Reading Question

A reader wrote to me a while back asking me to recommend some good books for a reading group he helps organize. This was the message:

“A major component of our organizing is developing workers who we recruit onto our committee as revolutionary organizers that can become leaders within the proletariat. A large part of this process is using our committee meetings as forums to educate workers on marxist political economy, in order to make it understood that by fighting for better working conditions we are engaging in class struggle, and make the political content of that struggle explicit.

“We’ve tried material like “Economic Interpretation of the Job” for curriculum, and had some success: But feeling as if that was inadequate, more recently we’ve tried to read “Wage Labor and Capital” as a group, trying to get workers to understand the the abstractions described in it through observations of how they manifest in the workplace. We’ve had very little success with this, and are now re-assessing what is a decent curriculum.
“As someone with an apparent gift for conveying theory on market exchange and the labor process to people with almost no background in Marx, I was wondering if you had any advice on a curriculum on political economy proceeding from a basic understanding of class struggle, expanding into more complex concepts like SNLT, crisis, and commodity fetishism, that by the end one would hope that the student has a solid theoretical analysis of capitalism and the ability to articulate that theory to others and withstand argument.”
I recommended a few books:
Reading Capital Politically by Harry Cleaver
Labor and Monopoly Capital by Harry Braverman.
Marxist Economic Theory by Ernest Mandel.
Manufacturing Consent by Michael Burawoy
Workers Councils by Anton Pannekoek-
In terms of readings on the current crisis perhaps the text of an interview with someone like Andrew Kliman might be useful
I suspect that there are probably even better suggestions that readers out there may wish to add to the list. Yes in a perfect world I would just say “read Capital and nothing else!” But since the reader says that Value Price and Profit was too abstract I don’t think ‘read Capital!” is the right response. I prefer to be more practical. Have others out there had luck with intro-to-Marx sort of reading groups, especially ones linked to organizing efforts? Does anyone have good suggestions of books that I might pass on?
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10 Responses to Reading Question

  1. Stravelakis Nikos says:

    In terms of understanding the terms of the class struggle I would suggest the «Critique of the Gotta Program» since it reffers to an actual struggle inside the labor movement. For the current crisis Grossman « Law of Accumulation and Breakdown,,, etc.» is a good choice since also an option. Both are available online.

    Kind Regards

    Nikos Stravelakis

  2. Crazyduddy says:

    Perhaps: An Introduction to the Three Volumes of Karl Marx’s Capital / Michael Heinrich

  3. klaasvelija says:

    I’d add “Economic Doctrines of Karl Marx” by Kautsky: http://www.marxists.org/archive/kautsky/1903/economic/index.htm
    Or maybe Richard Wolff’s videos on Marxian economics: http://rdwolff.com/content/marxian-economics-intensive-introduction

  4. bob montgomery says:

    Michael Yates, “Naming the System” (perennial text for intro pol ec @ Umass-Labor Center)
    Ernest Mandel’s “An Intro to Marxist Economic Theory”– I’ve fnd this very, very useful for newbies; begins with commodity and value,

  5. Bruciebaby says:

    There are a couple of books that I have just read that I would highly recommend. Henryk Grossman’s ‘The Law of Accumulation and the Breakdown of the Capitalist System’ and Paul Mattik’s ‘Economic Crisis and Crisis Theory’. The good thing about mattiks book is that it has a very good critique of Mandel’s ‘Late Capitalism’.

  6. bob montgomery says:

    It seems people are suggesting books they think newbies ought to read, rather than ones that are actually “intro.” I think “Value, Price and Profit” is “advanced.” As you say so often, when value theory is broached, the average person’s eyes glaze over. Trust me — Mike Yates and Mandel’s short version of MET do the job. If you don’t care for where they end up on crisis theory, well that’s advanced stuff. The question is: How well does a test explain the dual nature of a commodity. Supplementary reading can always be used. (BTW: Farrell Dobbs admitted to never reading Kapital– he said the 1st part was incomprehensible. Sam Marcy said he never went beyond vol. 1! )This is very abstruse stuff, especially in today’s world of “I’ll wait for the graphics version.”

  7. Uncle Marx says:

    “An Introduction to the Three Volumes of Karl Marx’s Capital / Michael Heinrich”

    This guy does it in 240 pages but he doesnt have a clue about the tssi stuff. He doesnt know that uncle Karl never created something proposterous like the transformation problem. I’m going to send herr professor a letter showing that his “analysis” is for feebleminded persons.

  8. Moe says:

    Becker, J.F., Marxian Political Economy, (1977)
    Bottomore,T., A Dictionary of Marxist Thought (1983)
    Brewer,A., A Guide to Marx’s Capital, Cambridge, (1984)
    Cleaver,H., Reading Capital Politically, Brighton (1979)
    Cutler,A., Marx’s “Capital” and Capitalism Today, Vol. 1, London (1977); Vol. 2, (1978)
    Eaton,J., Political Economy, N.Y. (1949)
    Eatwell,J., et al, Marxian Economics (1990)
    Fine,B., and L. Harris, Re-reading Capital, London (1979)
    Foley,D.K., Understanding Capital: Marx’s Economic Theory, Cambridge, Mass. (1986)
    Fox,J., Understanding ‘Capital': A Guide to Vol. 1/Vol. II, Toronto (1978)
    Gouverneur,J., Contemporary Capitalism and Marxist Economics, Oxford (1983)
    Leontiev,A., Political Economy
    Maarek,G., An Introduction to Karl Marx’s Das Kapital, Oxford (1979)
    Mandel,E., Marxist Economic Theory, London (1962)
    Negi,A., Marx beyond Marx: Lessons on the Grundrisse (1984)
    Onimode,B., An Introduction to Marxist Political Economy, London (1985)
    Pilling,G., Marx’s Capital: Philosophy and Political
    Robinson,J., An Essay on Marxian Economics, N.Y. (1966)
    Roth,M., Guide to Marx’s ‘Capital’, London (1978)
    Rosdolsky,R., The Making of Marx’s ‘Capital’, London, (1977)
    Smith, D.N.,and P. Evans, Marx’s Kapital for Beginners, London (1982)
    Sweezy,P., The Theory of Capitalist Development, N.Y., (1942)
    Wolff,R.P., Understanding Marx: A Reconstruction and Critique of Capital,
    Princeton (1984)

    For notes on reading volume I of Capital: http://www.socanth.sfu.ca/documents/doc/Volume_One_Package

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