Reverse Grundrisse

For those of you that have not had the opportunity to sit down with the over 1000 pages of Marx's Grundrisse, I would highly recommend giving it at least a passing read. Capital is a complex text, with layers upon layers of concepts arranged around and within one another. It is a text of nuance, one in which terms like “becomes-money” appears, and which indicates something other that “becomes money”. Every element of Capital is relevant in its nuance, and in its entirety as a conceptual plane.

This is not the reading one would get by listening to vulgar Marxists, or authoritarians. For many of them Capital is a text on the economics of capitalism, and how workers are subsumed into wage labor. That is part of the text, but as thinkers like Harry Cleaver, David Harvey and Paulo Virno have pointed out, Capital is much more a text on ontology than it is a text on economics.

It is on this ontological plane that Capital becomes a relevant text. The best one could hope for in an economist's reading of Capital is to grasp an outdated understanding of mercantile capitalism that, though still relevant, hinges on some phenomena that have been transcended, like the gold standard for example. When we start to look at the text through this ontological lens, through a lens which approaches an analysis of the forms of life created within and as a part of capitalist existence.

It is on this level that we can not only gain a much more nuanced understanding of capitalism, centered around the infinite distance between its materiality and its conceptuality, but, further, we can extend this analysis. Here we can not only see the absurdities of the vulgar Marxist/Leninist reading of this text, which is strikingly superficial, but we can also gain some insight into an approach to the political in which movement, nuance, difference, contingency and possibility come to the core of analysis.

The reading group I am a part of, which focuses on nihilist theory generally, has taken on the task of reading select chapters of Capital Volume 1, with sessions structured around seminar style lectures I have been giving on the text. What follows in the posts to come will be the notes I have taken in the midst of preparing these lectures.

The notes will be structured just like in the Grundrisse, as a series of long bullet-pointed blocks of text, some longer than others, but all containing a full thought or point, except in reverse. The Grundrisse was compiled from the notebooks Marx kept while researching Capital, and this is the notes taken on the other end, over 120 years later, at a very different time in a very different place.

Using this form allows for the reader to follow along with the text, but to do so in such a way as to be inserted into the space between the notes and the text; a space less defined than a full essay, but more defined than just random disconnected notes). I hope you enjoy and find this useful. Notes will start being posted in the next day or two.