Reading Marx (with help from David Harvey)

New year resolutions come in strange forms (especially when they are begun before the new year), and one of mine is to expose myself to new texts and ideas. To be brand consistent, and in keeping with my site strapline Reading: everything I’ve already read, should have read and plenty I probably shouldn’t, below is an introduction to my project to work through Marx’s Capital: Critique of Political Economy v. 1 (Classics S.)

Background – Why Marx?

When growing up, Marx and Freud were everywhere in literature and the study of books. there was psychoanalytic interpretations, Marxist interpretations and countless others, but all of them had one thing in common. A system of interpretation. A structure for analysis.

So having started reading seriously again, I keep thinking Marx and Freud (Marx especially) are two big male, 19th century-shaped holes in my source reading, and because I’m trying to put off revisiting the five foot shelf for a bit (though both of these guys are on it), I thought this might be a nice path to segway into the new year.

After all, Christmas is about as capitalist as things get at the moment, so what better antidote than a little Marxism.

The final reason is that I am (worryingly) looking for another framework to view the world. I read headlines about Southern Rail strikers ruining people’s lives (and I live in South London, so this is a local issue), but on the other hand people do have a right to strike and to earn money. Yes, they are trying to spin it being around safety, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. Yes, being paid what people say is “too much”, and it does feel too much when compared with the usual suspects of teachers, nurses or firefighters.

But on the other hand, if you do have good working conditions, why wouldn’t you try to keep them? And is it maybe the case that other professions are being paid too little? Labour have been accused of trying to make everyone equal by dragging the top down rather than raising the poorest up, isn’t stopping the strikers something of the same?

There are muddled arguments on both sides; but for me, the overriding one is economic – as a country, what sort of wages and social structures are we able to support in the UK? Because although debt keeps rising, somehow this all has to be funded.

So the point of this reading I’ve devoting the next few weeks to is to try and put a framework around this thinking and look at structures. Marx is foundational, and also dynamic, hopefully this will give me a starting point.

PS, I also have the excuse they keep coming up in what I’m reading, for example, the couple of thousand words I just wrote on Libra: A Well-Intentioned Conspiracy.

Sources

To say there are lots of books about Marx is an understatement, so to some extent, a starting point is arbitrary. Will try to flesh this out over time, but starting with two sources seems managable fo the moment…

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