Economics 387L.18


Fall 2005
Professor Harry Cleaver


Long, long ago, before economists got uppity and started calling themselves social scientists, there was no "economics" but rather "political economy." Writers such as Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and John Stuart Mill made no bones about economics being an inherently social and political subject. They were preoccupied not merely with markets and their theorization on the basis of aggregated individual choice, but also with the social organization of production, the evolution of technology and the ramifications of both for human beings both individually and collectively in society. Political economy was known as the "dismal science" in part because its social analysis projected the ultimate stagnation and decline of capitalism. But those times and that broad curiosity have been largely forgotten by a profession that rarely teaches its own history and peddles its equations and models as value-free tools of a positive science. In the historical process of disciplining and shaping the contemporary contours of economics, many of the social preoccupations of political economists have been discarded and relegated to other "fields" such as political science, history, psychology or sociology.

Marxist "economics" shares with 18th and 19th Century political economy a preoccupation with the development and crises of modern capitalist societies broadly conceived -- including not only those aspects usually thought of as economic but also such issues as individual and social alienation, the evolution of industrial organization, the politics of social policy, the social composition of the unemployed as well as those in labor markets, imperialism, and so on. Within the framework of these broader interests, using methodologies which bring out social and political dimensions, Marxian "economics" studies all the usual topics of economics: labor markets, macroeconomics, the behavior of the firm, technological change, commerce and trade and so on, at both the national and international levels.

However, unlike mainstream economics which is designed to contribute to the management and perpetuation of capitalism, Marxian economics theorizes and attempts to contribute to the transcendence of the current social order by elaborating a critical theory of both the limits of capitalism and the forces which tend to push beyond it. While also useful in analysing the dynamics and contradictions of 20th Century "socialist" economies, Marxian economics rejects utopian projections about alternatives to capitalism in favor of focusing on the social conflicts undermining it and building potential elements of post-capitalist society.

This course, which has been offered continuously now for over twenty years, is based on a reading of Marx's major works, mostly Capital (Volumes I, II & III) but with elements of other texts such as the 1844 Manuscripts or the Grundrisse. By reading Marx in the original, students acquire a basis for evaluating the many debates among Marxist economists of the last 100 years -- debates which have played a major role in social development not only in the so-called socialist countries but also in the Western world. The course covers most of what are generally considered to be the key issues in Marxism, including: the historical emergence of capitalism, the genesis and reproduction of social classes, the status of so-called "precapitalist" social sectors, value theory, exploitation, technological change, investment, accumulation, unemployment, the transformation problem, the position and role of financial capital and the theory of economic crisis.

This course is cross listed with International Studies, European Studies and Latin American Studies and is part of the Program of Soviet and Eastern European Studies. This course also constitutes a prerequisite for a series of other courses in Marxian economics which are sometimes offered in the Spring s emester on: Marxian Crisis Theory, Marxian Theories of Socialism and Communism, Latin American Marxism and Autonomist Marxism. When and which of these courses are offered depends upon the needs and demands of students.


The class is conducted as a seminar: everyone reads the same material and then we discuss it all together. The students who take this course are commonly drawn not only from economics but from other disciplines in the Liberal arts, e.g., sociology, history, anthropology, philosophy and government. Given this diversity, students are encouraged to read the materials in terms of their own particular theoretical and research interests and to bring such perspectives to bear in class discussion. The number of students is usually limited to 10-15 which makes possible considerable flexibility about fulfiling requirements: take-home tests or papers are the most common methods.


The books by Marx ordered for class are: Capital, Volumes 1-3. I have prepared a Study Guide for Capital, volume 1, for my undergraduate class that is on the web and I also recommend it to graduate students. My book Reading Capital Politically, AK Press, 2000, is also on the web, hereafter as RCP. Other readings will be either available in the form of photocopies or on the web.



Capital, Vol. I, Pt. VIII, Chapters 26-33. (creation of working & capitalist classes)

Capital, Vol. III, Pt. IV, Chapter 20: "Historical Facts about Merchant Capital"; Pt. VI, Chapter 47: "Genesis of Capitalist Ground Rent"

RCP, Chapter 2: "The Commodity Form" (imposition of work thru exchange)

Study Guide: material on Capital, Chaps 26-33.

E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class, New York: Vintage, 1963, Preface (on concept of class) [pdf version].

Peter Linebaugh, The London Hanged, London: Allen Lane, 1991, Introduction, Chapter 3: "Tyburnography: The Sociology of the Condemned", Chapter 6: "'Going Upon the Accompt': Highway Robbery under the Reigns of the Georges"

Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker, "The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves and the Atlantic Working Class in the Eighteenth Century," in Ron Sakolsky & James Koehnline, Gone to Croatan:Origins of North Amercian Dropout Culture, New York: Autonomedia, 1993. [pdf version].


RCP, Chapter 1: "Introduction" (overview of development of Marxism in 20th C)

Capital, Vol. I, Ernest Mandel's Introduction to the Vintage Edition

Study Guide: material on RCP, Chap. 1


Capital, Vol. I, Pt. "Commodities and Money," Chaps 1-3.

