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You are here: The Platypus Affiliated Society/Archive for category Reading Groups

I. What is the “Left?” — What is “Marxism?”

Saturdays 1–4PM

School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC)
112 S. Michigan Ave. room 920


University of Chicago (UChicago)
The Reynolds Club 2nd floor South Lounge
5706 S. University Ave.

• required / + recommended reading

A. Sept. 11, 2010 (SAIC only)

• Moishe Postone“History and Helplessness: Mass Mobilization and Contemporary Forms of Anticapitalism”(2006)
+ Iraqi Communist Party, Letter about the Situation in Iraq (2006)
• Spartacist League“The Senile Dementia of Post-Marxism” (2006)
+ Liza Featherstone, Doug Henwood, and Christian Parenti, “ ‘Action Will Be Taken’: Left Anti-Intellectualism and its Discontents” (2002)

 B. Sept. 18, 2010 (SAIC only)

• Karl MarxTo make the world philosophical (from Marx’s dissertation, 1839–41), For the ruthless criticism of everything existing (1843), Theses on Feuerbach (1845)

 C. Sept. 25, 2010 (SAIC only)

• epigraphs by James Miller (on Rousseau), Peter Preuss (on Nietzsche) and Louis Menand (on Edmund Wilson) on modern history and freedom
• Robert Pippin“On Critical Theory” (2003)
• Chris Cutrone“Capital in History” (2008)

 Week 1. Oct. 2, 2010

• Kant,  “Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View” (1784)
+ Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin of Inequality (1754)
• Benjamin Constant, “The Liberty of the Ancients Compared with that of the Moderns” (1819)
+ Rousseau, selection from The Social Contract (1762)

 Week 2. Oct. 9, 2010

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

 Week 3. Oct. 16, 2010

• Max Horkheimerselections from Dämmerung (1926–31)
• Theodor W. Adorno“Imaginative Excesses” (1944–47)

 Week 4. Oct. 23, 2010

• Siegfried Kracauer“The Mass Ornament” (1927)
• Wilhelm Reich“Ideology as Material Power” (1933/46)

Week 5. Oct. 30, 2010

• Marxselections from Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts (1844)
• Marx and EngelsManifesto of the Communist Party (1848)

 Week 6. Nov. 6, 2010

• Georg Lukács“The Phenomenon of Reification” (Part I of “Reification and the Consciousness of the Proletariat,” History and Class Consciousness, 1923)

 Week 7. Nov. 13, 2010

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

 Week 8. Nov. 20, 2010

• Karl Korsch“Marxism and Philosophy” (1923)
+ Marx, To make the world philosophical (from Marx’s dissertation, 1839–41), For the ruthless criticism of everything existing (1843)
+ Korsch, “The Marxism of the First International” (1924)

 Week 9. Dec. 4, 2010 (SAIC) / Jan. 15, 2011 (UChicago)

• Juliet Mitchell“Women: the Longest Revolution” (1966)
• Clara Zetkin and Vladimir Lenin“An interview on the woman question” (1920)
• Adorno“Sexual Taboos and the Law Today” (1963)
• John D’Emilio“Capitalism and Gay Identity” (1983)

 Week 10. Dec. 11, 2010 (SAIC) / Jan. 22, 2011 (UChicago)

• Richard Fraser“Two Lectures on the Black Question in America and Revolutionary
• 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 11. Dec. 18, 2010 (SAIC) / Jan. 8, 2011 (UChicago)

+ Marx, selections from the Grundrisse (1857–61)
• Martin Nicolaus“The Unknown Marx” (1968)
• Postone“Necessity, Labor, and Time” (1978)
+ André Gorz, from Strategy for Labor (1964)
+ Murray Bookchin, Listen, Marxist! (1969)

Platypus Marxist reading group

June 5 – August 14, 2010

Saturdays 1–4PM at:

School of the Art Institute of Chicago
112 S. Michigan Ave. room 707

Marx and Marxism

Marx and Engels at work together
Marx and Engels at work together

Readings pp. from Robert C. Tucker, ed., Marx-Engels Reader (Norton 2nd ed., 1978) (* at

