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You are here: Platypus /Platypus Boston College Primary Marxist Reading Group Summer/Fall 2020 – Winter 2021

Platypus Boston College Primary Marxist Reading Group Summer/Fall 2020 – Winter 2021

Mondays, 7:00 – 9:30 p.m.

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Summer/Fall 2020 – Winter 2021

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


• required / + recommended reading


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


Week A. Introduction: Capital in history | Aug. 3, 2020

• Max Horkheimer"The little man and the philosophy of freedom" (1926–31)

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

Being and becoming (freedom in transformation) chart of terms

• Chris Cutrone"Capital in history" (2008)

Capital in history timeline and chart of terms

video of Communist University 2011 London presentation

Capitalist contradiction chart of terms

• Cutrone"The Marxist hypothesis" (2010)

• Cutrone“Class consciousness (from a Marxist persective) today” (2012)

+ G.M. Tamas, "Telling the truth about class" [HTML] (2007)

+ Robert Pippin, "On Critical Theory" (2004)

+ Rainer Maria Rilke, "Archaic Torso of Apollo" (1908)


Week B. 1960s New Left I. Neo-Marxism | Aug. 10, 2020

• Martin Nicolaus“The unknown Marx” (1968)

Commodity form chart of terms

Capitalist contradiction chart of terms 

Organic composition of capital chart of terms

• Theodor W. Adorno“Late Capitalism or Industrial Society?” (AKA “Is Marx Obsolete?”) (1968)

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

+ Postone, “Interview: Marx after Marxism” (2008)

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

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


Week C. 1960s New Left II: Gender and sexuality | Aug. 17, 2020

The situation of women is different from that of any other social group. This is because they are not one of a number of isolable units, but half a totality: the human species. Women are essential and irreplaceable; they cannot therefore be exploited in the same way as other social groups can. They are fundamental to the human condition, yet in their economic, social and political roles, they are marginal. It is precisely this combination — fundamental and marginal at one and the same time — that has been fatal to them.

— Juliet Mitchell, "Women: The longest revolution" (1966)

Capitalist contradiction chart of terms 

• 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 D. 1960s New Left III. Anti-black racism in the U.S. | Aug. 24, 2020

As a social party we receive the Negro and all other races upon absolutely equal terms. We are the party of the working class, the whole working class, and we will not suffer ourselves to be divided by any specious appeal to race prejudice; and if we should be coaxed or driven from the straight road we will be lost in the wilderness and ought to perish there, for we shall no longer be a Socialist party.

— Eugene Debs, "The Negro in the class struggle" (1903)

+ Eugene Debs, "The Negro in the class struggle" (1903) 

+ Debs, "The Negro and his nemesis" (1904)

Capitalist contradiction chart of terms 

• 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 E. Frankfurt School precursors | Aug. 31, 2020

Capitalist contradiction chart of terms 

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

• Siegfried Kracauer“The mass ornament” (1927)

+ Kracauer, “Photography” (1927)


Week F. Radical bourgeois philosophy I. Rousseau: Crossroads of society | Sep. 7, 2020

To be radical is to go to the root of the matter. For man, however, the root is man himself.
— Marx, Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right (1843)

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)

• Max Horkheimer"The little man and the philosophy of freedom" (1926–31)

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

+ Rainer Maria Rilke, "Archaic Torso of Apollo" (1908)

+ Robert Pippin, "On Critical Theory" (2004)

Being and becoming (freedom in transformation) chart of terms

• 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 G. Radical bourgeois philosophy II. Adam Smith: On the wealth of nations (part 1) | Sep. 14, 2020

 Adam Smith, selections from The Wealth of Nations

Volume I [PDF]
Introduction and Plan of the Work
Book I: Of the Causes of Improvement…
I.1. Of the Division of Labor
I.2. Of the Principle which gives Occasion to the Division of Labour
I.3. That the Division of Labour is Limited by the Extent of the Market
I.4. Of the Origin and Use of Money
I.5 Of the Real and Nominal Price of Commodities
I.6. Of the Component Parts of the Price of Commodities
I.7. Of the Natural and Market Price of Commodities
I.8. Of the Wages of Labour
I.9. Of the Profits of Stock
Book III: Of the different Progress of Opulence in different Nations
III.1.
 Of the Natural Progress of Opulence
III.2. Of the Discouragement of Agriculture in the Ancient State of Europe after the Fall of the Roman Empire
III.3. Of the Rise and Progress of Cities and Towns, after the Fall of the Roman Empire
III.4. How the Commerce of the Towns Contributed to the Improvement of the Country


Week H. Radical bourgeois philosophy III. Adam Smith: On the wealth of nations (part 2) | Sep. 21, 2020

• Smith, selections from The Wealth of Nations

Volume II [PDF]
IV.7, Of Colonies
V.1. Of the Expences of the Sovereign or Commonwealth


Week I. Radical bourgeois philosophy IV. What is the Third Estate? | Sep. 28, 2020

• Abbé Emmanuel Joseph SieyèsWhat is the Third Estate? (1789)

