REE 335 • Marxist Economics
9:00 AM-10:00 AM
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.
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.