For a time, neoliberalism was one of the trendiest political terms, used to describe nearly anything that was wrong with global economic policy. Now, it has become equally fashionable to declare neoliberalism over, to insist everything has changed in light of the 2008 collapse, the rise of Trump, and the catastrophe of the COVID-19 pandemic. During this session, we will ask: what actually is neoliberalism—and is it coming to an end? In our meeting, we will discuss David Harvey and Naomi Klein’s influential conceptions of neoliberalism, as well as Damien Cahill’s examination of “embedded neoliberalism” in the wake of the global financial crisis.
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The Philly Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) Marxism Reading Group meets via Zoom on alternating Wednesdays to discuss issues in socialist theory and strategy.
Each meeting, we’ll look at a specific topic, including theories of the State, gender, imperialism,hegemony, and the origin of capitalism itself. Along the way, we’ll read some of the most influential Marxist theorists, including Angela Davis, Louis Althusser, Ellen Meiksins Wood, CLR James, and Rosa Luxemburg.
This session will conclude our discussion of “late” capitalism. In this meeting, we will discuss Ernest Mandel’s influential book Late Capitalism. Through this pioneering study, Mandel extended Marx’s analysis to the twentieth century. He was fascinated by novel conditions, including the rise of consumer goods and the growing extension of science to capitalist production. Mandel was also excited by the possibilities of his moment, particularly the decolonial political movements that were spreading across the globe.
Some commentators have taken shifts in the global economy to mean we are in a post-capitalist age. For many people, transformations in production, finance, and management signal an entirely new model of economic life. However, Marxists have challenged these assumptions. They have explored the ways that capitalism has evolved even while maintaining basic tendencies toward inequality and exploitation.
Over the course of two meetings, we will discuss two of the most influential theories of contemporary or “late” capitalism. We will begin with Harry Braverman’s influential Labor and Monopoly Capital, which explores changes in work, management, and ownership during the twentieth century.
Any social theory must consider the role of the state in modern capitalism. The world economy is held together not only by a globally expansive market but also by sprawling, powerful nation-states. Marx himself was a critic of the modern state, declaring it “the form in which the individuals of a ruling class assert their common interests.” Still, he left much to say about the particular nature of state institutions and their relationship to class power. In this session, we will consider some of the most influential writers on the topic, asking about the exact nature of the capitalist state.
Marxism is often thought of as a tool for ideological demystification, the “ruthless criticism of all that exists.” However, Marx never produced a systematic theory of ideology in general. It fell to later writers to expand Marx’s views on the topic, asking about the extent to which Marxism was a theory of social consciousness as a whole. In this session, we will discuss the influential theory of ideology by the French philosopher Louis Althusser. (We will also do an in-session reading from Antonio Gramsci!)
Althusser, On the Reproduction of Capitalism
Suggested Additional Readings:
At last, it's here! The Marxism Reading Group will conclude our historical trilogy with the "Brenner Debate," an intense discussion about the shift from feudalism to capitalism. Robert Brenner's work on early capitalism is significant for the responses it provoked, an uproar that is rare in Marxist historical writing. More importantly, Brenner also offered fundamental answers as to where capitalism came from, why it took hold when it did, and how this new system was able to transform the world.
Marx famously characterized the bourgeoisie as a “revolutionary” class, arguing that European feudalism was “pitilessly torn asunder” by a rising capitalist order. The precise nature of the transition from feudalism to capitalism, however, is subject to controversy and confusion. In this session, we will read the acclaimed historian Ellen Meiksins Wood, whose magnum opus The Origin of Capitalism details the twists and turns that led to the destruction of feudalism–and the new system that arose from its smoldering ashes.
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Many people have encountered Marx's critique of political economy, particularly his discussion of the dynamics of value accumulation. Less familiar are Marxist theories of the precise nature of the capitalist social system–the structures, the institutions, even the very origins of capitalism. This session will initiate a series of discussions about the rise of the world we now inhabit. We begin with one of the most influential and controversial theories of capitalism, Immanual Wallerstein's suggestion that capitalism represents a novel and distinctively modern world system.
