Marx’s “Capital:” Class 7 (Surplus-value, wages, and simple reproduction)

Aug 18, 2020

Class description: This class covers chapters 16-24. We begin with a discussion of “productive labor,” highlighting the ways in which capitalism views and changes labor and clarifying the role that this concept plays in Marx’s theory and in practice. We briefly return to the distinction between absolute and relative surplus-value before turning to different forms wages take and the different functions these have for capitalists and workers, particularly how they can either mystify or reveal exploitation. Next we turn to the circulation and accumulation of capital, defining both and covering the assumptions that Marx makes in his discussion of both in this volume. Whereas previously we looked at the production of capital on the individual level, here we approach it as a totality that continually reproduces and expands. At this point, we briefly revisit productive labor, discuss other forms of labor (including socially reproductive labor), and note how capital increasingly subjects all forms of work–including those not directly productive of surplus-value–to its command. Throughout, we attend to the relationship between economic production, the legal system, and ideology.

Reading guide for the next class (Class 8: Chapter 25): .doc .pdf

Reading guide for this class (Class 7: Chapters 16-24): .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.