Reading Marx’s Capital with David Harvey (Free Online Course)

David Harvey, an important social theorist and geographer, has got the right idea. Take what you know. Teach it in the classroom. Capture it on video. Then distribute it to the world. Keep it simple, but just do it.

Harvey is now making available 26 hours of lectures, during which he gives a close reading of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital (1867). This work, often considered to be Marx’s masterpiece, is where he elaborated a critique of capitalism and laid the groundwork for an ideology that took the 20th century by storm. Harvey is no stranger to this text. He has taught this class for over 40 years now, both in universities (Johns Hopkins and CUNY) and in the community as well.

The first lecture, preceded by an introductory interview lasting roughly six minutes, appears above. The rest of the lectures can be accessed via Harvey’s web site, YouTube, and iTunes. Also, we have placed the course in our collection of Free Online Courses, which keeps on growing. Find it under the Economics section.

UPDATE:  David Harvey is looking for volunteers to translate his lectures into 36 languages. If you want to help you, you can get started here.

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  1. Hanoch says . . . | November 21, 2011 / 6:18 pm

    I have found that the best way to learn about Karl Marx is to speak with the former citizens of the Soviet Union who were fortunate enough to get out alive. You will know all you will ever need to about Mr. Marx.

  2. Preville says . . . | November 22, 2011 / 6:10 am

    @Hanoch-Don’t you agree that it’s time to have an open discussion about alternatives to and significant modifications of capitalism? That it’s time for an expansion of basic knowledge about politics and economics? I agree with you that a political and sociological history of the USSR would add to the discussion, but do you really believe that anecdote is sufficient?

  3. Hanoch says . . . | November 22, 2011 / 9:29 am

    @Preville. To answer your questions: 1. No, why would I? Free market capitalism has been the greatest source of wealth creation for the greatest number of people, hands down. 2. Yes. Perhaps if people were more educated, they would understand # 1 (and not being wedded to failed and destructive ideology would also help). 3. Yes. And if that example were not sufficient, observe any country that operates along Mr. Marx’s principles and see how they compare in wealth creation to those that operate under the principles of free market capitalism.

  4. Robert says . . . | November 22, 2011 / 11:50 am

    Isn’t it funny how the barely working college professors love the Marxist ideology? While they are certainly free to preach their screed in an open forum, I have a problem with them being paid to indoctrinate their students with the same message. As @Hanoch said above ” show me one place where it works” and don’t use China as an example. China’s rise is due to capitalist practices not Marxist ideology!

  5. Andrew S. says . . . | November 23, 2011 / 12:19 am

    @Preville “Don’t you agree that it’s time to have an open discussion about alternatives to and significant modifications of capitalism?”

    I’d be interested in hearing your definition of capitalism. Definitions change everything.

    If one defines capitalism as a framework of completely free and voluntary trade between individuals, then there haven’t existed many “true” capitalist societies. Economic coercion always seems to be the undoing of capitalist societies. One could say that “alternatives to and significant modifications of capitalism” have existed for decades, even centuries.

  6. think again says . . . | November 24, 2011 / 1:43 am

    I feel bad for people like this sad Hanoch character who is the very caricature one sees all over the internet from across the world with such a pathetically narrow, and, yet, comically distorted, view of “Mr. Marx”. It’s even more disappointing to see such silly people on such a lovely site as this.

  7. MJ says . . . | December 10, 2011 / 11:36 am

    1. We should remember that Karl Marx stated that he wasn’t a Marxist.

    2. The course deals with dynamics of capitalism, not indoctrination into some sort of Stalinist thought.

    3. Yes capitalism can generate the greatest wealth, but it also creates the greatest inequality. It also is the worst system for wealth distribution.

    4. Rather than ideological tit-for-tat, let’s realize that we’re talking about free market capitalism (which has never existed anywhere in pure form) versus higher degrees of State-regulation of the economy. Even the US regulates its economy, but other countries have the State playing a larger role.

    5. Those countries where “communism failed” did not exist in a vacuum. They could not perpetuate the system in part due to the exact opposite reason that the US IS ABLE to maintain its political economic system. Regional and international relations.

  8. Michael says . . . | May 17, 2012 / 7:29 pm

    I support Hanoch. Fuck this shit.

  9. jonfernquest says . . . | May 17, 2012 / 10:47 pm

    For those who have no prior sympathies with Marx or Marxism the best way to gain an appreciation for David Harvey’s scholarship is to listen to his lecture:

    The Neoliberal City on the New York City fiscal crisis of the 1970s available on YouTube. :)

  10. Ellis says . . . | May 22, 2012 / 4:18 pm

    I am always disappointed when I read online comments. I have enjoyed open culture because they present an array of ideas and information. If we are going to understand economics, I think Marx is as important to understand as Adam Smith. How can we understand where we are if we don’t understand where we came from?