June 5

Karl Marx on the history of his opinions (from Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy), pp. 3–6

Marx, To make the world philosophical, pp. 9–11

Marx, For the ruthless criticism of everything existing, pp. 12–15

Marx, Theses on Feuerbach, pp. 143–145

June 12

Marx, On The Jewish Question, pp. 26–52

June 19

Marx, The coming upheaval [see bottom of section, beginning with "Economic conditions had first transformed the mass"] (from The Poverty of Philosophy, 1847), pp. 218–219

Marx and Engels, Communist Manifesto, pp. 469–500

Marx, Address to the Central Committee of the Communist League, pp. 501–511

June 26

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

Marx, from The Class Struggles in France 1848–50, pp. 586–593

July 3

[break for Independence Day weekend]

July 10

Marx, The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, pp. 594–617

July 17

Marx, On imperialism in India, 653–664 (available online as The British Rule in India and The Future Results of British Rule in India)

Marx and Engels, Europocentric world revolution, pp. 676–677 (available online as Marx to Engels October 8, 1858 and Engels to Kautsky September 12, 1882)

July 24

Marx, The Civil War in France, pp. 618–652

July 31

Marx, Inaugural address to the First International, pp. 512–519

Karl Korsch, The Marxism of the First International *

August 7

Korsch, Introduction to Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme *

Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme, pp. 525–541

August 14

Max Horkheimer, "The Authoritarian State" (1940) (in The Essential Frankfurt School Reader, eds. Andrew Arato and Eike Gebhardt, pp. 95–117)

* * *

August 28

Vladimir Lenin, "Karl Marx" (1914)

I am writing with some very brief notes on the first week of readings from Kant, his essays on "What is Enlightenment?" and "The Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View," and Benjamin Constant's essay on "The Liberty of the Ancients Compared with that of the Moderns."

I'd like to write some notes to you now about beginning this reading group mini-course with Rousseau.

June 28 – August 16

Sundays 1-4PM at:

School of the Art Institute of Chicago
112 S. Michigan Ave.
room 707

Radical Bourgeois Philosophy: Kant-Hegel-Nietzsche

We will address the greater context for Marx and Marxism through the issue of bourgeois radicalism in philosophy in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Discussion will emerge by working through the development from Kant and Hegel to Nietzsche, but also by reference to the Rousseauian aftermath, and the emergence of the modern society of capital, as registered by liberals such as Adam Smith and Benjamin Constant.

“The principle of freedom and its corollary, ‘perfectibility,’ . . . suggest that the possibilities for being human are both multiple and, literally, endless. . . . Contemporaries like Kant well understood the novelty and radical implications of Rousseau’s new principle of freedom [and] appreciated his unusual stress on history as the site where the true nature of our species is simultaneously realized and perverted, revealed and distorted. A new way of thinking about the human condition had appeared. . . . As Hegel put it, ‘The principle of freedom dawned on the world in Rousseau, and gave infinite strength to man, who thus apprehended himself as infinite.’ ”

– James Miller (author of The Passion of Michel Foucault, 2000), Introduction to Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin of Inequality (Hackett, 1992)

Weekly Reading Schedule:


1.) Robert Pippin, “On Critical Theory” [HTML Critical Inquiry 2003]; and RousseauDiscourse on the Origin of Inequality


2.) Rousseauselection from The Social Contract


3.) Adam Smith, selections from The Wealth of Nations
Volume I
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.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
 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
Volume II
IV.7. Of Colonies
Book V: Of the Revenue of the Sovereign or Commonwealth
V.1. Of the Expences of the Sovereign or Commonwealth


4.) Benjamin Constant, “The Liberty of the Ancients Compared with that of the Moderns;” and Kant, “What is Enlightenment? ,” and “Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View


5.) KantGroundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, and “On the Common Saying: That May be Correct in Theory, But it is of No Use in Practice” [HTML part 2]


6.) HegelIntroduction to the Philosophy of History [HTML] [PDF pp. 14-128]


7.) NietzscheThe Use and Abuse of History for Life [translator's introduction by Peter Preuss], and selectionfrom On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense


8.) Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals