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So, the aim of this course is to get you to read this book, and to do it as well as

you can in Marx's own terms, which may sound a bit ridiculous because, since you
haven't read the book, you won't know exactly what his terms are. But one of his terms
is that you read, and therefore you'll get a lot more out of this class if you read the
assigned readings before you come to class, than if you just come along and listen.
There's another reason for that, which is that you have to struggle, always, with
understanding something. And in struggling with it (yourself) you can come to your
own understanding of what Marx stands for and what it means to you. So it's an
engagement between you and this book, you and this text, that I want to encourage. In
doing that, however, there is a complication which arises from the fact that it's very hard
to approach this without some preconceived ideas. Everybody has heard of Karl Marx
and everybody knows the term Marxism and Marxist and there all kinds of connotations
that go with those words. So, what I have to ask you at the beginning is to try to lay
aside a lot of those preconceptions, a lot of those things you think you know about Marx
and just try to read the text, to find out what it really was he was trying to say. And that,
of course, is not easy for a bunch of other reasons, which I want to talk about by way of
introduction. One of the other preconceptions with which we tend to approach a text of
this kind is out of our particular kind of intellectual history, and our own particular
intellectual formation, and for people who are graduate students, for example, this
intellectual formation is very often governed by disciplinary apparatuses, disciplinary
considerations, and disciplinary concerns. And so the tendency is to sort of read it from
your disciplinary standpoint. Well, one of the great things about Marx is he would never
have got tenure in any discipline, and if you want to read him right, then you've got to
forget about getting tenure in your discipline; not in the long run of course but at least
for the purposes of this course. You have to think about what it is that he is saying,
independent of the disciplinary apparatus with which you start to think about things.
Now, the other reason for saying that is actually this turns out to be an astonishingly rich
book in terms of its references. References to Shakespeare, to the Greeks, to Balzac,
references to all of the political economists, to philosophers, to anthropologists and all
the rest of it. In other words, Marx draws upon an immense array of sources, and as he
does so it might be really exciting for you to kind of figure out what some of those
sources are, and actually some of them quite hard to track down, and I've been looking
at this for a long time. But it really is kind of very exciting when you start to see some
of the connections. For instance, when I first started reading this, I had not read many of
Balzac's novels, then I'm reading Balzac's novels and I say to myself: 'Oh that's where
Marx got it from!' and then you kind of suddenly see all the ways in which he's drawing
upon a whole experiential world, full of Goethe, full of Shakespeare, you know, all the
rest of it. So, it's a very rich text in that kind of way, and you start to appreciate it, I
think, more if you stop saying to yourself: 'Well, who is he referring to in history?', or
'Which economist is he talking about?' and so on. And the other thing that will come
across, if you read it that way, is you'll actually find this a very interesting book. It's a
fascinating book, and here of course we come across another set of preconceptions,
because many of you will already have encountered some of Marx in your reading.
Maybe you read the Communist Manifesto in high school. Maybe you went through one
of those wonderful courses which is called 'Introduction to social theory', where you
spent two weeks on Marx, you know, two weeks on Weber, a few weeks on Durkheim
and all the other kind of characters. And maybe you read some excerpts from Capital.
But reading excerpts from Capital is entirely different from reading it as a book,
because you start to see these bits and pieces that are excerpts as, somehow or other,
playing into a much grander and broader narrative, and what I think I'd like you to really

try to get out of this, is some sense of what that grander narrative is, and what that
grander conception is, because that is, if you like, how Marx, I think, would want to be
read. He would hate it if somebody said: 'Hey, you've got to excerpt this chapter', or
'You've got to do this chapter', and you can understand Marx that way. And he would
certainly hate it if he knew he was being given three weeks in an introduction to social
theory class. And I think you should hate that, too, because you get a certain conception
of Marx from that, which is radically different from the kind of conception you get from
reading a book like Marx's Capital. Now the other thing that happens, of course, from
the disciplinary standpoint is that very often people start to re-orchestrate their
understandings around that disciplinary standpoint. That is, you say: 'Well, I'm not a
good economist, I don't get the economics in here at all, so I'm not going to be bothered
to follow the economic argument, I'm just going to follow the philosophical argument'.
And actually, it's very interesting reading Marx in that perspective. Now, I've taught this
course now every year since 1971, except one. Some years I've taught it twice, some
years I even taught it three times. And in the early years I used to teach it to all kinds of
different groups. One year it was the whole philosophy department from what was
called Morgan State College at the time, Morgan State University. Another time it was
all of the graduate students in the English program at Johns Hopkins. Another year it
was economists, and this kind of thing. And actually, what was fascinating to me was,
each time you read it with a different group, they saw different things in it. And actually,
I learned a great deal about the text from going through it with these very different
disciplinary groups. Sometimes it drove me crazy, but I learned a great deal. One year,
for example, I ran it with a group of people from the comparative literature program at
Johns Hopkins, about seven of them. And we got onto chapter one, and we spent the
whole semester on chapter one. It drove me nuts. I was saying: 'Look, we've got to get
onto the working day', you know, and things like that, very important issues of this kind,
and they'd say: 'No, no, we've got to get this right, we've got to get this right', you know.
'What does he actually mean by value? What is actually this money commodity? What
is fetish about? What is this really all about?' And it turned out I said: 'Why are you
doing all of this?' They said: 'Well, we're working very much in the tradition of'
somebody I'd never heard of at the time, and thought was obviously an idiot, because he
was producing this kind of thing, a man called Jacques Derrida, who spent a lot of time
at Hopkins during the late 1960s, early 1970s. And so actually was very influential in
the comparative literature program. Now, one of the things I actually afterwards thought
about this was What they taught me was to pay very careful attention to Marx's
language; what he says, and how he says it, and what he means, and maybe what he's
missing out, and that is also terribly important. And so, actually, I learned and I'm
very grateful to that group now, apart from the fact that I no longer sound myself like an
idiot for saying I don't I've never heard of Jacques Derrida, you know. So it was just
very influential to have a group of that kind sort of take me through just chapter one
with a fine-toothed comb, going through almost every word, every sentence, every
connection with the sentences, and so on. Yes, indeed, I want to get you to the working
day. Yes, indeed, I want to get you through the volume, so we're not going to spend all
of the time on chapter one, but this is the kind of thing that different disciplinary
perspectives can open up. Because Marx actually wrote this text from those many
different standpoints that I've indicated. And I think that we have to recognize how
those different standpoints intersect within the text. There are in fact three major areas
of inspiration for this work, and they're all powered forward by a deep commitment, in
Marx's case, to critical theory, to a critical analysis. When he was relatively young he
wrote a little piece to one of his sort of editorial colleagues at a German journal. The