  11. Michael Soileau says . . . | June 17, 2012 / 10:23 pm

    Marx theories are actually very interesting. He was one of the greatest cheerleaders for Capitalism, but also one of its hardest critics. Criticisms:

    1.) Alienation. Performing repetitive, mind-numbing tasks allows the efficient creation of products. However, this also means workers feel no value in what they create and no pride in their work.

    Listen to anyone complain about their job, you’ll get a quick sense of what he was talking about.

    2.) Predatory Capitalism. Ironically, those cheerleading for free markets fail to realize that “Free Markets” often rely upon UnFree Countries to do all their dirty work for them. China locking children into 14 hour workdays, killing tens of thousands of them, Angola oil, blood diamonds, supporting Egyptian and Saudi Arabian dictatorships, etc.

    Marx had a reason why this occurred, as capitalists looked for the lowest labor costs and access to resources, they would either deliberately create bad economies and dictatorships, (quick, name all the dictatorships installed by Britain and America: Nicaragua, India, Argentina, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Egypt, and on and on and on and on and on…..)

    3.) Class-ism. Class-ism in America usually plays out as racism against immigrants, (cheap labor influxes), or against minorities already existing, (grrr… those blood-sucking welfare queens!), and Marx had answers, right or wrong, about why this is.

    Rich people go to the best schools, segregate themselves into gated communities, and middle-class spends its time aping the rich people and pretending that one day, they too will be rich.

    What Marx missed in his analysis is the amount of government intervention that allows aristocracies to perpetuate, such as agricultural subsidies, restriction of competition to foreign markets, (no sugar from Brazil to keep corn prices high), restriction of labor (Mexicans bad!!!), special “tax expenditures”, the fastest growing expense of most nations, etc.

    So he certainly got a lot wrong here, but he understood that any rich class will create a separate set of laws for itself which do not apply to the lower classes. Or can we all snort coke like Charlie Sheen and pop drugs like Rush Limbaugh and walk the streets free men?

  12. Dan Colman says . . . | March 10, 2013 / 2:53 pm

    Hi there,

    Does anyone know what Facebook page is sending traffic our way today?

    Thanks,
    Dan (Editor)

  13. Todd Elkins says . . . | March 10, 2013 / 7:20 pm

    Hey Dan. I got here from the OWS Facebook page.

  14. Gabriel38 says . . . | March 11, 2013 / 10:10 am

    Capitalism is dead. It’s just a matter of time before it collapses…so unless you like the idea of propping up a thieving, criminal and nearly useless banking aristocracy for the next 30yrs, while losing all the wealth created by hard-working people and destroying the environment at the same time, then I suggest you start considering alternative economic systems. Perhaps Marx is not your favorite person, but he knew that the average working person is getting screwed by Capitalism, not empowered by it. That fact hasn’t changed since Marx wrote his book, and with the weakening of unions, tax cuts for the wealthy, and austerity measures by governments throughout Europe, the poor and working class are getting screwed more than ever.

  15. ryan meier says . . . | March 12, 2013 / 12:22 pm

    There’s plenty of problems with capitalism but Harvey ain’t the guy to go to with answers; he’s a rather vicious Leninist. There’s a online talk he gives on Youtube where he gleefully talks about Evo Morales “defeating the oligarchs” by making them eat canned food. And various other paranoid, insane sounding statements.

    Far as I can tell what we have now–a mixed economy that is admittedly flawed and has some oppression built in–is still far and away better than communism (or fascism, or theocracy, or tribalism, etc etc).

  16. Noel Brown says . . . | May 14, 2013 / 10:07 am

    It’s a good time to be taking an interest in a broad spectrum of Economic theories. Marx included, his critique of Capitalism stands up today pretty good. Neo-liberals are a rapid bunch of ideologues.

  17. emmettgrogan says . . . | October 3, 2013 / 9:40 am

    Lies and ignorance consume this absurd and untrue statement.

  18. emmettgrogan says . . . | October 3, 2013 / 9:41 am

    Bullshit. Read “Capital”, check with the Chinese.

  19. Cee Bee says . . . | October 3, 2013 / 11:05 am

    ideology? this course is about the dynamics of capitalism and Marx’s thinking. one can not possibly weigh in authoritatively on late 19th and 20th century history or social and economic thought without understanding the influence of Karl Marx.nnnwhat is ACTUALLY funny is how so many people lambast college professors and Marx’s work but have absolutely NO idea what they are talking about. oh wait. that’s not funny. it’s pathetic. it’s sad. not to mention short-sighted and dangerous.

  20. Cee Bee says . . . | October 3, 2013 / 11:19 am

    Wow. The ignorance of this statement is overwhelming. Karl Marx did not recommend Soviet style communism — his emphasis was on theorizing the trajectory, dilemmas, and conflicts of capitalism. You know not of which you speak.

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