RCP, Chaps 3, 4, 5, to be read in conjunction with Capital, Vol. I, Chap. 1.

Study Guide: material on RCP, chaps 3-5, Capital Vol. I, Chaps 1-3.

Peter Linebaugh, The London Hanged, London: Allen Lane, 1991, Chapter 2: "'Old Mr Gory and the Thanatocracy."

C. George Caffentzis, Clipped Coins, Abused Words & Civil Government: John Locke's Philosophy of Money,, New York: Autonomedia, 1989, sections on "Clipped Coins" and "Conclusion: Weaving an Origin"

William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice and Timon of Athens, passages.


Capital, Vol. I, Pt. II, chaps 4-6

Capital, Vol. II, Pt. I, "The Metamorphoses of Capital and their Circuits",Ch. 1-4.

Study Guide: material on Capital, Vol. I, Chaps 4-6.


Capital, Vol. I, Chap. 7.

Study Guide: material on Capital, Vol. I, chapter 7.

1844 Manuscripts, section on estranged labor [pdf file].

Felix Guattari, The Molecular Revolution, (selections)

Peter Linebaugh, The London Hanged, London: Allen Lane, 1991, Chapter 5: "Socking, the Hogshead and Excise."

Antonio Negri, The Politics of Subversion, London: Polity, 1989, Chapter 6: "Expropriation in Mature Capitalism."


Capital Vol. I, Chaps 8-10.

STtudy Guide: material on Capital Vol. I, Chaps 8-10.

David Roediger & Philip Foner, Our Own Time: A History of Amercian Labor and the working Day, New York: Verso, 1989 (selections)


Capital, Vol. I, Chaps 12-15, Appendix (i.e., "unpublished 6th chapter").

Peter Linebaugh, The London Hanged, London: Allen Lane, 1991, Chapter 11: "Ships and Chips: Technological Repression and the Origin of the Wage."

Antonio Negri, The Politics of Subversion, London: Polity, 1989, Chapter 3: "From the mass worker to the socialized worker -- and beyond"Chap. 4: "From the Factory to the Ecological Machine."

Capital, Vol. III, Pt.I: Chaps 1-3; Pt. II: Chaps 8-10; Pt. III, chaps 13-15.

Sweezy, Theory of Capitalist Development, 1942, "Chapter 9: Crises Associated with the Falling Tendency of the Rate of Profit."

Cleaver & Bell, "Marxist Theory of Crisis as a Theory of Class Struggle," Research in Political Economy, Vol. 5, 1982, section on the tendency of the rate of profit to fall.

Cleaver, "Karl Marx: Economist or Revolutionary?" in Helburn & Bramhall (eds) MAarx, Schumpter & Keynes, 1986, section on the tendency on the rate of profit to fall.


Capital, Vol. I, Pt. VI, Chaps 19-21; Pt. VII, Chap. 25, sec. 4 (on unwaged).

Peter Linebaugh, The London Hanged, London: Allen Lane, 1991, Chapter 7: "The Cat Likes the Cream: The Waging Hand in Five Trades"Chapter 8: "Silk Makes the Difference"Chapter 11: "Ships and Chips: Technological Repression and the Origin of the Wage" (review).

Mariarosa Dalla Costa and Selma James, The Power of Women and the Subversion of the Community, Selma James, Sex, Race & Class.


Capital, Vol. I, pt. VII, Chaps 23-25 (sections 1-4)

Capital, Vol. II, Pt. III, Chaps 20-21 (on reproduction schemes)

Cleaver & Bell, "Marxist Theory of Crisis as a Theory of Class Struggle," Research in Political Economy, Vol. 5, 1982, (all)

Cleaver, "Karl Marx: Economist or Revolutionary?" in Helburn & Bramhall (eds) Marx, Schumpter and Keynes, 1986, (all).


Capital, Vol. I, Chap. 3 (review; on commodities and money)

Capital, Vol. II, Chap. 6 (on costs of circulation)

Capital, Vol. III, Pt. IV, Chap. 16-17, 20.

Peter Linebaugh, The London Hanged, London: Allen Lane, 1991, Chapter 5: "Socking, the Hogshead and Excise" (review)


Capital, Vol. III, Pt. V: Chaps 21-27, 29-34

K. Marx, Class Struggles in France (focus on role of finance in class relations)

Joseph Ricciardi, Essays on the Role of Money and Finance in Economic Development, UT Ph.D. Dissertation (unpublished) 1985, Chap. 3:"Credit and the Revolutions of 1848 (Part I): Politics and Economics in Marx's Theory of Credit and Crisis," Chap. 4: (part II): "The Analysis of Credit in Class Struggles in France."

H.Cleaver, "Close the IMF, Abolish Debt and End Development: A Class Analysis of the International Debt Crisis," Capital & Class, #36, 1989.

H.Cleaver, "The Subversion of Money-as-Command in the Current Crisis," in Werner Bonefeld and John Holloway (eds) Global Capital, National State and the Politics of Money, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1995.