Reading: Capital, Volume 1 - Politics | PoFo

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By Eauz
Ok, so October is here and I'd like to call those who are interested in reading Capital, Volume 1 to this thread.

To reference everything we discussed, you can view this thread:

The last time I checked that thread, the following people were interested in being involved in the reading and discussion:

  • Eauz
  • Oblisk
  • Zyx
  • HoniSoit
  • FullMetalJacket (possible)
  • Vera Politica
  • KurtFF8
  • Meslocusist (possible)
  • Celtic Communism
  • chuuzetsu (possible)
  • grassroots1
  • Nets
  • Vigil of Reason
  • JohnRawls

Anyone else who is not listed there and interested in participating in the discussion is welcome. However, I will delete any questions/comments by those who are not interested in participating in the group reading. Please post these questions in a seperate thread.

So, if you are still interested, please post in this thread and we'll get this started. Another point of discussion is how much we should be reading. I heard the point would be to read any version of Capital and read in terms of chapters. Do you want to try chapter 1 and see if this will work out? Also, in the first post of the thread I linked everyone to above, I provided a few locations that have questions in regard to each chapter. We could use those as discussion points along with any questions/comments people have about each chapter.

Examples: Capital: Volume One
Study Guide to Capital Volume I

Finally, please enjoy the reading. I don't want this to turn into something that is getting in the way of your life or other important points. We can see how the first few chapters work out. We must remember that discussion forum reading groups do not always work out but we should try.
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By HoniSoit
I am still interested in participating in this reading group.

Though I don't necessarily think it is a good idea to start off reading the whole Chapter 1 for two reasons: 1) given the density of Marx's writing, it is a fairly long chapter, and 2) it is commonly thought to be one of the most difficult chapters in the book as it is highly abstract. So we may want to take it slowly, say read the first few sections of Chapter 1 first. We can speed it up later when we have already had some good sense of the basics.
By Zyx
Sigh . . . I did not realize that Graduate School would be so tough. So much for the biggest cheerleader calling quits. :(

I've four core Physics courses, plus a TAship where the Professor is all bleh. 200 students.

Sorry Eauz. Although, I may give it an attempt. One of my Professors suck, though, so I may need to read a whole heap of alternative sources just to do decently in his course. Sigh.

User avatar
By Eauz
Aren't you glad I started this in October and not September? I thought people wanted to start right away. Anyway, I am planning on studying for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test in December, so I'll try and juggle this and the studying for the test.
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By KurtFF8
I'm certainly still interested, although my input may be limited.

I also suggest as a resource, as he hosts the video of an entire course he did just on reading Capital.
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By FullMetalJacket
I will participate.

Zyx, what good will your education be after the revolution?

We will ask of you, "Are you an educated man?"
And if you say yes we will ask, "What did you study?"
And you will reply, "Physics, my good sir!"
We will say, "Nonsense! We will teach you hard labour in the rice paddies!"

Then you will realize how foolish you were to waste time learning about nonsense like 'physics.'
By Zyx
The idea is to be perfectly irrelevant to the Western military complex.

I study "Astronomy" to be more precise.

Whereas the workers will say "Are you an educated man?" and I'd respond "Somewhat."

"They'd say, what did you do for the revolution?" and I'll list what works I did in my spare time.

They'd then insist it petty, for which I'd retort, "But I never worked in a mall which sold the products enslaved over by Asians, created by the blood and resources of Africans. And I never held a gun to abuse those continental people."

They'll then assure me that they had no choice, wherein I'd remark, "Have you considered Astronomy?"
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By Eauz
I'm not sure where everyone (or even who is reading) is at the moment, however, I'd like to point out a few parts of interest.

A commodity may be the product of the most skilled labour, but its value, by equating it to the product of simple unskilled labour, represents a definite quantity of the latter labour alone.
If you read the foot note with regard to this quote, it helps to explain value at this moment in the writing.

The footnote reads:
The reader must note that we are not speaking here of the wages or value that the labourer gets for a given labour time, but of the value of the commodity in which that labour time is materialised. Wages is a category that, as yet, has no existence at the present stage of our investigation.


Thus, we are not discussing the issue of a specific wage for the labour but only the labour time that is materialised within the commodity.


The body of the commodity that serves as the equivalent, figures as the materialisation of human labour in the abstract, and is at the same time the product of some specifically useful concrete labour. This concrete labour becomes, therefore, the medium for expressing abstract human labour. If on the one hand the coat ranks as nothing but the embodiment of abstract human labour, so, on the other hand, the tailoring which is actually embodied in it, counts as nothing but the form under which that abstract labour is realised. In the expression of value of the linen, the utility of the tailoring consists, not in making clothes, but in making an object, which we at once recognise to be Value, and therefore to be a congelation of labour, but of labour indistinguishable from that realised in the value of the linen. In order to act as such a mirror of value, the labour of tailoring must reflect nothing besides its own abstract quality of being human labour generally.

