We will ease into developing a critical vocabulary slowly before using it on the history of the Japanese Empire and working through recent work. We will use these for the next several weeks so you don’t have to get everything right away. But the sooner, the better. Chapter one will be very strange and use words that are both new, and perhaps more difficult, use more familiar words in different and very specific ways. Concentrate on getting as precise of definitions as you can. Especially for terms like exchange-value, use-value, value, labor, labor-power, abstract labor, concrete labor, socially abstract labor, labor-time, fetishism. There are more, but start here. Keep in mind. At its basic level Marx is taking on the widespread and basic, but surprisingly difficult, question of where does surplus (value, profit) come from in a capitalist society.
Readings: Marx, Capital, vol. 1, ch. 1, “The Commodity” (Penguin pp. 125-77) and ch. 2 “The Process of Exchange” (Penguin pp. 178-87). Also read chapters 4-6 which we may get to this week, but certainly will next.
If you have the time, though long (1 hr. 45 m), David Harvey’s lectures on these chapters on iTunesU are very helpful for getting familiar with the vocabulary. See lecture for chs. 1-2.