Marx’s “Capital:” Class 4 (Capital and labor-power)

Jul 21, 2020

Class description: In this class we get at the first definitions of capital, labor-power, and surplus-value. Picking up on the introduction of money into the exchange process and the contradictions between use-value and exchange-value, we begin by distinguishing C-M-C from M-C-M before questioning where the increase in M comes from. Marx says we find it inside and outside of circulation, which leads us to the chapters on the commodity of labor-power. We cover the value of labor-power and identify the origins of surplus-value within the difference between the value and use-value of labor-power. To do this, we cover the difference between necessary labor and surplus labor, before concluding on the rate of surplus-value and the rate of profit.

Reading guide for the next class (Class 5: Chapters 10-14) .doc .pdf

Reading guide for this class (Class 4: Chapters 4-9): .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.