Socialists have long been involved in the fight against gender inequality, aided by Marxist analyses of gender, the family, and domestic labor. Social reproduction theory is one of the most influential traditions to explore these matters, bringing rigor to provocative but at times cryptic comments left behind by Marx and Engels. In this session, we will read three of the most influential accounts of reproduction, including Lise Vogel’s pioneering theory and Angela Y. Davis’s bold prediction that socialism might make domestic labor “obsolete."
Zoom LinkMeeting ID: 994 9945 0800
Philly DSA's Marxism Reading Group explores a range of topics in Marxist theory. Sessions will focus on big picture ideas, unpacking fundamental concepts of historical, political, and economic analysis, as well as more specific debates focused on issues such as class, the State, gender, imperialism, colonialism, hegemony, and history. Along the way, we'll read some of the most influential writers in the Marxist tradition, including David Harvey, Angela Davis, GA Cohen, CLR James, EP Thompson, and Rosa Luxemburg. Whether you’re curious about Marxism, a longtime activist, or an expert Marxologist, please join us!
September 9: What is Historical Materialism?September 23: Class I: Formation vs. LocationOctober 7: Class II: The Professional-Managerial ClassOctober 21: Imperialism I: Early Theories of ImperialismNovember 4: Imperialism II: Underdevelopment & the New ImperialismNovember 18: Imperialism III: Colonialism & The Post-ColonyDecember 02: Social Reproduction Theory
The age of imperial conquest was followed by a period of harsh occupation–as well as a wave of anti-colonial strife across the globe. Marxists took the lead in many of these struggles, looking to socialism as a pathway to freedom.
In this session, we will read CLR James and Frantz Fanon, two of the most influential theorists of colonialism. We will examine their contributions to Marxist theory, as well as their role in the fight for a better world.
Though the twentieth century saw a wave of independence struggles in the colonial world, some would argue that the Age of Imperialism lives on. The end of the Cold War did little to fix pronounced inequalities between the Global North and South. Rather, it brought about new forms of economic domination, wrought by international trade policy and renewed military violence.
In this session, we will continue our discussion of imperialism. This time around, our group turns to more recent theories of imperialism. We begin with the writings of Samir Amin, a major pioneer of Dependency Theory. From there, we'll explore David Harvey's concept of the New Imperialism, used to describe the global role of "emerging economies" of China and India–as well as the US-led War on Terror.
Email [email protected] for more information about the readings.
More info & readings to come for this date.
Recent social media dust-ups about downwardly mobile millennials and “Patagonia Democrats” have reignited a decades-old controversy about the "PMC," or “Professional-Managerial Class.” In the late 1970s, Barbara and John Ehrenreich’s essay on the topic sparked a broad debate about whether or not the socialist movement should draw strength from the US Left's growing ranks of politically engaged students, radical academics, and other seemingly middle class activists. In so doing, they prompted a broader discussion about the changing nature of twentieth century class relations, politics, and capitalism itself.
In this session, we will read Barbara and John Ehrenreich’s original essay along with a critical engagement by Erik Olin Wright. We will consider the analytic value of the concept of the PMC, as well as the political question of what this constituency signals for the contemporary socialist movement.
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Marx is probably most famous as a class theorist; he was one of the fiercest critics of exploitation, and tirelessly held to the belief that working people would fundamentally alter the world. Even so, he left behind no complete theory of class, and the writings he did produce have been subject to widespread controversy. This week, in our first session on the topic of class, we will explore two influential interpretations of Marxian class theory, asking about how to better understand capitalism and the role of the working class in transforming it.
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Karl Marx boldly proclaimed that human history could be retold as a history of class struggles. The Marxism Reading Group will begin its semester by looking at historical materialism, the concept undergirding this weighty claim. Probably his most influential idea, materialism has also been one of his most enduringly controversial. In order to understand why, we'll explore a number of key concepts, including Marx's infamous base-superstructure theory of society. We'll also consider the value of these notions for contemporary socialists, asking about what is living and what is dead in the Marxist theory of history.