title of the piece is : 'For a Ruthless Criticism of Everything Existing'. A very modest
piece, and I suggest that you actually go read it, because it's fascinating. What he does
there is, he doesn't say everybody is stupid, I'm going to trash everybody, and Im going
to criticize everybody out of existence. No. What he says is, there are a lot of serious
people who really thought about the world very hard. And they've seen certain things
about the world, and what they have seen is our resource. What the critical method does
is to take what they have seen, and to work on it and to transform it into something
different. And one of the things he later said, which I think captures his method
admirably, is: he says the way in which you do that transformation is you take radically
different conceptual blocks and you rub them together, and you make revolutionary fire.
And that is in effect what he's doing. He is taking very, very different traditions, pushing
them together, rubbing them together, and creating a completely new framework of
knowledge. And as he says in one of his introductory prefaces, he says: if you're trying
to create a new system of knowledge, then you've got to reshape the whole conceptual
apparatus. You've got to reshape the whole method of inquiry. Now, the three conceptual
blocks that he rubs together in Capital are really these: First there is the conceptual
block of political economy. Eighteenth century, early nineteenth century political
economy. This is mainly English. Not solely English, but it's from Locke and Hobbes
and Hume to, of course, Adam Smith and Ricardo and Malthus. And a host of other
figures like Steuart, and minor figures. And he subjected all of these people to a deep,
deep criticism, in three volumes called 'Theories of Surplus Value'. He didn't have a
photocopying machine and he didn't have the web and all those kinds of things, so he
laboriously copied out by hand long passages from Adam Smith, and then wrote a
commentary on them. Long passages from Steuart, again, long sort of commentaries on
them. In fact what he was doing there was what we now call deconstruction. And one of
the things I learned from going through 'Theories of Surplus Value' was how to
deconstruct arguments this way. In effect, what he does is to say: 'Adam Smith makes
this argument. What is he missing out? What is the absence? What is the missing piece
in this, that really helps pin it all together, and when we put it in there, transforms the
argument?' So political economy is really quite strong as one of the one of the pieces in
the story. Now, I know political economy pretty well. I've read a lot of that stuff and I
feel fairly familiar with it. Maybe it's because I come out of the English tradition and all
the rest of it, that I feel fairly comfortable with it. And so when we're going through, I'll
give you quite a bit of the materials coming out of that, in terms of where Marx is
getting his inspiration from, because he doesn't always cite it in Capital. An idea comes
up, which is clearly taken from one place, and is very significant, but Marx doesn't
always cite it. There are, of course, also some other theorists, even in the United States,
but primarily French. So there was a French tradition of political economy, too, rather
different. Marx makes reference to that, but that is one, if you like, one of the big areas
of hisof his discussion. The second area is German classical critical philosophy,
which stretches back to the Greeks. Now, Marx wrote his dissertation on Epicurus, so he
was very, very familiar with Greek thought, and of course the way in which Greek
thought came into the German philosophical critical tradition, Spinoza, Leibniz, and of
course Hegel, and many others, that kind of tradition is also extremely significant, and
so in many ways he's using the German critical philosophical tradition in relationship to
political economy. He's putting them together. And he also drew heavily, in lots of ways,
upon Kant. So that tradition is also very significant. I'm not very familiar with that
tradition. I'm not deeply trained in that tradition, so those of you who have a deeper
training in that tradition than I do, will probably spot things that I'm going to miss. This
is one of the things I learned when I worked with a group of philosophers who were

steeped in Hegel, and all that kind of stuff, so I got a very Hegelian kind of view, of how
Marx is proceeding. I know some of it, but I'm not so strong on it as I would want to be.
And I have to say, early on I had some sympathy with the British economist Joan
Robinson when she said she really objected to the way in which Hegel was putting his
nose in between her and Ricardo in Marx's work. I had sympathy with that, and so some
of the problems I have with sort of becoming familiar with Hegel, I kind of have, I have
some sympathy with. In fact, I jokingly say, and I probably shouldn't say it, and I'll
upset all the Hegelians around, actually, one of the best things about reading Hegel
before you read Marx, is it makes reading Marx pretty easy. So get yourself a dose of
Hegel before you do Marx and everything will be okay. The third tradition that he uses,
and appeals to a lot, is the utopian socialist tradition. Now, this is primarily French,
although there's Robert Owen, and some of the British, and of course Thomas More, in
the British tradition, who crops up every now and again in the text, but the big socialist
thinkers - there was this tremendous burst of utopian thinking in the 1830s and 1840s in
France. People like Etienne Cabet, who created a group called the Icarians, who came
here and settled in the United States after 1848. Proudhon. Saint-Simon. Fourier. Marx
was very, very familiar - he spent some time in Paris - very familiar with their works,
and if you read the Communist Manifesto, you find that he's a bit frustrated with their
works. He doesn't like the way in which the utopians are actually configuring some
ideal society over there, without any idea of how to get from here to there. For Marx,
what he wants to do is to try to convert the socialist project from an utopian socialist
project into a scientific socialist project. But in order to do that, he just can't take
English empiricism, English political economy, and those kinds of things. He has to
recreate, reconfigure what scientific method is all about. And his scientific method is
therefore predicated very much on this interrogation of, if you like, the mainly English
tradition of classical political economy, with the mainly German tradition of critical
philosophy, with, if you like, the utopian impulse, asking: what is communism? What is
a socialist society? How can we critique capitalism? As, if you like, the third strain
which is impelling him forward. I'm pretty familiar with the French socialist tradition,
particularly of that period, of the utopian tradition of that period, and have even written
about it so, so You know, I've read a lot of those people, like Fourier, Saint-Simon,
and, and Proudhon, in particular, and I think, actually, what happens is that Marx often
draws from them more than he wants to acknowledge, since he kind of wanted to
distance himself from that overt utopian tradition that was there in the 1830s and 1840s,
in which he, in many ways, saw as part of a chronic failure of the revolution of 1848 in
Paris. Since he wanted to distance himself from all of that, what he did was to say:
'Okay, I'm not going to acknowledge them very much at all', but in fact he makes a great
deal of use, particularly of Saint-Simon, but also, by negation, Fourier. In fact, a lot of
his ideas are kind of the negative of Fourier. So you can't really understand him without
understanding who he's negating, and he's negating Fourier, in the same way that he
negates several of the political economists kind of outright, particularly Malthus, who
he had a particularly hard time accepting.
So, those are, if you like, some of the main threads that come together in this
book I suggested however that we should be reading it in Marx's own terms but that also
poses a whole set of difficulties and Marx himself was aware of this. He interestingly
commented in one of his prefaces, particularly the preface to the French edition, when
there was a suggestion that the French edition should be brought out as a serial - you
know the French like to publish things as feuilletons, that's sort of - a paper comes out
and it's the first two chapters and the next weeksort of a serialized kind of
publication. And what Marx writes (this is in 1872), (He) says, "I applaud your idea

of publishing the translation of Capital as a serial In this form the book will be
more accessible to the working class a consideration which to me outweighs
everything else. That is the good side of your suggestion. But here is the reverse of the
medal. The method of analysis which I have employed and which had not
previously been applied to economic subjects makes the reading of the first chapters
rather arduous and it is to be feared that the French public" (and that will include you)
"always impatient to come to a conclusion, eager to know the connection between
general principles and the immediate questions that have aroused their passions may be
disheartened because they will be unable to move on at once. That is a disadvantage I
am powerless to overcome, unless it be by forewarning and forearming those readers
who zealously seek the truth. There is no royal road to science and only those who do
not dread the fatiguing climb of its steep paths have a chance of gaining its luminous
summits."
So since you're all here zealously concerned to pursue the truth, I have to warn
you, yeah, indeed the reading of the first few chapters is particularly arduous. It's
particularly difficult. And there are a number of reasons for that.
One of the reasons is his method, which we'll talk about in a minute. The other reason
has to do with the particular way in which he's setting up his project. His project is to
understand how a capitalist mode of production works. And he has in mind that this is
going to be a huge, huge project. In order to get that project underway, he has to develop
a conceptual apparatus which is going to help him understand all the complexity that
exists under capitalism. And, again, in one of his introductions he talks about how he's
going to go about that. He says: "The method of presentation", and we're now dealing
with the method of presentation, this is in the post-face to the second edition, "The
method of presentation must differ in form from that of inquiry. The latter", that is, the
process of inquiry, "has to appropriate the material in detail to analyze these different
forms of development, and to track down their inner connection. Only after this work
has been done can the real movement be appropriately presented. If this is done
successfully, if the life of the subject matter", that is, the capitalist mode of production,
"is now reflected back in the ideas then it may appear as if we have before us an a priori
construction." What Marx is talking about here is his method of inquiry is different from
his method of presentation. His method of inquiry starts with everything that existseverything that's going on. You start with reality as you experience it, as you see it, as
you feel it. You start with all of that. You start with descriptions of the reality by the
political economists, by novelists, by everybody. You start with all that material and
then you search in that material for some simple concepts. This is what he calls the
'method of descent.' The method of descent from the reality which you find, going
down, looking for some foundational, fundamental concepts. And once you've
uncovered and discovered those fundamental concepts, you then come back to the
surface and you look at what's going on around in the surface and you see that behind
the world of appearance that you started out with there is another way to interpret what's
going on.
In effect Marx is a pioneer in a method which if you, you know, if you're
familiar with psychoanalysis you would also, I think, understand. That you start with
surface behaviors and you look for some, you look for conceptual apparatus like Freud
did. You come up with a conceptual apparatus and then it brings you back and you
could explain, 'Ah! That person is acting that way and it looks like this but in fact it's a
representation of that.' Marx is doing the same sort of thing. In fact Marx is pioneering
this method in social science: Start with the surface appearance; find the deep concepts.
In Capital he's going to start with the deep concepts. He's going to start with the