In tailoring, as well as in weaving, human labour power is expended. Both, therefore, possess the general property of being human labour, and may, therefore, in certain cases, such as in the production of value, have to be considered under this aspect alone. There is nothing mysterious in this. But in the expression of value there is a complete turn of the tables. For instance, how is the fact to be expressed that weaving creates the value of the linen, not by virtue of being weaving, as such, but by reason of its general property of being human labour? Simply by opposing to weaving that other particular form of concrete labour (in this instance tailoring), which produces the equivalent of the product of weaving. Just as the coat in its bodily form became a direct expression of value, so now does tailoring, a concrete form of labour, appear as the direct and palpable embodiment of human labour generally.

Hence, the second peculiarity of the equivalent form is, that concrete labour becomes the form under which its opposite, abstract human labour, manifests itself.

But because this concrete labour, tailoring in our case, ranks as, and is directly identified with, undifferentiated human labour, it also ranks as identical with any other sort of labour, and therefore with that embodied in the linen. Consequently, although, like all other commodity-producing labour, it is the labour of private individuals, yet, at the same time, it ranks as labour directly social in its character. This is the reason why it results in a product directly exchangeable with other commodities. We have then a third peculiarity of the equivalent form, namely, that the labour of private individuals takes the form of its opposite, labour directly social in its form.


Again, I wanted to point out this section because it is not suggesting that the one day labour of X-job and Y-job are of equal value in regard to pay but in terms of labour time. Marx ends up going into the discussion to find the one common denominator with regard to the comparison of the value of commodities and ends up being directly exchangeable with other commodities. In these terms, we see that every commodity is produced for use-value (useful labour), leaving the value the measurement of exchange value. If we look at X-commodity and Y-commodity, they are created from different forms of labour for different forms of use-value and thus can be compared because both are the disbursement of human labour. One of X-commodity and 5 of Y-commodity are viewed as taking the same amount of socially necessary labour time to produce, thus the same value (not in terms of wage) is equated to both.

At the moment, I'm around Subsection B of Section #3 of Chapter 1.
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By Eauz
I thought you had already started reading when you said we should work on the first few sections of the first chapter. However, at this moment, I don't really see much participation in the reading yet. Maybe there is not much to discuss at the moment?
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By HoniSoit
I thought we were going to structure it a little more than we did for example by deciding on a certain amount (e.g. a number of sections) to read each week.
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By Eauz
Sorry, it was my intention to post in this thread earlier.

Unless anyone has any objections, I'll accept to postpone this reading until a later period. I'll leave the thread open for further discussion on the structure and period of reading. It seems that a number of people are missing and we obviously started on the wrong foot.
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By FullMetalJacket
Pfft. To hell with structure! I suggest reading at your own pace and discussing things as you find them. Otherwise this reading group will never move forward.

It speaks volumes about Marx's analytical method that he begins Capital with an analysis of the commodity. The dialectics of his method are apparent on the first page:

Every useful thing, for example iron, paper, etc. may be looked at from the two points of view of quality and quantity.

Thus the commodity is divided into use value and exchange value. The former being qualitative while the latter is quantitative. But both are derived from human labor, which is abstracted when one commodity confronts another. Each is commensurate based upon the amount of labor it holds. The idea that quality can be tranformed into quantity and vice versa is clearly taken from Hegel.

The simple fact that a society produces commodities to be sold in a market immediately implies that there exists a complex division of labor and private property:

The mysterious character of the commodity form consists therefore simply in the fact that the commodity reflects the social characteristics of men's own labour as objective characteristics of the products of labour themselves, as the socio-natural properties of these things. Hence it also reflects the social relation of the producers...
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By Vera Politica
Thus the commodity is divided into use value and exchange value. The former being qualitative while the latter is quantitative. But both are derived from human labor

The use-value of a commodity is NOT derived from the socially necessary labor put into the object. Use-value is a purely OBJECTIVE determination that is derived from the particular qualities of the object, not from labor.
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By FullMetalJacket
The use-value of a commodity is NOT derived from the socially necessary labor put into the object. Use-value is a purely OBJECTIVE determination that is derived from the particular qualities of the object, not from labor.

You're right. I have no idea why I wrote that.
User avatar
By Cookie Monster
If this is still planned, I would like to participate. But at the moment, I don't have much time for reading other things than related to work. So, summer would be a better option.

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