ALTERNATIVES TO CAPITALISM
A series of open discussions on how Marx's critique of capital illuminates the path to overcoming the dominance of capitalism today
Today's crises of imperialist war and terrorism call on us not only to oppose both sides of the conflict but also to take responsibility for developing a liberating alternative to this racist, sexist, class-ridden society. If we fail to do so we will forever be confronted with having to choose between "the lesser evil" or some false alternative. Developing a vision of a new society does not simply mean being for practical struggles for a new society once they arise. It also means theoretically discerning the elements for creating a new society before such struggles arise. This series of open discussions aims to achieve this by exploring how Marx's critique of capital illuminates the path to overcoming today's dominance of capitalism.
Marx's critique of capital has two dimensions. One is his critique of capital as a social relation. The second is his critique of leftist alternatives that fall short of a total uprooting of capitalism. Both dimensions of Marx's critique are the focus of these meeting. We will study parts of Marx's works-including his Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, the Grundrisse, and Capital, Vol. I- as well as other key writings by Marxist-Humanists and other radical thinkers, as part of the effort to work out for our day unresolved philosophical-theoretical problems of revolution.
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Alienation and Humanism: Marx's Critique of the Radical Alternatives of His Time
We begin the series with Marx's "Private Property and Communism" (which is the foundation of his critique of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon) and "The Critique of the Hegelian Dialectic" (which is the basis of his critique of Ludwig Feuerbach) from his 1844 Manuscripts. John Alan's Dialectics of Black Freedom Struggles spells this out in terms of the crucial distinction that Marx made between political and human emancipation.
Value, Exchange Value, and Freely Associated Labor
From its first mention in English (in the journal of the London Cooperative Society in 1827) "socialism" has often been posed in terms of whether "capital should be individual or common." Marx's rejection of this way of posing the issue is discussed in The Poverty of Philosophy, which critiques Proudhon, and in the Critique of the Gotha Program, which critiques the "state socialism" of Ferdinand Lassalle. Marx's view that "It is totally impossible to reconstitute a society on the basis of what is merely an embellished shadow of it" likewise permeates his 1875 Critique of the Gotha Program, which is discussed in the two pieces by Raya Dunayevskaya.
Marx's Critique of Those Who Oppose Capitalism Without Opposing Socially Necessary Labor Time
This meeting focuses on Marx's critique of those who fall short of envisioning the abolition of commodity production. The selection from the Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy helps illuminate the content of chapter 1 of Capital, while the selection from the Grundrisse details his critique of those who wish to abolish commodity exchange and money without uprooting socially necessary labor time-issues that are also spoken to in the readings from Raya Dunayevskaya and Antonio Negri.
Abstract and Concrete: The Dual Character of Labor
This class begins the exploration of Vol. I of Marx's Capital. The focus is on Marx's discussion of the commodity form and the dual character of labor. To facilitate study of sections 1 and 2 of chapter 1 of Capital, we include a chapter of Dunayevskaya's Marxism and Freedom and Andrew Kliman's pamphlet on Marx's Concept of Intrinsic Value.
The Fetishism of Commodities & its Transcendence
This class continues the exploration of Capital, Vol. I by studying section 3, "The Value-Form," and section 4, "The Fetishism of Commodities," in relation to ongoing debates concerned the meaning of commodity fetishism, as found in works by Lukács, Holloway, and Dunayevskaya.
Readings for Meeting 5:
Money, Exchange, and Reification
This class explores chapters 2 and 3 of Vol. I of Capital, where Marx deals with Exchange and Money, or the Circulation of Commodities. Marx's critique of such tendencies as Bray, Grey, Proudhon and Owen will be studied alongside such contemporary responses to the dominance of exchange value by thinkers such as Theodor Adorno.
How Deep Must Be the Uprooting of Capitalism? Marx's Writings of His Last Decade on Gender and the Non-Western World
This meeting explores questions which preoccupied Marx in his last decade (1872-83): Are all societies fated to undergo capitalist industrialization? Is it possible to achieve a non-capitalist society on the basis of precapitalist and communal social relations? Can capitalism be uprooted without the formation of a new relations between men and women? These issues are addressed in Marx's "Draft Letters to Vera Zasulich" and in Dunayevskaya's and Chattopadhyay's pieces on Marx's last decade.
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