conclusions of his inquiries. 'What are my basic concepts?' And he lays these basic
concepts out, very simply, very directly, and indeed it looks like an a priori construction.
When you first read it you say, 'Where is all this stuff coming from?' 'Where'd he get it
from? Why is he doing that?' And half the time you have no idea what he's talking about
with these concepts. But then bit by bit, as you move on, you start to see how these
concepts are illuminating things going on around us. So after a while you start to say,
'Ah! 'So that's what 'value theory' really means.' 'That's what the value argument is all
about.' 'Ah! That is what this fetish is all really all about.' 'That is what these concepts
are doing for me.' But in effect you only understand how these concepts work by the
time you get to the end of the book.
Now that's a very unfamiliar strategy. I mean, we're familiar with strategies
where people hammer into you: 'Get the concept straight and then you go on to the next
one.' It's like you build brick by brick by brick by brick. Marx is more like, you know,
dissecting an onion. I use this metaphor and it's an unfortunate one because as
somebody pointed out, you know, when you dissect an onion it usually reduces you to
tears. But what he does in effect is to start from the outside of the onion, go to the center
of the onion, find out what makes the onion grow, and then come back to the surface. So
you only understand, at the end of the day, what he's about, when he comes back to the
surface. And his argument about what makes it grow when you start from the inner and
you work outwards in these sort of layers and that's what you do. You perpetually enrich
the concepts. Something that seems like a very stark and very abstract concept gradually
gets richer and richer and richer as you go on. It's an expansion of these concepts. It's
not a brick by brick approach at all, and most of us are not used to that, so one of the
things you've got to get used to is that this is what's going on.
What that means for you is you've got to hang on like crazy for the first three
chapters, at least, because you probably won't really get the sense of what it's all about
very well until you get further on down into the text, and then you start to see how these
concepts are working, and how they and then, if you like, the proof of the pudding is
in the eating, that by the time you start to actually derive some of the consequences that
Marx lays out then, of course, you get somewhere.
Included in this is his choice of starting point. As you will see, he starts from the
standpoint from the concept of the commodity. Now, this is a very strange starting
point. I mean most of you, when you think of Marx, will think of phrases like 'all
history is the history of class struggle'. So you think: 'Well, Capital should start with
class struggle'. I don't know, it takes to about page 300 before you get to any class
struggle in Capital. Very frustrating for those of you kind of really want to get in there
and think about the class struggle. Why doesn't he start with money? Actually, in his
early preparatory investigations, he wanted to start with money, but then he found it was
more and more impossible to start with money. Why didn't he start with labour? You
know, he could have started in all kinds of different places, but he decides to start with
the commodity. And if you go back and you read his preparatory writings, you see there
was a long period, about 20 or 30 years, where he was struggling with the question.
What's the best starting point to really go after this? What's at the centre of this onion, if
you want to call it that, when I analyze it, it really allows me to understand how the
whole thing works? And he decided to start with the commodity. It's an arbitrary starting
point. You don't get its logic. He doesn't explain it. He doesn't even bother to try and
persuade you about it. He just says: 'This is where I start. This is how I start to think
about it. These are the concepts I'm going to use.' Very cryptic kind of beginning to the
whole thing. He doesn't attempt any kind of persuasion at all. At that point you kind of
say: 'Well, you know, if there's no justification for this, why don't I lay the text aside?'

Then the thing starts to get a little complicated. By the time you get to chapter three,
which is where most people who read Capital stop reading it, if they're trying to read it
on their own, by the time you get to chapter three, you kind of say: 'This is impossible.
This is not going anywhere.' So it's really hard, for those kinds of reasons.
The other reason it's hard is because, as I suggested, the conceptual apparatus is meant
not just to deal with Capital Volume 1. It's meant to take him all the way, in terms of all
the other things he wanted to think about. Now, you'll be distressed to know that there
are three volumes of Capital. So if you really want to understand the capitalist mode of
production, you have to read the three volumes of Capital. Volume 1 is just one
particular perspective on the capitalist mode of production, but even worse, the three
volumes of Capital are only about an eighth of what he had in mind. Here's what he
wrote in a text called the Grundrisse, which is a preparatory text, where he's setting out
various designs for Capital. He says: 'Okay, what I'm going to do is to go through the
analysis as follows: We're going to deal with: "1) The general abstract determinants
which obtain more or less in all forms of society. 2) The categories which make up the
inner structure of bourgeois society, and on which the fundamental classes rest: capital,
wage labour, landed property, their interrelation. Town and Country. The three great
social classes; exchange between them. Circulation. The credit system." Good topic
right now. "Private. 3) Concentration of bourgeois society in the form of the state,
viewed in relation to itself. The unproductive classes. Taxes, State debt. Public credit.
The population. The colonies. Emigration. 4) The international relations of production,
international division of labour, international exchange, export and import, rate of
exchange," another good topic. "Fifth," excellent topic, "The world market and crises.'
So this is, if you like, the panorama he laid out in the Grundrisse of what it
was he wanted to do. This is what he had in mind, that he was going to do, when he
wrote Capital. He never finished it. He never took up most of those topics. So what you
have in Capital is the beginning of this massive kind of project, a massive project which
he hinted at in lots of places about, you know, how to understand the state, how to
understand civil society, how to understand emigration, how to understand currency
exchanges, and things like that.
So, here too, we have to understand both that the conceptual apparatus at the
beginning, he's really trying to design it in such a way that it bears the burden of all of
that, but in fact, what it then does, is it provides the framework within which Volume 1
operates, and Volume 1 is just one single piece of this whole puzzle that he's laid out.
Volume 1 is really essentially looking at the capitalist mode of production from the
standpoint of production, not of the market, not of global trade, but the standpoint of
production. So you're going to have to recognize that what you're going to get out of
this course is an analysis, by Marx, of a capitalist mode of production from the
perspective of production. Volume 2 does the perspective of exchange. Volume 3 does
materials about crisis formation, and also rules of distribution, interest, rent, taxes, those
kinds of issues.
But then comes the method, the other part of the method, which is very
important in terms of the method of presentation and the method of inquiry. And that is
Marx's use of dialectics. What he says, again in his preface, is that in dialectics we find
a completely different concept of analysis. You'll find hardly any causal language in
Marx. Marx doesn't say, 'This causes that.' He nearly always says that 'This is
dialectically related to that.' And a dialectical relation is an inner relation, not a
causative external relation. It's an inner relation. And he talks about this dialectical
method again in the postface to the second edition. He says: 'Okay, I took up some ideas
from Hegel. "But," he says, "my dialectical method is, in its foundations, not only

different from the Hegelian, but exactly opposite to it." There are ways in which, I
think, we're going to find that's not exactly true. That, in fact, Marx revolutionized the
dialectical method; he didn't simply invert it, as is sometimes said. He then goes on to
say this: "I criticized the mystificatory side of the Hegelian dialectic nearly thirty years
ago." What Marx is referring to here is his tract called A Critique of Hegel's Philosophy
of Law, Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, whichever the title is, and I think that
that critique played a very foundational moment in which Marx defined his relationship
to the Hegelian dialectic. So he goes on talking about this mystificatory aspect. And the
way in which this mystified form of the dialectic as purveyed by Hegel, became the
fashion in Germany, and why it was that he had to reform it in such a way as so it could
take account of every historical developed form as being in a fluid state, in motion. He
had to re-figure it so that it could grasp the transient aspects of a society as well. And he
then goes on to talk about this as being, "This dialectical method does not let itself be
impressed by anything, being in it's very essence critical and revolutionary." Now, what
he's talking about here is, he's going to use a version of dialectical method to establish
relations between elements within his system, but he is going to do it in such a way as to
capture fluidity and motion. Marx above all is incredibly, incredibly impressed with the
fluidity and the dynamics of capitalism. Now this is very weird, because Marx is often
talked about as if he is a static, structural analyst. The weird thing is, when you read
Capital, you realize he sees the motion. He sees the movement all of the time. He is
constantly talking about that movement and that movement is a dialectical movement.
So one of the ways in which also you have to read Marx in Marx's own terms is
to try to grapple with what he means by dialectics. Because the problem is he never
wrote a tract on dialectics. He never said: 'Okay, this is my dialectical method'. There
are hints of it. If you really want to understand his dialectical method, you read Capital.
That's the best place to get it. And when you've read Capital very carefully you will
come out with a sense of how dialectical method works. But again, this is going to be a
bit confusing because you're probably not yet used to dialectical reasoning, and the
curious thing about academia is that the more well trained you are in a discipline,
probably less used you are to dialectical method. In fact young children are very
dialectical. They see everything in motion. They see contradiction everywhere and they
are quite contradictory about everything. Every contradiction goes into everything else
and your kids say all kinds of wondrous contradictory things to you. And you kind of
say 'Now you stop thinking about that. You have to think rationally'. So, actually, we
train people out of being good dialecticians almost from day two. But in fact dialectical
method is intuitively very, very powerful. And in a sense what Marx is doing is
recovering that incredibly intuitive dialectical method and putting it to work, both in
terms of an analytic schema, as we will see, but also in terms of understanding that
everything is in process. Everything is in motion. Everything is defined in those terms.
He doesn't talk about labour. He talks about the labour process. Capital is not a thing; it
is a process; it is in motion. Value does not exist unless it is in motion. When things
stop, value disappears, and the whole system comes tumbling down. And those of you
who remember very well what happened in the aftermath of 9/11. Most things stopped.
Motion stopped. Planes stopped flying. You couldn't get through the bridges,
everything, and then in three days suddenly everybody realized that capitalism would
collapse if things didn't get in motion again, so suddenly, you know, Giuliani comes on
and says: 'For god's sake, get out your credit cards and go shop. Go back to Broadway.
Go back and do this kind of stuff; go back.' Bush even appeared on a TV ad for the
airline industry, saying: 'Get back and start flying. Get back in motion.' You know. In
other words, capitalism is, as Jack Kerouac would say, 'perpetually on the road.' And if

it's not always on the road, then it's nothing. So Marx is incredibly appreciative of that.
And it's very strange to find him so often depicted as this static figure who's got it all
worked out. No, it's in motion and it's changing, perpetually in motion.
So here, I think, too, what Marx is trying to do is to find a conceptual apparatus
that would help you to understand that motion. And so, some of his concepts are
formulated in such a way that they're about relations; they're about transformative
activity. This is like this at this moment; and it's like that in the next moment. And this
can get quite confusing, but what he's trying to do is to get behind the confusion, come
up with a conceptual apparatus, a deep structure, if you like, which is going to help you
understand all of that motion which is going on around us perpetually. And, particularly,
the way in which motion is actually instantiated within a capitalist mode of production.
So, one of the ways in which I think you have to try to understand Marx is by
appreciating his dialectical method.
Now there are a lot of people, including many Marxists, who really don't like his
dialectics. There is a whole sphere called 'analytical Marxism,' for example, which kind
of says: 'You know, all of that dialectics' They actually like to call themselves 'no
bullshit Marxists,' because they just basically say: 'All that dialectics is just B.S.' And
then there are actually other people who want to somehow or other take something that's
very dialectical and turn it into a causative structure. And in fact there's a whole
positivist version of what Marx says; that is, strip away the dialectics. Now, this may be
perfectly correct; I mean, I'm not making an argument, saying, you know, the analytical
Marxists are wrong. I'm not going to make an argument, saying that people who turn it
into a positivist mathematical model are wrong. Maybe they're right. But what you have
to do if you're going to understand Marx's text in Marx's terms: you're going to have to
grapple with the dialectic. And it's fine afterwards if you want to say 'Marx is wrong the
dialectic is wrong, I don't like it, it doesn't work', this kind of thing. That's fine. But
before you say that you've got to understand what it is and how it is working. So part of
what we want to do is to spend some time recognizing that dialectical aspect of Marx,
and seeing how it works.
Now there is one final point before we get to the break. I asked to try to read
Marx in Marx's own terms but obviously I am your guide. And so you going to read it
with my help and my terms are going to be very important. So one of the things I want
to say here is that of course my interest in urbanization, in uneven geographical
development, imperialism and all those kinds of things, that my interests have actually
become very, very important in terms of affecting the way in which I read this text. In
other words, I've been through 30 odd years of dialogue between me and this text. And
one of the reasons I like to teach it every year is: every year I ask to myself: 'How I'm
going to read it differently this year? What about it will strike me that I didn't notice
before?' And new things strike me because new events crop up, that is history and
geography change. And so, there are certain things which arise, and I can come back
and I can look at Marx and say: 'Well, does he have anything to say about this?', and
sometimes you find something really acute which he has to say about it, sometimes not
at all. So, I have been through a long dialogue and I used this way of thinking many of
these conceptional apparatuses all of the time in the work I do. And in the process, of
course, I changed the way in which I understand the text. I suspect that if you could get
a recording of this class from twenty five years ago, you would find me saying very
different things from what I'm saying now. For a variety of reasons both the historical
climate has changed, the intellectual climate has changed. All sorts of issues have
cropped up which didn't exist before. Therefore, you read it in a different way.

Interesting point: in one of the prefaces Marx talks about that process, about how
bourgeois theory understood the world in a certain way and then history moved on to
make that theoretical formulation redundant, and that therefore ideas had to change as
circumstances change. Or ideas had to be reconfigured. So you're going to get some of
my reading in it, too. And there's no way you can avoid that, but at the end of the day,
what I want you to do, is to come to your own reading of it, that is, engage with the text
in terms of your experience, both intellectual, social, political, and have a good time
talking to the text, and letting the text talk to you, and appreciating the way in which
Marx tries to understand the world. Because above all I think this text is a wonderful,
wonderful exercise in seeking to understand what appears almost impossible to
understand. So from this standpoint you have to engage with the text. And okay I'm
going to be in your way a little of the time, but I hope not too much because at the end
of the day it is your business to really translate what's going on in this text into meaning
in your own life. That's what this book is so great at. I think it will speak to you in some
way. Probably not in the same way to you as it does to me. And that is perfectly valid
and perfectly reasonable. And I'd like therefore for you to confront it in that kind of
spirit. Okay that's all I want to say by way of introduction.
What I thought would be very useful to do is just to read through this first
section with you and try to give you an idea what I mean about method and all the rest
of it. Okay, he starts off simply saying: "The wealth of societies in which the capitalist
mode of production prevails appears as an immense collection of commodities;
()individual commodity()" ()elementary form. Our analysis therefore begins with
the commodity." Okay, this is the a priori beginning point which we've already
mentioned. But notice something about the language: "appears". Always watch out
when Marx uses the word "appear". "Appears" is not "is", "appears" means that
something else is going on, and you better watch out and figure out what that
"something else" is. And notice also that he is exclusively concerned with the "capitalist
mode of production". He's not concerned with ancient modes of production or socialist
modes of production or even hybrid modes of production. He's going to be concerned
with a capitalist mode of production in a pretty pure form. And I think that is a very
important thing to remember when we're reading through this text. So this is a
beginning point. Now, when you think about it, it's actually a very good beginning
point. Why? How many of us in this room have never had any experience of a
commodity? Everybody has experiences of commodities. Did you see one today? Did
you see one yesterday? Are you constantly shopping for them? Are you constantly
wandering around looking at them? The thing there is that of what he's done is to really
choose a common denominator, something that is common to us all, something we
know about. We go into the shop, we buy it and it's absolutely necessary for our
existence. We can't live without consuming commodities. We have to buy commodities
in order to live. It's a simple relation as that, so we start with that, and the other great
thing about it is, and again I'll probably get some flack for saying this, is: it doesn't
matter whether you're a man or a woman or a Japanese or an ethnic or a religious or
whatever it is, in other words: this just very simple kind of economic transaction which
you are looking at. And then he says: Well, what kind of economic transaction is it?
Well, the commodity is something, he says, which meets a human want or need. and he
says: I'm not interested and this is the cryptic form of that he says in the next
paragraph OK, something external to us which we then make ours in a way. And it
"satisfies human needs of whatever kind. The nature of these needs whether they arise,

for example from the stomach, or from the imagination, makes no difference." In other
words: he is not really interested in psychologizing about it, he's laying it all aside.
Saying: I'm not really interested in why people buy commodities. They can buy it
because they want it, they need it, they desire it. I can buy it for fun or out of necessity
or whatever. I'm not interested in talking about all of that. All I'm interested in is the
very fact of simply somebody buying a commodity. And he then goes on and says: Well
look at this. How many commodities are there in the world? Well, there are millions of
them, all made up of different qualities, and we all kind of assess them in terms of
different quantitative measures. And he again shunts this aside and says: "The discovery
of these ways and hence of the manifold uses of things is the work of history. So also is
the invention of socially recognized standards of measurement for the quantities of these
useful objects. The diversity of the measures for commodities arises in part from the
diverse nature of the objects to the measured, and in part from convention. The
usefulness of a thing makes it a use-value." First big concept: use-value. It's useful to
you. I'm not interested in discussing how it's useful to you. I'm not interested in
discussing the history of use-values or anything of that kind, or the way in which they
measure this kind of thing. All I'm interested in is the concept of use-value. Notice how
he's abstracting very fast. And he talks in one of the prefaces about the problem for a
social scientist, like himself, is that you can't go into a labouratory and isolate things and
run experiments. So what you have to do in order to run an experiment is to use what he
calls: 'The power of abstraction.' And you see immediately: the commodity is central.
I'm abstracting from human wants, needs and desires. I'm abstracting from any
consideration of this specific properties of things. I'm just going to home in on the fact
that in some sense this commodity has something called a use-value. And this then
immediately leads him into, by the middle of page hundred and twenty-six, he says: "In
the form of society to be considered here" - i.e. within a capitalist mode of production "they are also the material bearers of exchange-value." Again watch this word
"bearers", a commodity is a bearer of something. It's not to say: it "is" something. It is a
bearer of something which we have yet to define. And how do we think about it? Well,
when we look at exchange processes, geographically, temporally, what we find is an
enormous kind of process of exchange, of market exchange. We see different ratios
occurring between shirts and shoes depending upon the time, depending upon the place.
We see different quantitative relations between bushels of wheat and pairs of shoes and
tons of steel and that kind of thing. So the first sight, what we see in the world of
exchange is exchange-values which are incoherent, they're all over the place. As he
says: "exchange-value appears to be something accidental and purely relative, and
consequently an intrinsic value, i.e. an exchange-value that is inseparably connected
with the commodity, inherent in it, seems to be a contradiction in terms." We noticed
something about this world of exchange. That everything is in principle exchangeable
with everything else. And what this immediately implies, as he says at page hundred and
twenty-seven, is that you are always in a position having exchanged something for
something else to then exchange what you've just got for something else. In other
words: You can just keep on exchanging. So a thing can keep on moving. So it can be
exchanged for all the other commodities at some point. And if that's the case, he then
says on hundred and twenty-seven, "It follows from this that, firstly, the valid exchangevalues of a particular commodity express something equal and secondly, exchangevalue cannot be anything other than the mode of expression, the form of appearance of a
content distinguishable from it." That is: if I have a commodity in my hand, I can't
dissect it and find out that element inside of it that makes it exchangeable. It's
something else. No. It is exchangeable for something else and I can't find out what

makes it exchangeable just by looking at the commodity. I have to look at the


commodity in motion. This is where we start to get in motion, in movement. I have to
look at it. And as it moves, it is obviously expressing something about exchangeability,
a commensurability in exchange. It means that all things are commensurable in
exchange. Why are they commensurable? And what is that commensurability made up
of? Where does it come from? How is it defined? And the commodity is the bearer of
that something. But it is not inside of the commodity. It is borne by the commodity. It's a
relation inside of the commodity, not a material thing. He then goes through corn and
iron and gets into one of his geometrical examples, but says crucially right by the
middle of the page: "Each of them, so far as it is exchange-value, must therefore be
reducible to this third thing," whatever it is. And "this common element cannot be a
geometrical, physical, chemical or other natural property of commodities," he says
further down the page. We're hitting something here that is rather significant. Marx is
often depicted as some sort of grubby materialist. You know: Everything has to be
material. But here what we're seeing immediately: he's not talking about the materiality
of the thing at all. You can inspect the materiality of the commodity all you like, and
you won't find out the secret of its commensurability and its exchangeability. You won't
find it. And then he goes on to the next page, hundred twenty-eight, to say: "As usevalues, commodities differ above all in quality, while as exchange-values they can only
differ in quantity," that is: how much of this exchanges for how much of that, "and
therefore do not contain an atom of use-value." The commensurability that he's talking
about is not constituted out of the utility of something. Then he goes on to say: "If then
we disregard the use-value of commodities, only one property remains" and here
we're going to have another a priori leap. What's the property? They are all products of
human labour. That is what they have in common and what exchange- and use-values
are bearers of is that quality of being products of human labour. But, he then
immediately goes on to say: What kind of labour is it? Well, it can't be based on the fact
that if I'm lazy and I take, you know, fifteen days to make a shirt, then indeed, you
should pay, you know, the equivalent should be fifteen days of your labour, when I
can go and find somebody who has made a shirt in three days, you know, I would
exchange it with somebody for 3 days of labour. So he says on the bottom of that
passage: "They can no longer be distinguished, but are all together reduced to the same
kind of labour, human labour in the abstract." Well, this is moving very fast, very
cryptic. Use-value, exchange-value, human labour in the abstract. And here it comes:
"Let us now I look at the residue of the products of labour. There is nothing left of them
in each case but the same phantom-like objectivity;" Marx loves all this stuff about
phantoms and werewolves and all that kind of stuff. So you're gonna get a lot of that.
He's a great admirer of Shelley and Frankenstein and all the rest of it, so you'll get a lot
of that kind of language. It's great. "they are merely congealed quantities of
homogeneous human labour, human labour-power expended without regard to the form
of its expenditure. ()As crystals of this social substance which is common to them all,
they are values, commodity values." Okay, he's taken four pages to lay out three
fundamental concepts. Use-value, exchange-value, value. Value is what is passed on in
the process of commodity exchange. It's the hidden element in a commodity that makes
all commodities in principle exchangeable with each other. So he then goes on to say:
Well, having abstracted from use-value then we go back and look again at exchangevalue. We then see exchange-value, as he says, on the bottom of page hundred and
twenty-eight, "as the necessary mode of expression, or form of appearance, of value."
Appearance, form of appearance; but this time you're looking at it the other way. That is
there is something mysterious about the exchangeability of all of those commodities.

