Red Lion (Upstairs) 41 Hoxton Street, London, N1 6NH
The economy is still feeling the effects of the 2007 crisis in the credit markets seven years ago. The level of wages has been stagnant, meaning people are even more limited than usual in how they must satisfy their needs. The experience of a growing economy which everyone is encouraged to think as something desirable is often not an experience of an improvement in living conditions. Economists and columnists warn that automation – the ability to do make more stuff with less effort – will cause more poverty. This leads many people to conclude that it is worth trying to change a world that creates such conditions.
There is also a fairly wide understanding that Karl Marx's Capital has a lot to say about why and how such a world exists. However, a lot of new readers find wading through the text of Capital too much of a struggle and put the book down soon after picking it up: Capital isn't an easy book to read.
In particular, the first six chapters present a frustrating hurdle to many readers. Karl Marx actually suggested to one of his friends that she should skip these chapters and start later on in his text. We don't think Marx was right to suggest this - grasping the concepts of value, exchange and abstract labour and the nature of money presented at the beginning of Volume 1 are crucial to an understanding of the rest of the text.
Therefore, we are starting a new weekly reading group (for now) covering those six chapters, to provide the opportunity for participants to understand the argument in Capital for themselves. Reading Capital in a group is an effective way to come to an understanding of what the book is about.
Some people claim that to properly understand Capital the reader must first be familiar with Marx's method, or with the philosophy of Hegel. We don't think that is necessary: Capital is a book which can be read and understood on its own.
In addition, we don't want to read Capital in order to appreciate some sort of proud working class tradition or to understand the historical context of the book. Rather, we want to read it to see if it helps to inform our understanding of contemporary capitalism: the world we live in. So being a Marxist or a historian of 19th century economics is not a requirement.
The aim of this reading group is not to cover as much material as possible per session, but to go as slow as necessary so that a good understanding of the arguments can be developed by the participants. Questions should be asked and answers and discussions should develop. Thus, we plan to read and discuss these six chapters closely.
We will be reading the Penguin edition which was translated by Ben Fowkes. If anyone is unable to secure a copy, let us know and we’ll see if we can arrange copies of the first chapter at least.
The reading group will start on Monday 20 February, 2017, 7pm in the Red Lion (Upstairs) 41 Hoxton Street, London, N1 6NH: http://www.redlionhoxtonst.com/ After that we plan to meet at the same time and place each Monday.
No registration or anything is necessary, just stop by on the 20th. However, we would appreciate if people could register their interest with us such that we get a rough idea of how many people to expect. So it would be great if you could drop us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll then put you on the mailing list for the reading group.
Of course, everything (schedule, venue, pace, etc.) about this reading group is up to the group to decide. Hence, the above should be understood as our proposal which can be discussed at the first meeting or when the need arises.