Student Comments*

Introduction to Marxist Economics

Fall 1998

The material was fascinating - I'm an econ major, and this class is quite a change (obviously) from what I'm used to. I feel fortunate that I am at a University where I can take a class like this, and I am glad I did. The analysis of Marx done in the course is extremely thorough, and really altered the way I perceive Marx & his ideas. It is also encouraging to see a professor so addicted to the material that he or she teaches - it shows in the classroom. I do have a few criticisms of the structure of the course. At times, the lectures could become a little monotonous, and this was amplified by the fact that the lights were dimmed. I enjoyed the music we listened to - it livened things up. Maybe we could watch clips from movies as well.

Harry Cleaver is one of the best teachers I have had at UT. I find his courses difficult, they require originality, own thoughts and hard work - that is what I thought a university was about. Most classes at UT are high school level. This is why I have taken Dr. Cleaver's classes. I have had him in the Spring 1997 and found him to be a great teacher, now I took his other class and I found it just as challenging and stimulating. I would recommend his classes to anyone.

This class was very stimulating. The texts and lectures provoked pages of my own thoughts and analysis. I liked the course packets and lecture notes. The second test format sucked. Choice of questions is a good thing. Thanks.

The materials given were adequate to the extent that they were nearly excessive. That is, the study guides and notes given in class were helpful, but so much material was given in them that it became difficult to internalize all of what was presented prior to the tests. The class itself was helpful in understanding a subject I never expected to learn about so directly in a single course. I added this class a few days into the semester, and was pleasantly surprised that I could get in, and I benefited substantially as a result.

I learned more in this class than any other class I have taken. It really opened my eyes to the way the world really works, unlike some glossed over idealized supply and demand graph backed up by few real life examples. I will never look at the world the same way again, and I am probably a Marxist for life.

Overall the class was much better than I expected. I think one of the main reasons people failed to participate in discussions was because you always refuted the possibility of an anti-Marx view to be correct. It's pointless to discuss something w/ a person who has already decided what the answer is. I enjoyed Capital, and found it for the most part to be self explanatory. Your class examples always help. I wish you would have discussed more solutions to a capitalistic society - ie., if it isn't socialism or communism then what is it?

There was too much reading assigned. It is very frustrating to struggle though the readings and see people do better that you by just reading the packet. It is a personal problem, and it doesn't encourage one to do all the readings.

Grading schedule is a bit strict. Doesn't appear as if there is much room for error. Hypocritical?

Overall, the topic + actual thought processes that went on in my head have expanded my critical thinking skills. My grasp of the topic on the other hand was very poor, partly because of the density of new vocabulary/ideas that were so compressed that by the time the test came, I was on overload! I would recommend perhaps some prerequisites besides Macro/Micro - maybe pre-class reading so that once the semester begins, we might have a better grasp of the material right off, instead of being overwhelmed. As for lack of discussion, participation, maybe instead of using the projector + turning the lights off, do more to encourage conversation by making the class feel more secure in their analysis. Sense of humor is important, maybe expand on it (even though you were funny!)

I thought the class was very good because it gave a good analysis of Marx's work. However, I think the use of supplementary sources that oppose Marx may give students a better understanding of Marx. Furthermore, I think an objective account of Marx would also help students better understand the material. Dr. Cleaver is very biased in his account of Marx and does not seem willing to give any arguments that may refute Marx.

I learned so much in this class. It has been an experience in my college years that I will not forget. Your teaching style was easy to follow and you were always available for help and understanding. I think the novels to complement the theory were great + helped me to formulate a better understanding of the material. I think that the discussion forum on the web was not so great. It is really difficult for someone who does not have a home computer to lock themselves in that dingy/sterile lab just to talk about the class. Maybe a discussion group once every 2 weeks (outside class) can be arranges so that students can discuss thing face to face. OR - A class that has a different seating arrangement (moveable chairs) so that you can more freely face each other + open forum in class. Overall - excellent. Thanks for a memorable class.

The surprise paper about surplus labor helped reinforce the concepts in class. Have an optional grade of these type of papers to replace a test grade. The material gets tricky & complex especially towards the end of the course. Slow down a bit and restate where this fits into Marx's theory. Overall the course is interesting and challenging simultaneously.