There is something mysterious about the way in which all of those commodities could
be commensurable with each other. And the mystery is that they're values, But values
are represented now by exchange-value, so exchange-value, i.e. how much you are
actually get for the product in the market, is a representation of value, is a representation
of labour. Now, when you go to the supermarket, can you see the labour in the
commodity? But it has an exchange-value, right? Again, Marx's point is: Yeah, they are
products of labour but you can't see the labour, you can't see the labour on the
commodity. But you get a sense of what it is because it is represented by its price. So
that is, if you like, exchange-value is a representation of something else. Now again: to
say something is a representation of something is not to say "is". Because, as anybody
would quickly tell you, the difference between the representation and what actually
something is, there can be quite a gap. And Marx is going to spend quite a bit of time
talking about the nature of that gap between value and its representation. On hundred
twenty-nine he says: "A use-value, or useful article, therefore, has value only because
abstract human labour is objectified or materialized in it." Objectified - a very important
kind of concept. A process, in fact a labour process, becomes objectified in a thing. This
is an idea that's going to become very important in Marx. You have a thing and then
there is a labour process. What's the relationship then between the process and the
thing? This is going to come up again and again and again in the text. Processes and
things, the thing is a representation of the process. You want a simple example of that?
If I set an examination right now, I made you write out little paper about what these
concepts mean. And then I graded you. I'll be grading you on the thing. What would it
have to do with the process that's going on in here? I mean you might feel very, very
outraged when I graded you C or D or F, or something like that, because you haven't
quite got it yet. When in fact you're struggling in the process, the intellectual labourprocess of trying to command on what the hell is going on in this text. It's a very
important thing. But if I try to test it as a thingand actually, education is full of this
kind of problem. Education is about a process, it's about people learning things, it's
about process, thinking, all this kind of stuff. And we are constantly testing how good
people are in terms of that process by the things they make. Dissertations, essays,
papers, multiple choice questions, all the rest of it. So what Marx is doing here is to say:
Well, the representation, i.e. the exchange-value, is something which you can really see,
but it is representing something which is value. And as we will see, value is always in
motion. And that means that a process is objectified in a thing. A labour process, a potter
making a pot is finally objectified in a thing. And it's the thing which is sold in the
market, not the process. But the thing would not exist without the process. So the
process has to be objectified. There are some people who would love to write a
dissertation without ever actually producing the thing. You may come an say: Oh the
process is great! Ah, yeah okay, PhD immediately but of course, no, you've got
to objectify it And as everybody knows who's gone through this to some degree, you
can have great ideas and think it is fantastic, and when you try to objectify it on paper
you say: good god, what nonsense this is! And so, you've got to so Marx is talking
about that relationship. That's right in that's implied in this, immediately in this notion
of objectification. Human labour is objectified, materialized in this thing called a
commodity. But then inside of that thing, the quantity is measured by the duration of the
labour which is put into the thing. But And that itself has measures, which he said
scale of hours, days etc. Again, there's a reference here, a coded reference, if you like, to
the the way in which capitalist mode of production sets up a certain notion of
temporality. Time, how does the capitalist mode of production structure time? And Marx
is going to make an argument, saying: you've got to understand that a lot of it has to do

with the fact that time is money. Time is connected to value in a certain kind of way, and
therefore even our measures of time start to take on a certain kind of allure, simply
because of the way in which it capitalist mode of production works. He then comes,
down this paragraph, to say this: "I'm really looking at the total labour power of society
which is manifested in the values of the world of commodities." Now, where does this
society exist, and where does this world of commodities prevail? Here you're not
looking at just one particular place, you're actually looking at a global situation. The
world of commodities, where is the world of commodities right now? It's in China, it's
in Mexico, it's in Japan, it's in Russia It's a global thing. And he's looking at society,
in a sense, the whole of the capitalist world. So he's looking at the notion of labour, and
the measure of value, if you like, is going to be judged against that whole world, it's not
the specific activity of a particular labour in a particular place and time, now it's a whole
world. A global situation, even at this point, and actually, there's a brilliant sort of
description of globalization, if you want to call it that, in the Communist Manifesto.
Where Marx talks about the impulsions of the Bourgeoisie to create the world market
and the consequence of making that, in which old industries get destroyed, new ones get
created, there's tremendous kind of fluidity. Marx was writing this in a context where
the world was opening very fast- through the steamship and the railways and all this
kind of stuff to a global economy. And he understood very well the consequences of
that, which meant that value was not something that was determined in our backyard,
but was something which was determined in the world of commodities. And the result
of that is that we end up as he says: "Each of these units," that is of homogenous labourpower, "each of these units is the same as any other to the extent that it has the character
of a socially average unit of labour-power and acts as such()" And here comes the
crucial definition: "Socially necessary labour-time is the labour-time required to
produce any use-value under the conditions of production normal for a given society
and with the average degree of skill and intensity of labour prevalent in that society."
This is his first cut definition of value. Value is socially necessary labour-time. One of
the reasons, I think, Marx thought he could get away with this very cryptic presentation
of use-value, exchange-value and value was because anybody who read Ricardo would
say: 'Yeah, this is pure Ricardo.' And it is pure Ricardo, with however one exceptional
insertion. Ricardo used the concept of labour-time as value. Marx uses the concept of
socially necessary labour-time. And you should immediately ask yourself the question:
What is 'socially necessary'? How is that established? He doesn't give any answer to it
here. And you only begin to get the sense of the answer of that, when you are way on
the way through Capital. In other words, what Marx has done here, is simply set up the
Ricardian conceptual apparatus. Repeat it, and in a sense say: 'Ricardo missed
something out.' It is not adequate the call value labour-time. We have to insert that
question mark: What is socially necessary labour-time? How is it determined? Who
determines it? And that is the big issue. And I would submit it actually continues to be
the big issue in global capitalism, who and how is value established? I mean we all like
to think we have our own values and this kind of stuff, and everybody likes to go on
talking about values. But Marx is kind of saying: 'Look, there is a value which is being
determined by a process that we do not understand.' And it's not our choice, it's
something that is happening to us. And how it is happening has to be unpacked. If you
want to understand who you are, and where you stand in this maelstrom of churning
values and everything. What you've got to do is to understand how value gets created,
how it gets produced and with what consequences, socially, environmentally, all the rest
of it. And if you think you can solve the environmental question of global warming and
all that kind of stuff without actually confronting the whole kind of question of who

determines the value structure and how is it determined by these processes, then you got
to be kidding yourself. So what Marx in effect is saying: You got to understand what
social necessity is. And we've got to spend a lot of time looking at what is socially
necessary. He immediately points out however that value is not fixed. I've mentioned
already, he's always on about the fluidity of things. He says: Of course value changes
with productivity. "The introduction of power-looms into England, for example,
probably reduced by one half the labour required to convert a given quantity of yarn
into woven fabric. In order to do this, the English hand-loom weaver needed the the
same amount of labour-time as before; but the product of his individual hour of labour
now only represented half an hour of social labour, and consequently fell to one half of
its former value." Okay, so value is in the first instance extremely sensitive to
revolutions in technology, revolutions in productivity. And much of Capital is going to
be taken up with the discussion of those revolutions in productivity, those revolutions in
value-relations. This leads into the conclusion then, on the bottom of one twenty nine:
"What exclusively determines the magnitude of the value of any article is therefore the
amount of labour socially necessary, or the labour time socially necessary for its
production." There's your definition. "The individual commodity counts here only as an
average sample of its kind." Then he re-iterates. You often find Marx doing this, by the
way. He repeats himself. He kind offigures if you didn't get the hand-loom, the
power-loom example, so he is going to hammer it home by pointing out that the value
of the commodity does not remain constant, he says on hundred and thirty: "if the
labour-time required for its production also remained constant. But the latter changes
with every variation in the productivity of labour." He then goes on to talk about this.
But, notice: "This is determined by a wide range of circumstances; it is determined
amongst other things by the workers average degree of skill, the level of development of
science and its technological application," Marx is very hot on the significance of
technology and science to capitalism. "the social organization of the process of
production, the extent and effectiveness of the means of production, and the conditions
found in the natural environment." Vast array of elements which can impinge upon
value. Transformations in the natural environment mean revolutions in value.
Technology and science, social organization of production, technologies, all the rest of
it So, in fact, we've got value which is subject to a powerful array of forces, and he's
not here attempting a definitive categorization of all of them, he just simply wants to
alert us, that this thing we're calling value is not constant. It is subject to perpetual
revolutionary transformations. But then a peculiar thing happens. Right in the last
paragraph on hundred and thirty one he suddenly says: "A thing can be a use-value
without being a value." Okay, we can all agree on that. We breathe air and so far we
haven't managed to bottle it, although, we're beginning to, I guess, so A thing can be
useful and a product of human labour without being a commodity. I grow tomatoes in
my backyard and I eat them Lots of people, even within capitalism, actually produce
a lot of things for themselves. With a little help from DIY and all the rest of it. "In order
to produce the latter," that is commodities, "he must not only produce use-values, but
use-values for others." Furthermore, just not simply use-values for the lord, as a serf
would do, but use-values which are going to go to others through the market. So it's usevalues which you are producing, which are going to be sent to market. "Finally", he
says, "nothing can be a value without being an object of utility. If the thing is useless, so
is the labour contained in it; the labour does not count as labour, and therefore creates
no value." Now he seems to dismiss and abstract from use-value earlier on. Saying: 'I'm
not concerned with use-values, I'm not interested in them, etcetera. I abstract from them,
I get to exchange-value, and that gets me to value. But now I've got value, but now I'm