In recent years, capitalism has reemerged as a concept to explain the ongoing political crisis in the US. Even so, it often remains unclear what the term actually refers to: a social system, a historical phenomenon, an ideological view–or something else?
This group will approach Karl Marx’s basic theory of capitalism through a close reading of Capital Vol. 1, presented in an open and informal setting.
In our discussions we will reconstruct the core argument of the text, assess the claims that Marx makes, and reflect on their relevance for a new critical politics.Whether you’re curious about Marxism, a longtime activist, or an expert Marxologist, join us!
We'll be using the Penguin Edition (Fowkes translation).
February 26: Chapter 1-2 (125-188)March 11: Chapter 3 (188-247)March 25: Chapters 4-6 (247-283)April 08: Chapters 7-9 (283-340)April 29: Chapters 12-14 (429-492)May 13: Chapter 15, Parts 1-3 (492-543)May 27: Review SessionJune 10: Chapter 15, Parts 4-10 (544-643)June 24: Chapters 16-22 (643-711)July 8: Chapters 23-24 (711-762)July 22: Chapter 25 (762-873)August 5: Chapters 26-33 (873-943)
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This series is taking place via Zoom meeting, Meeting ID: 994 9945 0800
The Marx Reading Group approaches Karl Marx’s basic theory of capitalism through a close reading of Capital Vol. 1, presented in an open and informal setting. For this session, there will be no reading. Instead, we will be having an open review discussion of Marxism and Capital's overall argument. New members are encouraged to attend!
This week we're reading Chapter 15, Parts 1-3 (492-543)
February 26: Chapter 1-2 (125-188)March 11: Chapter 3 (188-247)March 25: Chapters 4-6 (247-283)April 08: Chapters 7-9 (283-340)April 29: Chapters 12-14 (429-492)May 13: Chapter 15, Parts 1-3 (492-543)May 27: Chapter 15, Parts 4-10 (544-643)June 10: Chapters 16-22 (643-711)June 24: Chapters 23-24 (711-762)July 8: Chapter 25 (762-873)July 22: Chapters 26-33 (873-943)
This series is taking place via Zoom meeting, Meeting ID: 994 9945 0800Reading: Chapters 12-14 (429-492)
This series is taking place via Zoom meeting, Meeting ID: 629 494 8176Reading: Chapters 7-9 (283-340)
February 26: Chapter 1-2 (125-188)March 11: Chapter 3 (188-247)March 25: Chapters 4-6 (247-283)April 08: Chapters 7-9 (283-340)April 22: Chapters 10-11 (340-429)May 06: Chapters 12-14 (429-492)May 20: Chapter 15, Parts 1-3 (492-543)June 03: Chapter 15, Parts 4-10 (544-643)June 17: Chapters 16-22 (643-711)July 01: Chapters 23-24 (711-762)July 15: Chapter 25 (762-873)July 29: Chapters 26-33 (873-943)
Zoom Invitation | Meeting ID: 643 580 965 | Please RSVP Here!
Karl Kautsky is arguably the grandfather of democratic socialism. He walked a middle course between the reformist strands of German social democracy and the Soviet revolutionary model. In this session, we’ll read the entirety of his influential The Road to Power (1909), debating the relevance of his example for contemporary politics.
Reading: Kautsky, The Road to Power
The Marx Reading Group typically meets every other Wednesday, 7-9 pm at Chapterhouse Gallery. All are welcome to attend!
For this session, we'll be reading two major texts by the famed writer Rosa Luxemburg. Despite an untimely death at the age of 47, Luxemburg has been a persistent influence on political theory and a touchstone for a number of crucial debates in the history of socialism. Join us to read two of her most important works!
The Marx Reading Group meets every other Wednesday, 7-9 pm at Chapterhouse Gallery. All are welcome to attend!