I won't fill in anymore bubbles. I don't like the questions. But I will say that you are still one of the best professors I've ever had. The course has stimulated a new avenue of interest for me. Now, I probably won't read any more of Marx, but w/ what I've learned I can look at the world in a whole new light. I have found this course to be very useful. It has opened my critical eye. I liked your presentation style (slides/lecture); it is perfect for the information. Another thing, you introduced me to sardines and other foreign foods. Thanks.

I regret that I hadn't read the assignment before coming to class in the beginning. Also I think I was accustomed to do homework and it results me to keep up with the class. This class and the professor make me think a lot, especially about study in general.

Very refreshing to have a course that doesn't worship and justify status quo. Very helpful in diversifying knowledge of economics. Marx was a very intelligent man. I am moved to read other original works by influential economists (Keynes, Ricardo, Adams). Tests were very difficult, + graded very hard. It takes time to absorb Marx. Reading is slow + laborious. Both outside books (Barton, Jungle) sucked. Very depressing. Useful to demonstrate exploitation of Capital, but enough already. Try showing something that offers brighter possibilities, instead of how shitty it is. Loved the music, wish there was more. Thanks for the enlightenment.

This class was a huge disappointment to me. I found Professor Cleaver to be a quite obnoxious teacher and somewhat of a hypocrite. He talked at great length about how universities are hierarchical and teachers stand up and dictate information to students and how professors tell you what to learn when and how they give you no choice on how you'll be evaluated (i.e. paper substituted for a test (doing one in addition to the other is just extracting surplus value)). Yet I found Cleaver to posses these qualities in spades. I have never been in a more hierarchically run class where class participation is quite discouraged. Not by what professor Cleaver says, if you ask him no doubt he will tell you he encourages such behavior, but in practice he does not. There are many teachers at this University who manage to make classes more interesting w/o getting fired. This was not to bare, it was just waste of time.

An implementation of more discussion would be helpful.

I really enjoyed the organization of the class material. Having the prepared notes, seeing the notes on the screen, and having your commentary is extremely beneficial. It allows us to follow discussion to a greater degree. I thought both books served as an excellent implement to Marx, as did the songs & cartoons & book excerpts from the packet. I would have liked to spend more time on certain areas, especially Marxism in a modern context - but hopefully I will get that chance in grad school. I am looking forward to working with you Professor Cleaver. I hope you do not mind me emailing you with questions and comments when I move home at the end of this month. I plan on doing an extensive reading of your recommended material from the packets. Thanks for Polyoni & Engels this morning at the book fair - I'll keep in touch.

I think I will mainly deal with only with the questions I scored low on. 15)The course by nature is somewhat difficult to teach and have everyone understand. Since it is a theory course using concrete examples for everything would be quite difficult, but still I would have welcomed more concrete examples + explanations of certain things in the course material. 32)These coincide to some degree. I am a procrastinator and all the reading given plus the 33) fact that I am taking 12 more hours caused me not to study at all for this class. 38)I received less from the course because I did not put enough effort into the course.

I am sure that Dr. Cleaver cares about this course and the material, but in general the atmosphere of the class was less than great. I felt intimidated and antagonized, especially at the beginning of the semester. He seemed to expect discussion out of the class without fostering an environment of even discourse, and when the response was unsatisfactory to him he became rather angry. Instead of wanting to contribute and discuss, I was put off. The administration of the second test was VERY confusing, and even if that was in part due to his accommodation of certain students' requests, I felt the test was his responsibility. As the semester has gone on my impression of this course has improved, but in some ways I regret having taken it. I'm sure Dr. Cleaver is a nice person, but the way this course was conducted has been rather troublesome for me. Like other less-than-popular-ideologically professors I've has, he comes off as somewhat bitter.

I took this class to better understand Marxism. I realize the material to be covered is difficult to understand. I think the way the class is taught makes it easier to understand with the help of the two outside readings. It is my personal opinion that the chapter outline sometimes makes students lazy or being absent from class since they tend to believe it is all they need.

*Included here are ALL the written comments made by students, good and bad. The only changes made are minor things such as capitalizing the first word of sentences. The originals are available for inspection to anyone who so desires.