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An introduction to Marxism - a series of five weekly online zoom classes
This course of five weekly zoom classes running 7-830pm on Tuesdays focuses on the fundamentals of Marxism and its relevance to understanding and action.
This course will cover an introduction to Marxist theory, applying it to a discussion of relevant issues today, such as: the changing nature of work and exploitation, austerity and the gig economy, racism, women’s oppression, class society, climate change, and revolutionary practice.
The course is structured around four interrelated and overlapping themes:
1. Marxism and history. History is fundamental to everything - it deals with what exists, how it came to be, how it functions, and how it changes. Historical materialism is probably the most fundamental ‘discovery’ of Marx, providing a tool for analysing the whole of human development and especially the ‘laws of motion’ governing all forms of class society and capitalism today. Why is it so important and how does it help us challenge conventional accounts – of class, technology, racism, sexism and religious belief today?
2. Marxist philosophy. Philosophy addresses fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, values, ethics, mind, and language, both in the abstract and concretely (as in ‘natural philosophy’), through the methods of science. Dialectical materialism provides an analytical alternative to academic ‘idealist’ philosophy as well as to commonplace views of human nature and our relationship to the natural world. What’s its relevance today to understanding ourselves as human animals, and to the future of the planet on which we live?
3. Marxism and economics. Marxist economics – perhaps, better, ‘political economy’ - addresses questions to do with how the goods and services on which we depend are produced, by whom, and who benefits – questions which are normally ignored by ‘orthodox’ economics which treats the market as an inviolable ‘given’. Its analysis of the nature of commodity production in terms of value, price and profit includes the changing nature of exploitation of people as workers and consumers, the role of economic crises and why workers appear to ‘consent’ to their exploitation.
4. Marxism and revolution. A Marxist perspective is central to understanding the role of the state and how the ruling class retains power. But how can we secure a society ‘for the many’? Can capitalism be reformed or must it be overthrown, if so what should replace it? What do we mean by ‘revolution’? Can we learn from the experience of socialist revolutions past and present and – given the results of Britain’s most recent parliamentary elections - what are the prospects for socialism and a future classless, communist society?
A fifth theme –Marxism, ecology and the environment runs as a thread through all four topics. This is particularly important given the growing recognition over the past half-century that the crisis of capitalism is not just a social, economic and cultural crisis; it is also an environmental crisis which threatens the continued existence of our own species – amongst others.
The course is structured around five weekly sessions, each starting at 7pm and each divided into two parts as follows:
– 1. Tuesday 9 March: Introduction to the course // Topic 1: Marxism & history
– 2. Tuesday 16 March: On-line workshop // Topic 2: Marxism & philosophy
– 3. Tuesday 23 March: On-line workshop // Topic 3: Marxism & economics
– 4. Tuesday 30 March: On-line workshop // Topic 4: Marxism & revolution
– 5. Tuesday 6 April: On-line workshop: // Conclusion and feedback
The workshop sessions will each consist of a live discussion around some questions to be selected by the group at the end of the previous week’s topic presentation.