Capital, Volume 1: A Critical Analysis of Capitalist Production (1867) Karl Marx 

325785Like many people I could have taken this on many years ago but was put off by 1. size 2. difficulty of ch. 1-3 and 3. already knew about M-C-M’, use value, exchange value, surplus value, rate of exploitation, constant capital, variable capital, socially necessary labor time, all of that. And the fun stuff commodity fetishism , “A commodity appears at first sight an extremely obvious, trivial thing. But its analysis brings out that it is a very strange thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties.” The whole point of volume 1 (Jameson, 2013) turns on the mystery that “political economy” (Smith, Ricardo, Say) chose not to take up- “How does anyone make money out of a fair exchange?” In production, not in exchange, the surplus value is created.  Difficulty of Chapters 1-3 abruptly eases for most of the remaining 30 chapters. Important take away for me is the consideration of the vast scope of his preparation and its status as literature. 1850-1867 exiled to the Reading Room of the British Museum. He read all right! “Index of Authorities Quoted” runs 18 pages. Appian, Aristotle, Bacon, Beccaria, Bentham, Blanqui, Brougham, Burke…. Fourier, Franklin, Goethe, Hegel, Hobbes, homer, Horace, Hume, Huxley,.. Lassalle, Locke, Lucretius, Luther… Olmsted, Ovid, Owen, Plato, Plutarch, Price, Proudhon…. Say, Shakespeare, Sismondi, Smith, Sophocles, Spinoza, Thucydides. Guess what read this book and you learn a lot! Should have read it years ago! Now we see many are picking it up post 2008– The Return of “The Critique of Political Economy” and ” ruthless criticism of all that exists.”  I read in conjunction with David Harvey’s Reading Capital Companion. Very helpful and important in its own right.

Demanding the Impossible (2013) Slavoj Žižek 

18118862Interview of Zizek by Korean scholars in book form, not much new ground for readers of his other recent work. Books, other interviews, you tube gabfests. Not a great place to start if you have not read him before, better to wrestle with his written stuff. For me he is a launch pad into continuing effort to understand three big ideas: dialectical thinking… he often gives vivid unexpected examples of one thing turning into its opposite (Hegel); ideology and other tricky stuff along the lines of commodity fetishism (Marx); and the new bit for me, psychoanalysis and the triad Real, Imaginary, Symbolic (Lacan). The attraction of his prose for me is his range.. Aristotle, Lenin, and Popeye the Sailor in one paragraph. [made that up.. you get the point :-)]

Lenin: A Study in the Unity of His Thought (1924) György Lukács 

4007725Lenin the practical leader to whom is attributed such guiding bromides as ” be as radical as reality” and “begin again at the beginning again and again” and “left wing communism an infantile disorder” is drawn clearly in this 1924 analysis by Lukacs the Hungarian philosopher/politician/partisan. Written quickly after death of Lenin and before the rise of Stalin this important historical text includes a 1967 afterword by the long lived Lukacs. Fascinating and accessible. I struggled mightily years ago with his classic work “History and Class Consciousness” have stayed away since. On the list now with Gramsci “Prison Notebooks” to revisit.

The Wretched of the Earth (1961) Frantz Fanon 

66933Classic clear language vivid portrayal of what lies at the twisted heart of the colonizer-colonized relationship and the dynamic– violent– severance of the bond. Decolonization, Revolution, other words for what followed. By 1961 Fanon could already see the direction toward weak ineffective corrupt governance by class, ethnicity or other difference who were marked by colonizers as the legitimate heirs. , and the continued hand and fist of the former powers. Horrifying truths. Eager to read biography of Fanon now.