental role that slavery and colonialism played in the development of capitalism, and how the latter’s development impacted the former. We then turn to relative surplus-value and why its production is the beginning of the capitalist mode of production proper, before considering some of the ways it has been and is produced.

Reading guide for the next class (Class 6: Chapter 15): .doc .pdf

Reading guide for this class (Class 5: Chapters 10-14) .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.