As I’ve mentioned, I have begun my 2011 reading year by undertaking a ‘Marx’ reading challenge. As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve begun this journey by tackling Marx’s Grundrisse. After completing this book, I plan on moving directly into Marx’s Capital.
I’ve gotten some interesting questions from people, including from my wife, colleagues, friends, and family, why I would tackle these works. To that I could simply answer “Why not?” But that, of course, would be the easy way out.
After a year of reading mostly fictional classics, I started to crave for something a bit more challenging. Not that what I was reading wasn’t challenging, but something that would make me think, ask some deep questions. Last summer, as I posted here, I read Barnes and Noble’s Classic, The Communist Manifesto and Other Writings. Not only did this book contain the all-important Manifesto of the Communist Party, but also the Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. Both of these writings definitely caught my eye, and opened my mind up to many different areas of thought that I hadn’t considered before.
Fast forward to last month, I was just starting Homer’s Odyssey, and I found myself not really enjoying it. I felt I needed a greater challenge, and ancient Greek epics just weren’t doing it for me. So I thought I would go ahead and take a look at what else by Marx I could tackle relatively soon. While discovering the three volumes of Capital, I came across Grundrisse.
I had never heard of Grundrisse, so I began to do a bit of research on it. Discovering that it was written between The Communist Manifesto and Capital, I would go ahead and tackle it first, figuring there might be some good foundational information here that would help me understand Capital better when I got to reading them. As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, it seems like I’m reading his notes. After completing the third notebook earlier today, I’m beginning to become more convinced of the fact that Grundrisse is more along the lines of Marx’s research and notes for Capital.
Of course, Capital is considered one of the most notorious works of modern times being an incisive critique of private property. In Capital, Marx pokes holes through the capitalistic system. He accomplished this feat by performing voluminous research. And especially given the economic climate today, and people, pundits, and some economic experts telling us the system of capitalism has failed, I figured I would take a look for myself and see the arguments against capitalism. What better place to start than with Marx?
In the process of reading Marx, I am also hoping to learn more about not only Marxist thought, but what is supposed to be the basis of a communist system. I’ve always been intrigued as to what types of conditions could bring an overthrow of a capitalistic system and I’m hoping to discover that with my journey with Capital. While, being a capitalist myself, I also feel it’s important to know the arguments against capitalism and why it’s so bad. That way, and that way alone, will I come to fully understand and appreciate American capitalism.
For my final reason for tackling Marx is the simple fact that I just have this insatiable desire to learn and read things I haven’t read before. While today’s books are decent, some great, I just have this urge to read something outside the box, something that many people I know aren’t reading. I love the conversations that result from people seeing what I’m reading, and the questions it generates. I also welcome the challenge. We’re talking about close to 4,000 pages of material here. No matter what the content, that’s a challenge in itself. It’s more of a challenge than when I tackled Shelby Foote’s The Civil War: A Narrative. That set of books took me more than 6 months to read and was almost 3,000 pages in length. But I wouldn’t trade that reading experience, I learned a lot more about the Civil War than I imagined I would, and I hope to do the same here with Marx. One thing’s for sure, it’s been an interesting ride so far.
Please let me know in the comments section if you’ve tackled these works and what your impressions of them are!