For this session, the Marx Reading Group will be reading two key texts: “The Civil War in France” and Critique of the Gotha Program. Though Marx generally refused to give exact political instructions (a function of his belief that the future was anything but certain), the writer carefully studied the past, and he thought long and hard about how an alternative economic system might lead to greater human flourishing. Join us as we read these two classic essays, deepening our understanding of Marx’s historical imagination–and his ambitious political vision.
The Marxist Reading Group meets every other Wednesday, 7-9 pm at Chapterhouse Gallery. All are welcome to attend!
For this session, we will be reading two texts: 1844 Economic & Philosophic Manuscripts and The German Ideology. Originating before the more infamous period of political economic writings, these works introduce a different side of Marx. In particular, they dive deeper into core political questions concerning the nature of alienation under capitalism, the development of ideology, and the means by which radicals can challenge the dominant ideas of their age.
This week, we continue our study of Karl Marx’s writings, reading an abridged version of his infamous, sprawling Grundrisse. Often cited as a pivotal text in Marxism (though it is probably mentioned far more often than it is actually read), this series of notebooks was abandoned by Marx in 1858; it would remain unpublished for nearly a century. Contained within the work, however, is a series of potent ideas that anticipate Marx’s later systematic writings–and link his economic theories to major questions about society, history, and politics.
Join us–whether you are brand new to Marxist economics, or want to deepen your understanding of Marx even more!
View the reading here.
For this session of the Marxism Reading Group, we’ll be reading Marx's Wage Labor and Capital (1849; 1891). Written prior to his monumental Capital, Engels later revised the work to reflect the results of their mature research. In its final form, the pamphlet offers a miniaturized version of their broader political-economic theory; it was largely through this text that their views circulated among the working class. This session will be a great introduction to Marxian political economy, or a nice recap if you’ve already read Capital.
Join PHL DSA for the kick-off of our Marxism and Politics Summer Lecture Series. Throughout June, July, and August, we are bringing political analysts and writers to Philadelphia to give seminars on their recent essays with us. First, we will have a session where we read a contemporary political article or essay and discuss it, getting a sense of its arguments and themes, as well as questions that it raises or problems with the argument. Then, we will host the writer, who will deliver a brief lecture and then lead a seminar where we can go more in depth on the argument, and pose questions that came up in the previous session.
For our inaugural lecture, we have Rene Rojas, a sociologist and political scientist at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. His research is on neoliberal development and politics in Latin America, where he spent years as an activist. Rojas will be delivering a lecture the rise and fall of Latin America's Pink Tide movement. Considered the most promising development for the global left in decades, the Pink Tide is now in retreat. To understand its decline, Rojas compares its rise and achievements to the rise of the region’s classical left, which emerged following the Cuban Revolution. His thesis is that whereas the classical left’s accomplishments were rooted in the structural leverage of industrial labor, the Pink Tide has been based on movements of informal workers and precarious communities.
The Marxism and Politics Reading Group will be meeting the week beforehand (on Monday, June 17th at 7 PM in Chapterhouse Cafe) to discuss his essay on Latin America's Pink Tide.
The Marxist Reading Group meets every other Monday, 7-9 pm at Chapterhouse Gallery. All are welcome to attend!
This week we'll be discussing:
Rene Rojas "The Latin American Left's Shifting Tides"
Marx famously wrote in his 11th thesis on Feuerbach, "Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it." At the same time, Marx's descriptions of society as class society, and of capitalism, are motivated by the idea that a rigorous analysis of social conditions must inform political action capable of changing those conditions. The purpose of this group is to read and discuss works by Marx, Marxists, and other thinkers from the historical materialist tradition that describe historical changes in capitalism leading up to the present and outline the political and strategic problems faced by those who seek to intervene in history.
Class Struggle and The New Deal, Chapters 3 and 4
Chapters 1-2 of Rhonda Levine's Class Struggle and the New Deal
Ralph Miliband, "Marx and the State"
This week we'll be discussing:
POULANTZAS Problem of the Capitalist State
MILIBAND Reply to Poulantzas
BLOCK The Ruling Class Does Not Rule
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