CSCL 3405: Marx for Today

3 CreditsArts/HumanitiesRace, Power, and Justice in the United States

A century and a half after the publication of Karl Marx’s Capital, Vol. 1 (1867), this course will reflect on the political urgency of our current moment in order to understand the relevance and complexity of Marx and the Marxist tradition. We will pursue an intensive study of primary readings written by Karl Marx himself, exploring the social, philosophical, and political history of Marxist thought and familiarizing ourselves with key concepts such as labor-power, primitive accumulation, the commodity, use value, exchange-value, surplus-value, crisis, money, and capital. As we study Marx as a theoretician, we will also examine his work as a political revolutionary, writer, and correspondent with many of the most important revolutionary figures of his day. Here we will foreground his analysis of the labor of enslaved Black persons in the plantation economies of the Southern United States—which he ties to the labor markets of capitalism in Europe—as well as his more explicit critiques of slavery and colonialism. Following this close reading of Marx and the Marxist tradition, we will consider the ways that critical thinkers and political activists, both in the United States and globally, continue to resist, create, and dream under the banner of Marxism throughout the twentieth century and into our own new century. We will center questions of racial justice through the writings of W. E. B. Du Bois and contemporary Marxist scholars of race, indigeneity, and diaspora, focusing on Du Bois’s attention to the links between race and social class in America. Alongside critical reappraisals of Marx’s thought, we shall think about the influence of Marx’s writings on political activists in the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement, and on American labor, as well as on South American revolutionaries like Carlos Marighella. We will then move to a study of Marxist feminism, linking race and gender in U.S. and global Marxisms through readings by Black Panther activist and intellectual Angela Davis, the social historian Nancy Fraser, and Italian Marxist feminist Silvia Federici. We will revisit the question of gender oppression and feminist resistance through a Marxist frame, with reference to the revival of socialist prospects in the work of Jodi Dean and Mackenzie Wark. Finally, we will examine the contemporary fight over reproductive rights and the history of the “Wages for Housework” movement. From these readings and conversations we will think about how Marx’s ideas and their larger legacy can help us to understand our current moment and our political, social, and ecological futures. In as much as this is a course on theoretical perspectives, it will also be one that seeks to use Marx, and the Marxist tradition, to develop critical perspectives and solutions to pressing issues of racial injustice, social inequality, and environmental devastation.

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B+ Average (3.499)Most Common: A (59%)

This total also includes data from semesters with unknown instructors.

176 students
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