Monday, June 23, 2014

Marx for Beginners: The Comeback Kid.


Sean McElwee finds that Karl Marx is making a bit of a comeback, but "has been widely misappropriated".

Well, I think you can do something about that misappropriation.

Whatever self-proclaimed "experts" (both, Marx's fans or his detractors) might claim, I doubt there has ever been a person who has read all of Marx's work, let alone mastered it. The reasons are many, among them the wide variety of Marx's writings (from polemical work to personal correspondence; from politics to philosophy, passing through economics, history, and journalism) and its extension (50 volumes published so far).

Even the task of tackling Marx's strictly economic writing is daunting. Prof. Robert Paul Wolff, political philosopher and professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, after a lifetime of study, writes:
"I am due to start talking about Marx's economic theories. This is an enormous subject (he wrote about 5000 pages on economics, all of which I have read)."
And that informal "guesstimate" could be conservative: somewhere else Wolff adds that 7000 pages is also a possible figure. (The man was busy!)

But if you work for a living and you want to understand the world around you, you need to hear Marx's message. Deep down, you know -- don't you? -- the "explanations" mainstream economists offer are largely bullshit.

That is a bit of a conundrum, isn't it?

Well, the good news is that you are not the first to find yourself in that position. In fact, some people have attempted (with varying degrees of success) to make your journey easier.

Ted Trainer, from the UNSW, is one of them. He has a readable and brief outline (some 15-16 pages long) of Marx's main ideas. I've read it and I think it's a pretty good one: so much so that after studying it carefully, you'll know more about Marxism than many of Marx's critics.

However, its brevity comes at a price: depth is lost, particularly the strictly economic stuff (it's hard to distil 50 volumes into 16 pages!)

Now, although I am by no means an expert, I have some posts that may help filling in the gaps. So, you may want to have a look at what Trainer has to say, and, if you have questions, I'd be glad to attempt to answer them.

Another alternative, much deeper, not to mention visually appealing and even entertaining (yes, entertaining, believe it or not) are the series of video lectures "Law of Value - the series", made freely available by the good folks from Kapitalism101. Unfortunately, it's more focused on Marx's economics (so, even if you are more into economics, you should still try first Trainer's outline, and then move on to Kapitalism101)

Good luck!


You can also check my Comments and Resources page, for more educative resources.

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