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You are here: Platypus /Platypus LSE Reading Group: What is the Left? What is Marxism?

Platypus LSE Reading Group: What is the Left? What is Marxism?

Every Tuesday at 6-8pm. No previous experience required! All welcome!

We hope to host the reading group in person in 20 Kingsway KSW, but if we are unable to, we will host it on zoom. Details of room numbers and zoom links will be posted here, but for regular updates, please follow our Facebook page: facebook.com/PlatypusLSESU

Radical bourgeois philosophy. Kant and Constant: Bourgeois society | Oct. 6, 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)


Radical bourgeois philosophy. Hegel: Freedom in history | Oct. 13, 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. 20, 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. 27, 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. 3, 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. 10, 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. 17, 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. 24, 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 

Marx on surplus-value 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. Dec. 1, 2020 U.S. Thanksgiving break


Week 7. What is Marxism? V. Reification | Dec. 8, 2020

• 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. 15, 2020

• 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. 22, 2020

• 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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