Thursday, January 14, 2010


Here are a few links to some of the texts discussed in the lecture and seminar today.

Firstly, this is a link to David Harvey's website which includes a series of lectures on Capital:

John also mentioned Michael Hardt's notes on Capital (Volumes 1 - 3), but I'm having trouble finding a readable version. This one seems to have lots of items that can't be displayed properly, so I'll have a look for a better version when I have time.

We also spoke briefly about the Francis Wheen 'biography' of Das Kapital, which may be of interest as regards considering Marx as a writer. Wheen argues that Capital is a gothic novel in this excerpt; if you like it, maybe track down the book itself.

Also, John mentioned an essay by Nicole Pepperell called 'When is it Safe to ead Capital'. The essay looks at the first chapter of Capital in relation to Hegel's Phenomenology and Logic, and it can be found in the book of essays that he mentioned in the lecture. The essay is also available on Nicole's blog:

Finally, this text might be of interest in relation to the mode of presentation / mode of analysis ideas that we spoke about: (scroll down to section 3, entitled 'On the Method of Political Economy'). The analsysis / presentation issue is also raised in the afterword to the second German edition of Capital, which can be found in the Penguin edition. The relevant quotation is on p.102, but it's worth reading the whole thing (see in particular Marx's comment about 'coquetting' with Hegel on p.103).




Chal said...

Guardian article on Marx is interesting for opening up a literary approach to Marx, something I'm sure a lot of CS people would be into (I'm kind of a social scientist by trade but guessing that a lot of people did a literature BA).

The use of quotations is particularly interesting and again demonstrates Marx's prescience...

First, his use of quotations to illustrate but also to argue reminds me in a way of Walter Benjamin's (inevitably) unfulfilled desire to write a book consisting entirely of quotations. From a less postmodern/poststructuralist/post-postist point of view, I would argue that using a quotation to demonstrate your point is a kind of sophistry, and also lame. But from a post-whatever POV: why not! Except that Marx reveals himself to be a wannabe author, not economist - which I think may be a vital factor for a reader who wants to get the full £8.99-worth out of Capital???

As the Guardian article points out:
In this reading, the literary style Marx adopted in Das Kapital is not a colourful veneer applied to an otherwise forbidding slab of economic exposition, like jam on thick toast; it is the only appropriate language in which to express "the delusive nature of things".

Second, Marx's use of apocryphal quotations and misquotes (eg Bill Sikes' reference to the books upon his shelves as 'tools' for his use) reminds me of the Jean Paulhan text we did in the first week of Text and Image, which used made-up quotes in a typically surrealist way, and also of surreal literature like The Third Policeman, which has a separate story running in the footnotes about a fictitious cod-scientist/alchemist type called de Selby. Marx as proto-surrealist...?

Emilie (also known as Chal, hence the Google ID/scary photo/blog link etc)

Tom Bunyard said...


If you do want to pursue the Surrealist connection via the issue of quotations you could have a look at Guy Debord, who I concentrate on in my own work. Debord was a member of the Situationist International, an avant-garde group much influenced by Marxist thought, who became very interested in the idea of 'detournement'('diversion' in English, but it also has a sense of hikacking, and thereby a Hegelian sense of sublation): the appropriation of existing 'spectacular' cultural elements in order to subvert them and set them against that order. Situationist texts on detournement can be found here and here Debord's own major text, The Society of the Spectacle, incorporates many detourned (bad anglicisation of the word, sorry) sentences and phrases (although he never states who he's quoting, so oyu can have nerdy train spotter fun discovering them). see theses 204-8 here some of the Surrealist pre-history of detournemt lies in the work of Lautreamont, who I got interested in at one point; if you're interested I can pass on a very dodgy essay on the subject, as well as a few book references.

...anyway, the real point here is as follows: to what extent does this use/appropriation/subversion/etc. of existing works correspond to a unity of form and content? To what extent does it constitute an appropriate means of expressing the point? Does it allow a means of immanent critique, or expressing a Hegelian historical negative - or is it just, as you suggest, a form of sophism?

Tom Bunyard said...

Forgot to mention this, as regards the issue of form and content; on pages 442-3 of the Penguin edition of Vol. 1 Marx, explaining that certain concepts will be dealt with in a later volume, writes that: “In order that we may treat them in their proper context, many other points relevant here have also been relegated to the third volume. The particular course taken by our analysis forces this tearing apart of the object under investigation; this corresponds also to the spirit of capitalist production.” I'm sure there are lots of other examples; might be worth looking out for them as we go through the book

Tom Bunyard said...
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