Capital course 2015-2016

Reading Capital Closely

Livestream Course on Volume 1

During the 2015–16 school year, Marxist-Humanist Initiative (MHI) will sponsor a course on the first volume of Marx’s Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. The course will be taught by Andrew Kliman, author of Reclaiming Marx’s “Capital” and The Failure of Capitalist Production. If there is sufficient interest, subsequent volumes may be taught in the future.

Marx regarded Capital as a theoretical blow to the bourgeoisie from which it would never recover. We will read Capital in that spirit–that is, not only as a work that can help us understand our world, but as a theoretical critique of the political-economic thought of the bourgeoisie and of other Left tendencies (such as Proudhonism). Attention will be given to uncovering the uniqueness and specificity of Marx’s ideas and analyses––things he has to say that are not found elsewhere, and that are largely absent from discussions on the Left today––and to the critical and revolutionary character of Capital.

Against the grain of contemporary academic and popular discourse, the course will emphasize understanding the text rather than “applying” or “using” it. Careful attention will be paid to the specific question Marx poses at a particular point and the argument(s) he offers to answer it, and to the book’s overall argumentative strategy. Secondary literature will be greatly de-emphasized. The book is certainly difficult, but you can understand it, not just understand what others have said about it. What is needed is hard work, perseverance, and attention to detail. Study questions and reading suggestions will be made available ahead of time; you will be expected to have done the week’s reading prior to the class session.

Class sessions will be held weekly between September and early May, with breaks for holidays, etc., from 1 to 3 p.m. on Sundays (Eastern time in U.S.) Class members who are unable to participate at that time, or who must miss a particular session, will be able to view the Livestream video––which will not be available to the general public––and will be expected to do so prior to the next session.

Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions and make comments both during the class session and on a “bulletin board” afterward; the latter questions will be addressed at the start of the next session.

We don’t want money to be an obstacle to participation. The fee for the course will be low––just enough to cover expenses (professional recording, uploading, etc.).

Applying for the course

The Livestream videos will not be released, during the course or in the future, to the general public. Class participants must agree in writing to refrain from (1) transferring or reproducing the recordings; (2) making their own recordings; and (3) communicating to non-participants what others (including the instructor) have said or written during the class sessions or on the “bulletin board,” unless permission is granted ahead of time. Knowledge of Capital is a powerful weapon in the struggle for a new, human society, and it is important that powerful weapons be in proper hands and used responsibly.

The course is open to trustworthy people who will behave in a solidaristic manner and adhere to standard norms of scholarly dialogue (argument rooted in evidence and reasoning), and whose interest in learning Capital isn’t limited to personal edification. Given that the course will be provided at cost, we ask that applicants think of non-monetary ways they can help MHI. (Monetary donations also help MHI, of course.)

To apply for the course, please address the above concerns and write to mhi@marxisthumanistinitiative.org by July 15.

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18 Responses to Capital course 2015-2016

  1. mandeepk02 says:

    Hello –

    I am interested to join for this course . Please let me know what is the procedure ?

    Best regards , Mandeep

    Date: Tue, 9 Jun 2015 14:04:58 +0000 To: mandeep.kumar@hotmail.com

  2. Shane H says:

    Will they be recorded?

  3. Doktorn says:

    WIth all due respect this annoys me to no end. So called socialists/communist for some reason upholding and asserting private property in the area where it is most easily abolished. And motivating it with some avante-gardian notion that it is important that the knowledge that can be gained from Capital should be in “proper hands”. I mean, whoever put this together has to be joking? Right?

    With that said I hope you have an interesting course.

    • I’m sorry that you are annoyed to no end. I am merely posting the course announcement here- I didn’t draft it so I cannot speak to all of the reasons why the course is being kept private. However I have had some conversations with MHI about this decision and I think I can relay at least some of the reasons. For one, just because the internet exists doesn’t mean that anyone is obligated to upload all of their private lives online for anyone to watch. I think this is more of an assertion of privacy and not private property. Secondly, I think that MHI is interested in finding co-thinkers interested in furthering their theoretical work. They believe that uploading a course that they put a lot of time into with no strings attached just encourages people to study Marx for personal edification but not to engage in solidaristic collective behavior. Conversely, making it a closed course ensures that it will be taken only by those who wish to participate solidaristically. Thirdly, I believe some folks in MHI have a healthy skepticism about the atomization of politics that happens on the internet and the way the internet can foster a sort of entitlement where we expect to get everything for free and not to have to do any work. But understanding Marx actually takes work; it is not an act of passive consumption. This, I suspect, has led MHI to experiment with ways of using information technology which attempt to bypass some of these pitfalls, even if it goes against cultural norms.

      I may not be presenting these ideas adequately. But at least I hope you can see that perhaps your initial complaint was perhaps off-the-mark.

      • Ale says:

        Surely you have some point there but it’s not just the fact that it’s not free. It’s the way they put it. I mean, how on can really endorse condition (3). If after the course one become convinced that the temporal interpretation is the correct, one wouldn’t be able to say so arguments because the instrutor said it. Obviously this is kind of ridiculous, but only because it was already put in that way.
        Anyway, it sound like an interesting course, but I could not assure that I will not speak about it, especially if i find the exposition interesting.

      • I think that if you are interested in the course but are not sure if you understand the thinking behind condition 3 you should write to the MHI email address and ask them to clarify.

        Also, to my understanding, the class is not specifically an exposition of the temporal single system interpretation, although this could arise in discussion I suppose.

      • Luciro says:

        Dude, just admit that your guys wanna make money out of this course. They’re surely not interested in collective solidary political action, otherwise, nobody would have to pay to get in the livestream, they would just need to make sure that people who participate would agree to be attached with them.
        You said that nobody is obligated to post their livestreams online, which is absolutely true. But this livestream isn’t entirely private. It’s public, as long as you can pay for it. If you can’t, you won’t watch it.
        The internet has proven to be the best mechanism for the socialization, propagation and reproduction of knowledge, and if your folks will try to resist this current, too bad for them.
        Just so you know, David Harvey has already put his Capital course on YouTube (one of the most popular social networks) for free, because he believes knowledge should be accessible, so people can use it to redefine, reinvent and transform the world.
        Hasta la victoria siempre!
        Observation: I know you didn’t draft it, but since you’re reproducing the announcement exactly as it is here on your own blog, you are also responsible for this.

      • Lucrio,
        The course fees only cover the cost of hosting the course. It is not generating income for any one or group. If MHI wanted to make money from the course I suspect they could many things like sell video or transcripts or books of the course. But instead they are interested in real dialogue with co-thinkers, not people passively absorbing their ideas and not contributing to their work and causes. I can sympathize with this.

        I do not share your uncritical appraisal of the internet’s effect on knowledge. I ofcourse have a blog here that offers my work on Marx for free. But I recognize that there are serious limitations to the approach I have taken here and I am perfectly willing to accept that others like MHI may want to experiment with alternative approaches.

  4. Luciro says:

    “communicating to non-participants what others (including the instructor) have said or written during the class sessions or on the “bulletin board,” unless permission is granted ahead of time.”

    This is ludicrous. Your guys also want to control what people say and prevent them from sharing what they “learned” in the course? Imagine if a college determined that a student can’t communicate to other people what others have said in the class about the subject studied?
    Only Andrew Kliman would be able of formulating such rules. He once said that people shouldn’t download Marx’s works and that abusive copyright anti-sharing law isn’t about protecting big coporations’ profits. I can now see why he has attracted less public attention than Harvey.
    😦

    • Is it ludicrous? Or is it just something you don’t like? The OPE listserve (Outline of Political Economy, a email list of left, heterodox and “marxian” economists) has a stipulation that posts on their listserve cannot be cited without permission. I think this is a fairly common and understandable position for a class that wants to foster free discussion without participants worrying that anything they might say could be quoted, cited or referenced elsewhere. Imagine if you took a college course and it was livestreamed to the world for free and archived online forever. Wouldn’t that make you reticent to speak up in class? Wouldn’t that make you less likely to take the risks involved in working out ideas?

      The expectation that everything that happens in the world will be uploaded to the internet for free is not necessarily a healthy or helpful expectation. I have been in reading groups that met in living rooms and had lots of robust debate and changing of positions over the course of the group. If our conversations had been archived for eternity there would have been a much different dynamic.

      Please take a moment to consider what you are saying. You are writing insults and personal attacks on my blog to demand that a group make their work available to you for free. What right do you have to demand that others give up their privacy and give you their work without any commitment from you? Is that a radical socialist position to take? What if I demanded of you that you make all of your political conversations freely available for public consumption? What if I demanded that you have no right to privacy and no right to have any say over how your ideas are disseminated? Wouldn’t that be rather presumptuous and rude of me?

      Finally, yes we are all aware that Harvey has an online capital course. If you don’t like MHI’s format you are not obligated to participate. Feel free to watch Harvey’s course at your leisure, or my videos. But I find it interesting that you think that popularity is the ultimate metric of whether a Marxist is taking the best or most radical approach to doing pedagogy. It is easy to give people what they want and then they will like you. But this doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best approach. I think MHI is exploring other ways of doing theory in the world, ways they hope will have different results. You don’t have to like their method but I don’t think this means you have the right to insult them or accuse them of base motives.

  5. mreverpresent says:

    Yes, maybe Prof. Kliman is still finetuning his ideas on Marx. It is also not a free course. I spoke a lot of people about the course and they were not happy with the fee.

    • Marxian00 says:

      I can understand that some people may not be happy with the fee, however to be perfectly honest $160 is very cheap to take a course with an acclaimed Marxist scholar. If you were to take the same course through an academic institution you would be paying over $1,000 (At my law school I pay $3,900 per single semester subject.)

  6. Simon provertier says:

    The internet is a world wide resource, something internationalists can make use of. There will be many people worldwide who will be interested in this but will not be able to attend.

    When entering a venture which is of interest to millions world-wide, it is more than a shame this will not be available to all.

  7. Alex says:

    This is paradoxical, to say the least. Yes, reading Marx takes time and the working class has little to none. Hence, we have a world of auto-didacts trying to come to terms with the bewildering experience of life under capital. Without figures like David Harvey generously donating their intellect, which he knows was only possible because he acquired tenure as professor (now largely subsidized by student debt), this general bewilderment finds alternative reasoning in conspiracy theories, liberal commentary and post-human super-naturalism. Knowledge is always in the wrong hands, that is the nature of class society. The absurdly parodist Leninism (i.e. “knowledge in the wrong hands”) evident in this announcement is frankly hilarious. The truth is that a close reading of Marx does not necessarily provide a more substantial revolutionary politics. Indeed, it produces the kind of “cultural edification” of Marxism entirely absent from the political complexities of everyday life.

    • I can see why you might make these assumptions based on the course announcement. However, knowing the folks who are putting this course together, knowing their background and their reasoning for these decisions, I don’t think your description of their motives and philosophical trajectory is at all correct.

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