saying: it doesn't matter what kind of labour went into something, if somebody doesn't
want it if it doesn't meet a human want, need or desire, then it ain't value.' So value is
also dependent upon it being a use-value, for somebody, somewhere. You have to be
able to sell it. So what he has done is to suddenly bring back use-value into the idea of
value. Now, there's a very interesting kind of a structure that goes on here. Goes like
this: And this is what I would like you to do: at the end of almost every section you read
think about how the conceptional apparatus is constructed, and how it hangs together.
What we've got here is something that goes like this: We've got the commodity. And we
said, actually, the commodity has a dual character. It has a use-value. It also has an
exchange-value. exchange-value is a representation of something. What is it a
representation of? It's a representation of value. But value doesn't mean anything unless
it connects back to use-value. What is value? Socially necessary labour-time. Now, if
you own a house, are you more interested in its use-value or its exchange-value? Yeah,
you're interested in both, you'd like to have your cake and eat it. Right? This is sort of
opposition here. If you want to realize the exchange-value of something, you can't have
the use-value of it. If you have the use-value of it then it's difficult to get the exchangevalue, unless you do a reverse mortgage, or, you know, all those kinds of things that
people did over the last few years. But notice the structure: Commodity, a singular
concept which has two aspects. Now when you look at a commodity, can you actually
divide it in half and say: that's the exchange-value and that's the use-value? No, there's a
unity. But within that unity there is a dual aspect. And that dual aspect allows us to
define something, called value, as socially necessary labour-time. Which is what the
use-value of a commodity is a bearer of. That's what it is a bearer of. But, in order to be
a value, it has to be useful. And of course, on this link we'll see all kinds of issues
arising about supply and demand. If the supply is too great, the value will go down, if
the supply is too little, the value will go up. So there is an element here of supply and
demand involved. Marx is actually not terribly interested in that. As he will say at
various points, as he goes on, what I'm interested in is, what happens when supply and
demand are in equilibrium. When they are in equilibrium I have to have a different kind
of analysis and the value of the commodities is fixed by this socially necessary labourtime, whatever that social necessity is. So what you've got here is something of this
form, which then allows us to talk about the value of a commodity. We can talk about
commodity values. We've got to the point where we understand: commodity values are
constituted as socially necessary labour-time. Now this is partly, what I would suggest,
is Marx's dialectical method working here. Would you say that exchange-values cause
value? Would you say exchange-values cause use-value, or use-value is caused, or
anything is caused by anything else? This is an analysis which is not causal. It's about
relations, about dialectical relations. Can you talk about exchange-value without talking
about use-value? No you can't. Can you talk about value without talking about usevalue? No you can't. In other words, you can't talk about any one of these concepts
without talking about all of the others. This is what I mean about, you know, beginning
to sort of work through the conceptual apparatus of the onion. It's an organic, hanging
together, a set of relations, between these concepts. But we've also seen, that we'll be
going to be talking about motion, about movement, about the making of things, about
labour processes, which become objectified in use-values, and which become
represented by exchange-value. So we've got a very interesting kind of conceptual
framework here, which is not about causality at all. It's about inner relations. And by
understanding then we start to see also certain tensions I've already mentioned. That
yes, it'd be very nice to have use-value and exchange-value at the same time. But a lot
of time we are faced with a difficult choice. Do I have the use-value, or do I realize the

exchange-value? Or do I give up the exchange-value and get the use-value? And those
are the daily decisions we have to make when we go into the market, right? Do I give up
the exchange-value money for this or do I not..? Do I hang on to the money or what
do I do? So Marx has set up something, that is explaining something, OK, already. And
even as he explains however, he is not saying: this causes that. So it's not a causal
analysis. This is where I'm beginning to what I want you to start to think about, is a
dialectical mode of argument. Which is already revealing something about the kinds of
choices you make when you go into the supermarket. And the kinds of things you see in
the supermarket. You're going to get a representation of human labour in the
supermarket. You're not going to see the human labour. You're going to get a
representation. You're gonna have to to deal with the representation as it is objectified,
and as its value is represented, and then you have to make a decision about use- and
exchange-value. So this is a way of situating what people do on a daily basis. And you
can see that this apparatus, although Marx doesn't take it in the way that I'm taking it,
but if you think about it you see immediately what this can help you understand. So you
just don't learn it as a formal abstraction. You try to put sort of meat on the bones of this,
by sort of thinking through. Well, what does that actually mean? How does that help me
understand things that are going on around me? This is the kind of crucial sort of
question which this form of analysis sets up. So my purpose reading through this first
section is to give you some idea about, if you like, create a model of how you should try
to read this. It won't always work for you. But what you should do at the end of every
section is: draw back, say: all right, what kind of relationships was he talking about
here? What do those relationships tell me both about all of this stuff, but also tell me
about what's going on? In my daily life, in other people's daily life, what's going on in
the market and all the rest of it? What does it tell me? Is it telling me anything? And
initially it will be very hard to see what it might tell you, as you go on Marx will start to
tell stories coming out of these relationships and he'll spin outwards from this into a far,
far greater understanding of the dynamics of this. So this is the way in which he's
working. And I think what I suggested to you is that you should go back over this
section and look carefully at the way in which these concepts unfold and how they work
in these sorts of terms. Now generally speaking, I've been talking all the time on this
occasion, as an introductory thing. Rather necessary I found out of bitter experience.
But I would like, actually, to try to get you to engage a little bit, so in the future,
precisely because you've read the text very carefully in advance, you doubtless come
with all kinds of questions in your mind. And so when I'm talking about something and
you don't get it because it doesn't fit with what you got, then interrupt me, Ok. That's
fine, but interrupt me about the text. As he says about this in his introduction to the
French edition, you know, people very often want to talk politics in here, I love to talk
politics. But sometimes if you talk all politics you forget the text, and actually the
politics of this class is to get you to read the text and understand the text. If you want to
discuss politics we go down to O'Reilly's bar on 35th street afterwards and discuss as
much politics as you like, over several beers and that's part of the joy of this course.
This is, in here we wanna try to keep it with the text. But there are instances of the
sort that I sort of indicated here where people might have a particular kind of experience
which actually is illuminated by the framework of analysis. And that's extremely
helpful. When people can kinda say: yeah, that reminds me off, you know, when I was
working for AT&T this happened etc, you know, and this happened and this
happened, and it is exactly what Marx is talking about. In other words: there are
constant ways in which this refers to experience. I don't mind some of that, in fact, that's
always very, very useful, but really, what we're trying to do is try to make sure we get

