Karl Marx

This course introduces students to the thought of Karl Marx, the 19th century German philosopher and journalist whose critique of capitalism haunted the world for most of the 20th century. Since his death in 1883, his critics and disciples alike have debated endlessly what he meant when he wrote, and what he might have thought, written, or done had he lived longer (he died at the age of 64). In this course, we will concentrate on Marx himself, and deal only marginally with his followers and critics. But to understand him as a political thinker, we will need to look at both the intellectual tradition (German philosophy) in which he was formed, and the socioeconomic forces and developments, those of the third quarter of the 19th century, by which he was conditioned, inspired, and outraged.

As befits a course dealing with Marx, class struggle will be one of its defining features. Attendance of class sessions will therefore not be optional. Indeed, all students are expected to do the assigned reading and to come to each class prepared to answer questions, discuss issues, and respond to points or arguments raised by others (either the professor or other students). Because the style and content of Marx’s writings are difficult, students should approach their reading diligently, think about what they are reading, read it a second time, and discuss it frequently with one another. Those who might not be as comfortable raising or responding to questions in class are encouraged to type out questions and comments in advance, and/or to submit short (two- or three-page) essays to which other students might, then, respond. Students with more than two un-excused absences during the semester will have to submit a similar two- to three-page essay for each such absence to avoid having their participation grade lowered.

Class participation will count for 30% of a student's grade for the course. In addition, two essays, each of roughly 2,000 words, and worth 35% of the grade, will also be required. The first of these will be due on October 31st, and the second on December 7th.

The following texts may be purchased at either the Bookmarq or Sweeney’s College Books: David McLellan, Karl Marx: Selected Writings, Oxford University Press paper back, 2nd ed.; and Eric Hobsbawm, Age of Capital, Vintage paper back.

Course Outline and Readings

1. Introduction (August 29th)

2. The Relevance of Marx in the 21st century


For August 31st - John Cassidy, “The Return of Karl Marx” and John Gray, “ The World is Round,” readings nos. 1 and 2 on electronic reserve;

3. Communism


For September 7th - Karl Marx, “The Communist Manifesto,” in McLellan, Karl Marx: Selected Writings, pp. 245-271;

4. Hegelian Roots

For September 12th - Charles Taylor, “Politics and Alienation,” from Taylor, Hegel and Modern Society, pp. 69-134, reading no. 4 on electronic reserve;

For September 14th - Hegel, “Excerpts” (On the Nature of Spirit, and On History and Dialectic), reading no. 3 on electronic reserve;

For September 19th - Hegel, “Excerpts” (On Freedom, On the Unhappy Consciousness, and On his own Motives), reading no. 3 on electronic reserve;

6. The Mid- to Late-19 Century

For September 21st - Eric Hobsbawm, Age of Capital, Introduction, and Chs. 1-4, pp. 1-81;

For September 26th - Hobsbawm, Age of Capital, Chs. 5-8, 82-154;

For September 28th - Hobsbawm, Age of Capital, Chs. 9-12, pp. 155-229;

For October 3rd - Hobsbawm, Age of Capital, Chs. 13-16, pp. 230-308;

7. Young Marx


For October 5th - Marx, “The Early Writings,” Sections 1-5, in McLellan, pp. 1-45;

For October 10th - Marx, “The Early Writings,” Sections 6, 7, and 8, parts 1, 2 and 3, in McLellan, pp; 45-104;

For October 12th - Marx, “The Early Writings, Section 8, parts 4 and 5, and Sections 9 through 11, in McLellan, pp; 104-137;

For October 17th - Marx, “The Holy Family “ in McLellan, pp. 139-170, and “Theses on Feuerbach”, in McLellan, pp. 171-174;

For October 19th - Marx, “The German Ideology,” in McLellan, pp. 175-208, and “Letter to Annenkov,” in McLellan, pp. 209-211;

8. Marx at Mid-life


For October 24th - Marx, “Wage Labor and Capital,” in McLellan, pp. 273-294;

For October 26th - Marx, “Articles from the Neue Rheinische Zeitung,” in McLellan, pp. 297-302, “The Class Struggles in France,” in McLellan, pp. 313-325;

For October 31st - Marx, Marx, “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte,” in McLellan, pp. 329-355;

First Essay due on October 31st

9. Mature Marx

For November 2nd - Marx, “Grundrisse,” parts 1, 2, and 3, McLellan, pp. 373-399;

For November 7th - Marx, “Grundrisse,” parts 4 and 5, in McLellan, pp. 400-423;

For November 9th - Marx, “Preface to A Critique of Political Economy,” and “Theories of Surplus Value,” in McLellan, pp. 424-451;

For November 14th - Marx, “Capital (Vol. 1), sections 1-5, in McLellan, pp. 452- 488;

For November 16th - Marx, “Capital (Vol. 1), sections 6-13, in McLellan, pp. 488- 525;

For November 21st - Marx, “Capital (Vol. 3), pp. 526-546;

For November 28th - Marx, “Results of the Immediate Process of Production,” and “Letters,” in McLellan, pp; 547-567;

For November 30th - Marx, “The Civil War in France,” in McLellan, pp. 584-603, and “On Bakunin’s Statism and Anarchy,” in McLellan, pp. 606-609;

For December 5th - Marx, “Critique of the Gotha Program,” in McLellan, pp. 610- -616;

For December 7th - Marx, various letters and comments, in McLellan, pp. 617- 643;

Second Essay due on December 7th

Essay Guidelines - The two essays should be no more than 2,000 in length. Student may select the questions that they address in their essays from among those indicated, at the appropriate time, by the professor. Any student wishing to explore another issue or theme may, after appropriate consultation with the professor, write on it instead. In either event, the object of the essay will be to analyze Marx’s views critically. To do this, students must first have a clear idea of his (Marx’s) views, but should not simply summarize them, and/or indicate their agreement or disagreement. Rather, one’s essay should: 1) state the question or issue, and indicate how or why Marx’s treatment of it is interesting, different from that of other thinkers, and/or “problematic,” i.e., open to question or challenge; 2) identify the texts that are relevant to the question; 3) identify the assumptions and arguments that Marx uses in those texts, and how they resemble or diverge from those of others; 4) assess these assumptions and arguments, and discuss any “difficulties” that arise (e.g., consistency with his assumptions or arguments in other laces, factual or empirical inaccuracies, implausible or tendentious statements, troubling implications, etc.); and 5) explain how Marx’s assumptions and arguments lead one to, or distract one from, a “proper” (e.g., a truer, more real, or more appropriate) understanding of human beings and their circumstances. The five tasks provide the structure for one’s essay, and will enable the student to demonstrate how capable he or she is in engaging in inquiry, as against merely re-presenting the texts or class notes.

Department of Political Science

Marquette University
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Milwaukee, WI 53201-1881
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