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You are here: Platypus /London Platypus Reading Group, Autumn/Winter 2015

London Platypus Reading Group, Autumn/Winter 2015


I. What is the Left? -- What is Marxism?

Mondays 7pm, Goldsmiths College, Room 226, Richard Hoggart Building

check here and for further details.

all readings are available online:

• required / + recommended reading

Marx and Engels readings pp. from Robert C. Tucker, ed., Marx-Engels Reader (Norton 2nd ed., 1978)

Week A. Radical bourgeois philosophy I. Rousseau: Crossroads of society | Aug. 3, 2015

Whoever dares undertake to establish a people’s institutions must feel himself capable of changing, as it were, human nature, of transforming each individual, who by himself is a complete and solitary whole, into a part of a larger whole, from which, in a sense, the individual receives his life and his being, of substituting a limited and mental existence for the physical and independent existence. He has to take from man his own powers, and give him in exchange alien powers which he cannot employ without the help of other men.

-- Jean-Jacques Rousseau, On the Social Contract (1762)

• epigraphs on modern history and freedom by James Miller (on Jean-Jacques Rousseau), Louis Menand (on Edmund Wilson), Karl Marxon "becoming" (from the Grundrisse, 1857–58), and Peter Preuss (on Nietzsche)

+ Rainer Maria Rilke, "Archaic Torso of Apollo" (1908); + Robert Pippin, "On Critical Theory" (2004)

• Jean-Jacques RousseauDiscourse on the Origin of Inequality (1754) PDFs of preferred translation (5 parts): [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

• Rousseauselection from On the Social Contract (1762)



Week B. Radical bourgeois philosophy II. Hegel: Freedom in history | Aug. 10, 2015

• G.W.F. HegelIntroduction to the Philosophy of History (1831) [HTML] [PDF pp. 14-128]



Week C. Radical bourgeois philosophy III. Nietzsche (1): Life in history | Aug. 17, 2015

• Friedrich NietzscheOn the Use and Abuse of History for Life (1874) [translator's introduction by Peter Preuss]

Nietzsche on history chart of terms



Week D. Radical bourgeois philosophy IV. Nietzsche (2): Asceticism of moderns | Aug. 24, 2015

Human, All Too Human: Nietzsche: Beyond Good and Evil (1999)

• Nietzscheselection from On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense (1873)

• NietzscheOn the Genealogy of Morals: A Polemic (1887)


Week E. 1960s New Left I. Neo-Marxism | Aug. 31, 2015

• Martin Nicolaus“The unknown Marx” (1968)

Commodity form chart of terms

• Moishe Postone“Necessity, labor, and time” (1978);

+ Postone, “History and helplessness: Mass mobilization and contemporary forms of anticapitalism” (2006);

+ Postone, “Theorizing the contemporary world: Brenner, Arrighi, Harvey” (2006)


Week F. 1960s New Left II. Gender and sexuality | Sep. 7, 2015

• Juliet Mitchell“Women: The longest revolution” (1966)

• Clara Zetkin and Vladimir Lenin“An interview on the woman question” (1920)

• Theodor W. Adorno“Sexual taboos and the law today” (1963)

• John D’Emilio“Capitalism and gay identity” (1983)


Week G. 1960s New Left III. Anti-black racism in the U.S. | Sep. 14, 2015

• Richard Fraser“Two lectures on the black question in America and revolutionary integrationism” (1953)

• James Robertson and Shirley Stoute“For black Trotskyism” (1963)

+ Spartacist League, “Black and red: Class struggle road to Negro freedom” (1966);

+ Bayard Rustin, “The failure of black separatism” (1970)

• Adolph Reed“Black particularity reconsidered” (1979); + Reed, “Paths to Critical Theory” (1984)

Week H. Frankfurt School precursors | Sep. 21, 2015

• Wilhelm Reich“Ideology as material power” (1933/46)

• Siegfried Kracauer“The mass ornament” (1927)

+ Kracauer, “Photography” (1927)