through to the text, and we have also a little bit more fluidity, so that I'm not just
preaching all the time and telling all the time, a little bit more fluidity so that you can
get into discussing some things. Now, we have about ten minutes left so if anybody
wants to raise some issues about what we've done? STUDENT: I was just wondering,
because I think that, in the philosophical tradition, when we speak of value, you usually
have this conception of something that is absolute or that has an independent existence
grounded in reality, and I'm wondering, whether we can understand Marx's definition of
value as socially necessary labour-time, as itself, something that is socially conditioned,
and is there any way that is totally outside, might there be a social configuration that we
can imagine in which value is, actually itself its representation, when those two things
are reconciled. Or is value always, inevitably kind of a chimera? HARVEY: No, I think
you gotta understand: Marx's concept of value is something which is internalized in the
processes of a capitalist mode of production. And what he will say to you is: you may
have alternative values, and that's fine. And you can dream about them and want them,
this kind of stuff. But they don't mean very much, unless you can transform the real
value system which is governing our daily lives which is this one. So Marx is not
against, necessarily, thinking about alternative values. And in fact, I think, one of the big
issues which we face right now, is precisely about what alternative values we would like
to see operating in in the global marketplace. Values of fairness and this is
particularly coming up in the environmental issue, for example. People want to talk
about environmental values which should be part in this. And the answer again, as I
suggested, is: Marx would say: that's fine. Well, he might not say that's fine, he had a
particular kind of aim of where he wants to go. But I think, theoretically he would say:
that's fine. But in order to make your notion of value work you have to confront the one
which is actually dominating us in terms of what's going on in the supermarket, how
we're living our daily lives and all the rest of it. And we're talking about a value theory
which is implicated inside of a capitalist mode of production. Now, there's been a
categorical mistake in many instances, precisely because value is located in relationship
to labour and labour processes, that there's been a lot of thinking in socialist societies of
taking Marx's labour theory of value also almost as a normative device to think about
how socialism should work. But this is not what Marx is saying, he's saying: value is
inherent within a capitalist mode of production. And we have to come to terms with
what that value is. Now, there are alternative value theories. And you know, you can
philosophize about them, think about them and worry about them, socially, politically,
all the rest of it But his point is, as I suggested, you've always got to come back to
confront this one, because this is very basic to how capitalist mode of production works.
And if you wanna instantiate a different set of values, then you've gotta overthrow a
capitalist mode of production. And that's his revolutionary intent. Sorry, there was a
question here. STUDENT: Yeah, I just was wondering if you could talk a little bit
about how we should think about objectification. Because, I know, the preconceived
notion I bring to it is much more static in terms of, as labour is objectified, it moves
away from the labourer and there's this separation. How can I think about that in terms
of, more process oriented? HARVEY: Well, again the thing is not is not, for
instance: Just to give you an example: Let's suppose that labour produces a house. Okay
the labourers that produced the house move away from it, then maybe other labourers
move in to it. And then there's the issue of: is that house then fixed forever in terms of
its value? Well, given the way he set it up, the answer is no. Because let's suppose there
are revolutions in technology which suddenly make housing production much easier.
Then you can go away from, I don't know, shanty towns to sort of housing of a different
kind, and therefore there's a dynamic involved in this, and therefore, you know, this gets

back to the fact that something like a house has a use-value and the use-value remains a
long time and you can still trade its exchange-value, so it has a residual exchange-value.
So, so again there's a dynamic here, so the thing and the qualities of things are not
fixed. In fact, again, there's a lot of dynamism in this. But again Marx, by and large, is
not going to be concerned about that in Capital. He's going to sort of say: OK, I'm
gonna assume it's fixed for the moment. But nevertheless, what he's saying here is:
watch out!, it's always in motion, it's never fixed, it's always changing, it's a dynamic
concept, not a static one. And the objectification is there, but again, the meaning of the
objectification itself changes over time and according to place. So you know there are
all those elements within it. STUDENT: This particular vision of the capitalist world
that Marx deals with diverges, I mean obviously diverges with the modern day
Specifically with the way in which laws, and you know, create a proprietary you
know only certain companies can make one thing, and then, corporations sort of
dominate the scene. It's not a free market- protectionist laws, does that affect the
values being purely about the socially necessary labour-time. HARVEY: Well that's
one of the questions which you have to ask about. What is socially necessary labourtime? How is it determined? To what degree is there a monopoly power in the market
which is determining it? To what degree is there imperialist politics which is
determining it? To what degree is there colonial enslavement which is determining it? In
other words: those are open questions. And Marx is very much open to discussing those
sorts of questions in principle. But again, what we're going to look at is Marx's
conception of a pure capitalist mode of production. Which in many ways, as we will
see, is guided by the vision of classical political economy. In other words: classical
political economy assumes there were going to be perfectly functioning markets and the
state power is going to be out of the way, and there's gonna be no monopoly. So Marx
tends to say: okay, let's assume that the classical political economists are correct and
that's how the world is. We will see examples where that presumption gets him into
difficulties. But actually, there's nothing in this conception that says you can't consider
all those things, because, for me anyway, the category socially necessary is something
which is perpetually open, is constantly changing. What is socially necessary now? as
opposed to what was socially necessary in 1850. Very different. And so you know, I
would want you to think about this as having a flexible reading in this, but realize that
Marx is using it in a very specific way, in a very specific situation for very specific
purposes. STUDENT: Does socially necessary imply the amount of labour required for
a labourer to reproduce him- or herself? HARVEY: Socially necessary can include that
kind of question. As many socialist feminists pointed out in the debates of the nineteen
sixties/nineteen seventies, the whole question of socially necessary, has to take into
account certain basic costs of reproduction that are born inside of the household and
which may be disproportionately born by women. Even though, actually, if you look at
the whole history of the industrial revolution, it was women's labour in the factories that
was fundamental, as it is today. And most of the global proletariat right now is women.
So the kind of social reproduction aspect of it, and how to integrate that into socially
necessary, has been a contentious issue amongst Marxists. And what you have to
remember by the way, is that Marx was a little skeptical of this term "Marxist". He once
said: 'I am not a Marxist.' What he meant by that, was, there were a lot of things being
said in his name, that were not exactly what he had to say. So again, that's one of the
reasons why I want you to think about this in Marx's own terms. Because, you know, it's
very, it's very important to realize how he expands this notion of social necessity, we
will see. How you might want to expand it, is again something that is open to discussion
and debate. How we should expand it, in terms of a socialist project, or socio-ecological

project, or a social- feminist project, or whatever. How we should expand it, again, is
something very much up to us. And I don't think Marx would want to be read as
someone providing a gospel within which you can find yourself. It's not about confining
mode of argument, it's a matter of liberating you to think about all kinds of possibilities,
all kinds of alternatives, all kinds of ways to go. Just one more. STUDENT: Could you
just clarify very specifically the difference between use-value and exchange-value?
HARVEY: Use-value is a shirt or a shoe, whatever you use. The exchange-value is:
shirts and shoes in the market, and about the prices on them, put very simply. And it's
I don't like to use the word price at this point, because we haven't talked very much
about money. But when you get further down the line you see it's really about prices
realized in the market, and exchange-value is the price of a commodity. Okay, we
should leave it there. So thanks very much. We don't meet next week, right?, because
What is it? STUDENT: Labour Day. DAVID HARVEY: Oh, Labour Day, what a
good idea. Next time I want you to read the rest of chapter one, and chapter two. So we
will get to the end of chapter two. Chapter two is pretty short. The rest of this chapter is
very curious for a variety of reasons. I mentioned Marx's literary style. His literary style
changes from crisp analytic, like you've seen here, and that goes on for the next one, to
what I can only call his kind of 'accountancy style', which is deadly boring. Where: 'this
is worth two shillings and that's worth three shillings, and that's worth two and a half
pence. And if we add this to that we will end up with' Deadly boring. So the third
section is rather long and rather boring of that style. And he could have done it much
quicker in my view. But it has some very important insights in it. And so you're going to
find yourself struggling. The last section of chapter one is the fetishism of commodities,
where it's about werewolves and Robinson Crusoe, in an incredible kind of literary
style. So you suddenly find in this chapter you're going to have a big sample of Marx's
different writing styles. And they are all together. Now, if you wrote a PhD that way,
people would say: For god's sakes!, smooth this out, you can't do that. Which style
you're gonna write in? But he writes in different styles. And he enjoys it. And it's fun,
actually, because you starts to say: How on earth does this relate to that? And what does
this really mean? So anyway, chapter one is like that. Chapter two is relatively short,
and again fairly analytic. Key concepts are laid out a bit like here. So it's a step further
along the conceptional apparatus. Okay? So chapters one and two for next time.