A Ruthless Criticism of Everything Existing: an Introduction to Marx
275 Madison Avenue, Suite 2114
New York, NY 10016
In the mid-nineteenth century, a young Karl Marx wrote, in the form of a published open letter to Arnold Ruge: “But if the designing of the future and the proclamation of ready-made solutions for all time is not our affair, then we realize all the more clearly what we have to accomplish in the present—I am speaking of a ruthless criticism of everything existing, ruthless in two senses: The criticism must not be afraid of its own conclusions, nor of conflict with the powers that be.” In this course, we will explore how Marx developed this “ruthless criticism” over the course of his life as a scholar, journalist, and activist. Over four extended sessions, students will be introduced to key texts in Marx’s philosophical, economic, historical, and political works. We will pay special attention to the various moments in these texts that later became influential in both Marxian and other theoretical and social movements, from feminists to anti-colonialists, romantics to futurists, critical theorists to accelerationists. Readings will include selections from The Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, Capital (Vol.1), Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, The Communist Manifesto, Theses on Feuerbach, The German Ideology, Critique of the Gotha Program and the 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon. We will also read short excerpts of relevant secondary literature that will illuminate the extraordinary variety of interpretations and understandings of Marx. No previous knowledge of Marx, philosophy, or political economy is required.
Course ScheduleMonday, 6:30-9:30pm
January 27 — February 17, 2020