The financial crisis of 2008 has a lot of people going back to Karl Marx to see if his work holds any answers to what's going on. In a highly recommended episode of the radio show Entitled Opinions (About Life and Literature) on the subject of Karl Marx, guest Mark Mancall says that "Today in many parts of the world, Marx has come into his own again, you find right, left, middle, up and down, everywhere, people are beginning to recognize in Marx's writings a description of the reality we ourselves are now living in". You can find the free podcast of that show on iTunes by clicking here (Episode 36).
The social theorist David Harvey has been teaching a course on Marx's Capital for nearly forty years, and a couple of years ago he put a free video series of his lectures online. This inspired Andrew, Juma, Bergen and I to join a biologist and four graduate students in urban studies to do a year long reading of Marx's text along with Harvey's online guidance. Unbeknownst to us when we formed the group, we're not the only ones doing this. According to Benjamin Kunkel in a very rich review of Harvey's latest book The Enigma of Capital: And the Crises of Capitalism, "[Harvey's] lectures on Volume I of Capital, available online, have become part of the self-education of many young leftists, and now supply the framework for his useful Companion to Marx’s ‘Capital’".
So now I have about ten days left to finish the first chapter, sixty pages on the commodity! According to Harvey the first three chapters are the real ball breakers, its where Marx lays down his theoretical framework and where most people get stalled. However, he says the text is very readable and rich with insights and ideas after these sections, so I'm looking forward to that. In preparing to read Capital, I picked up and read Francis Wheen's recent book Marx's Das Kapital: A Biography, a short accessible book that provides a lot of context for Marx's life and the text he struggled with for over twenty years. One of the many interesting things that Wheen highlights is that Marx considered Capital first and foremost a work of literature, and not political economy. Marx was a voracious reader of literature, and Capital apparently teams with literary allusions. Wheen himself, who also wrote a lively biography of Marx, considers Capital "a phantasmagoric Victorian novel".
For a couple local resources around Marx and his work, one of the first pieces I wrote for Beams was a look at Marx's work through an evolutionary lens, called Marx and the Bourgeoisie- A Modern Love Story. And TJ posted an animated version of one of David Harvey's lectures, called Why Did the Economy Collapse?- A Lecture With Drawings.
And lastly in all things Marx, there's a new documentary film out called Marx Reloaded. Featuring a series of heavyweight left philosophers, it (according to its website) "examines the relevance...of Karl Marx's ideas for understanding the global economic and financial crisis of 2008—09". Here's the trailer below: