Marx’s “Capital” Class 6 (Machinery, technology, and class struggle)

Aug 11, 2020

Class description: In chapter 15, we look at why machinery provides the technical foundations on which the capitalist mode of production–which has to do with the transferring of the worker’s skill and knowledge to machinery–and look more broadly at the relationship between technology and class struggle. We begin by looking at Marx’s method of critical analysis and providing a contemporary example of how it’s useful before getting into the arguments of the chapter (and how they show up in organizing), which have to do with 1) capital’s expansive tendency both in terms of other forms of production and industry as well as colonialism and imperialism; 2) the reasons why capitalist’s depend on machinery; 3) how machinery impacts work and life; 4) machinery as a response to and site of class struggle; 5) bourgeois arguments of “compensation theory;” 6) how machinery impacts industrial cycles of production and crisis; and 7) the role the state plays in all of this. Throughout, we pay attention to technology fetishism and the idea that technology “develops” and “advances,” and that it’s always a gain for humanity.

Reading guide for the next class (Class 7: Chapters 16-24): .doc .pdf

Reading guide for this class (Class 6: Chapter 15): .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.