Capital Reading Group

Red Lion (Upstairs) 41 Hoxton Street, London, N1 6NH

The crisis in the credit markets seven years ago still affects the level of wages, and means people are even more limited than usual in how they must satisfy their needs (ie more poverty). The experience of a growing economy which we are encouraged to think is something we should all want is often not an experience of an improvement in living conditions. This strikes many people as being something worth trying to change about the world. 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 in this suggestion- grasping the concepts of value, exchange and abstract labour and the nature of money presented at the beginning of Volume 1 are crucial.

Reading Capital in a group is an effective way to come to an understanding of what the book is about. Therefore, we are starting a new weekly Capital Volume 1 reading group, to provide the opportunity for participants to understand the argument in Capital for themselves.

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, without such background knowledge. 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 the first few chapters paragraph by paragraph together. For later chapters we propose to condense the material a bit (presentations, summaries, etc.).

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 28 April, 2014, 7pm in the Red Lion (Upstairs) 41 Hoxton Street, London, N1 6NH. 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 28th. 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: critisticuffs@riseup.net. We’ll then put you on the mailing list for the 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.