Marx’s “Capital:” Class 9 (So-called “Primitive accumulation”)

Sep 2, 2020

Class description: In Part 8 of the book, Marx turns to a brief historical analysis and critique of bourgeois political-economy’s “origin story” of capital. Throughout the book so far, Marx has assumed that the conditions of capitalism already exist: a class of those with nothing to sell but their labor-power and a class that owns the means of production (while noting they are not “natural” conditions). Now we discover how these conditions–and the legal and ideological structure of capitalism–came to be: the thefts of land, the repression (including incarceration, whipping, branding, and execution), divorcing people from accessing their own means of subsistence, slavery, and colonialism. Along the way, Marx presents a brief but important summary/overview of the rise of capitalism and the potential rise of socialism, as well as some brief hints about what exactly revolution entails. Noting that Marx takes “primitive accumulation” as an existing category of bourgeois political-economy, we pay attention to how this is an ongoing process.

Reading guide for this class (Class 9: Chapters 26-33): .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, were released every Tuesday. To assist you in reading, we’ve provided 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.