+ Bernard Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees (1732)


Week J. Radical bourgeois philosophy V. Kant and Constant: Bourgeois society | Oct. 5, 2020

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

Being and becoming (freedom in transformation) chart of terms

• 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 K. Radical bourgeois philosophy VI. Hegel: Freedom in history | Oct. 12, 2020

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

Being and becoming (freedom in transformation) chart of terms


Week 1. What is the Left? I. Capital in history | Oct. 19, 2020

• Max Horkheimer"The little man and the philosophy of freedom" (1926–31)

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

Being and becoming (freedom in transformation) chart of terms

• Chris Cutrone"Capital in history" (2008)

Capital in history timeline and chart of terms

video of Communist University 2011 London presentation

Capitalist contradiction chart of terms 

• Cutrone"The Marxist hypothesis" (2010)

• Cutrone“Class consciousness (from a Marxist persective) today” (2012)

+ G.M. Tamas, "Telling the truth about class" [HTML] (2007)

+ Robert Pippin, "On Critical Theory" (2004)

+ Rainer Maria Rilke, "Archaic Torso of Apollo" (1908)


Week 2. What is the Left? II. Utopia and critique | Oct. 26, 2020

• Max Horkheimerselections from Dämmerung (1926–31)

• Adorno“Imaginative Excesses” (1944–47)

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

• Herbert Marcuse"Note on dialectic" (1960)

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

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

Capitalist contradiction chart of terms 

Being and becoming (freedom in transformation) / immanent dialectical critique chart of terms


Week 3. What is Marxism? I. Socialism | Nov. 2, 2020

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

Commodity form chart of terms

Being and becoming (freedom in transformation) / immanent dialectical critique chart of terms

Capitalist contradiction chart of terms 

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

• Marx, The coming upheaval (from The Poverty of Philosophy, 1847)


Week 4. What is Marxism? II. Revolution in 1848 | Nov. 9, 2020

• MarxAddress to the Central Committee of the Communist League (1850), pp. 501–511 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 5. What is Marxism? III. Bonapartism | Nov. 16, 2020

+ Karl Korsch, "The Marxism of the First International" (1924)

• 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

+ Korsch, Introduction to Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme (1922)

• MarxCritique of the Gotha Programme, pp. 525–541

• MarxProgramme of the Parti Ouvrier (1880)


Week 6. What is Marxism? IV. Critique of political economy | Nov. 23, 2020

The fetish character of the commodity is not a fact of consciousness; rather it is dialectical, in the eminent sense that it produces consciousness. . . . [P]erfection of the commodity character in a Hegelian self-consciousness inaugurates the explosion of its phantasmagoria.
— Theodor W. Adorno, letter to Walter Benjamin, August 2, 1935

Commodity form chart of terms

Capitalist contradiction chart of terms 

Organic composition of capital 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

Being and becoming (freedom in transformation) / immanent dialectical critique chart of terms


Winter break readings

+ Richard Appignanesi and Oscar Zarate / A&Z, Introducing Lenin and the Russian Revolution / Lenin for Beginners (1977)
+ Sebastian Haffner, Failure of a Revolution: Germany 1918–19 (1968)
+ Tariq Ali and Phil Evans, Introducing Trotsky and Marxism / Trotsky for Beginners (1980)
+ James Joll, The Second International 1889–1914 (1966)
+ Edmund Wilson, To the Finland Station: A Study in the Writing and Acting of History (1940), Part II. Ch. (1–4,) 5–10, 12–16; Part III. Ch. 1–6


Week 8. Nov. 30, 2020 U.S. Thanksgiving break


Week 7. What is Marxism? V. Reification | Dec. 7, 2020 / Jan. 4, 2021

• 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
Reification chart of terms
Capitalist contradiction chart of terms
Organic composition of capital chart of terms
Being and becoming (freedom in transformation) / immanent dialectical critique chart of terms


Week 9. What is Marxism? VI. Class consciousness | Dec. 14, 2020 / Jan. 11, 2021

• Lukács“Class Consciousness” (1920), Original Preface (1922), “What is Orthodox Marxism?” (1919), History and Class Consciousness (1923)
Capitalist contradiction chart of terms 
Reification chart of terms
Being and becoming (freedom in transformation) / immanent dialectical critique chart of terms
+ Herbert Marcuse, "Note on dialectic" (1960)
+ Marx, Preface to the First German Edition and Afterword to the Second German Edition (1873) of Capital (1867), pp. 294–298, 299–302


Week 10. What is Marxism? VII. Ends of philosophy | Dec. 21, 2020 / Jan. 18, 2021

• Korsch“Marxism and philosophy” (1923)

Capitalist contradiction chart of terms 

Being and becoming (freedom in transformation) / immanent dialectical critique chart of terms

+ Herbert Marcuse, "Note on dialectic" (1960)
+ Marx, To 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

+ Marx, "Theses on Feuerbach" (1845), pp. 143–145


Winter–Spring 2021

II. Introduction to revolutionary Marxism

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