Week 1. What is the Left? I. Capital in history | Sep. 28, 2014

• epigraphs on modern history and freedom by Louis Menand (on Marx and Engels) and Karl Marxon "becoming" (from the Grundrisse, 1857–58)

• Chris Cutrone"Capital in history" (2008)

Capital in history timeline and chart of terms

video of Communist University 2011 London presentation

• Cutrone"The Marxist hypothesis" (2010)


Week 2. What is the Left? II. Bourgeois society | Oct. 5, 2015

• Immanuel Kant"Idea for a universal history from a cosmopolitan point of view" and"What is Enlightenment?" (1784)

• Benjamin Constant"The liberty of the ancients compared with that of the moderns" (1819)

+ Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on the origin of inequality  (1754); + Rousseau, selection from On the social contract (1762)



Week 3. What is the Left? III. Failure of Marxism | Oct. 12, 2015

• Max Horkheimerselections from Dämmerung (1926–31)

• Adorno“Imaginative Excesses” (1944–47)



Week 4. What is the Left? IV. Utopia and critique | Oct. 19, 2015

• Leszek Kolakowski“The concept of the Left” (1968)

• MarxTo make the world philosophical (from Marx's dissertation, 1839–41), pp. 9–11

Marx, For the ruthless criticism of everything existing (letter to Arnold Ruge, September 1843), pp. 12–15


Week 5. What is Marxism? I. Socialism | Oct. 26, 2015

• Marxselections from Economic and philosophic manuscripts (1844), pp. 70–101

Commodity form chart of terms

• Marx and Friedrich Engelsselections from the Manifesto of the Communist Party(1848), pp. 469-500

• MarxAddress to the Central Committee of the Communist League (1850), pp. 501–511




Week 6. What is Marxism? II. Revolution in 1848 | Nov. 2, 2015

Marx, The coming upheaval (from The Poverty of Philosophy, 1847) and Class struggle and mode of production (letter to Weydemeyer, 1852), pp. 218-220

• EngelsThe tactics of social democracy (Engels's 1895 introduction to Marx, The Class Struggles in France), pp. 556–573

• Marxselections from The Class Struggles in France 1848–50 (1850), pp. 586–593

• Marxselections from The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852), pp. 594–617


Week 7. [Break - Platypus European Conference, Frankfurt 6-8 Nov ] | Nov. 9, 2015

Week 8. What is Marxism? III. Bonapartism | Nov. 16, 2015

• MarxInaugural address to the First International (1864), pp. 512–519

• Marxselections from The Civil War in France (1871, including Engels's 1891 Introduction), pp. 618–652

• MarxCritique of the Gotha Programme, pp. 525–541; + Korsch, Introduction to Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme (1922); + Karl Korsch, "The Marxism of the First International" (1924)

• MarxProgramme of the Parti Ouvrier (1880)


Week 9. What is Marxism? IV. Critique of political economy | Nov. 23, 2015

Commodity form chart of terms

• Marxselections from the Grundrisse (1857–61), pp. 222–226, 236–244, 247–250, 276–293 ME Reader pp. 276-281

• MarxCapital Vol. I, Ch. 1 Sec. 4 "The fetishism of commodities" (1867), pp. 319–329


Week 10.  What is Marxism? V. Reification | Nov. 30, 2015

• Georg Lukács, “The phenomenon of reification” (Part I of “Reification and the consciousness of the proletariat,” History and Class Consciousness, 1923)

+ Commodity form chart of terms


Week 11. What is Marxism? VI. Class consciousness | Dec. 7, 2015

Lukács, Original Preface (1922), “What is Orthodox Marxism?” (1919), “Class Consciousness” (1920), History and Class Consciousness (1923)

+ Marx, Preface to the First German Edition and Afterword to the Second German Edition (1873) of Capital (1867), pp. 294–298, 299–302


[End of term]


Spring term:

II. Introduction to revolutionary Marxism: 

Readings include Lenin, Luxemburg, Trotsky, Adorno, Horkheimer, Benjamin and more.


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