5 Free Online Courses on Marx’s Capital from Prof. David Harvey

Geographer and Marxist scholar David Harvey did not set out to become a Marxist. He didn’t even know what a Marxist was. He simply started to read Marx one day, at the age of 35, because all of the other social science methods he had applied in his study of the housing market and social unrest in US cities “didn’t seem to be working well,” he says in a Jacobin interview. “So, I started to read Marx, and I found it more and more relevant…. After I cited Marx a few times favorably, people pretty soon said I was a Marxist. I didn’t know what it meant… and I still don’t know what it means. It clearly does have a political message, though, as a critique of capital.”

The word “Marxist” has been as much a defamatory term of moral and political abuse as it has a coherent description of a position. But ask Harvey to explain what Marx means in the German philosopher’s massive analysis of political economy, Capital, and he will gladly tell you at length. Harvey has not only read all three volumes of the work many times over, a feat very few can claim, but he has explicated them in detail in his courses at Johns Hopkins and the City University of New York since the 1970s. In the age of YouTube, Harvey posted his lectures online, and they became so popular they inspired a series of equally popular written companion books.

Why study a dead 19th-century socialist? What could he possibly have to say about the world of AI, COVID, and climate change? “I think Marx is more relevant today than ever before,” says Harvey. “When Marx was writing, capital was not dominant in the world. It was dominant in Britain and Western Europe and the eastern United States, but it wasn’t dominant in China or India. Now it’s dominant everywhere. So, I think Marx’s analysis of what capital is and its contradictions is more relevant now than ever.”

To illustrate, and exhaustively explain, the point, Harvey announced by tweet recently that he’s made 5 courses freely available online as videos and podcasts. Find links to all 5 courses below. Or find them in our collection: 1,700 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

Reading Marx’s Capital Volume 1 with David Harvey – 2019 Edition

Reading Marx’s Capital Volume I with David Harvey – 2007 Edition

Reading Marx’s Capital Volume 2 with David Harvey

Reading Marx’s Grundrisse with David Harvey

Marx, Capital, and the Madness of Economic Reason

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

A List of 132 Radical, Mind-Expanding Books from Rage Against the Machine

If you like Rage Against the Machine, but don’t like their “political bs,” you haven’t actually listened to Rage Against the Machine, whose entire raison d’être is contained within the name. What is “the Machine”? Let’s hear it from the band themselves. Singer Zack de la Rocha pointed out that the title of their second album, 1996’s Evil Empire, came from “Ronald Reagan’s slander of the Soviet Union in the eighties, which the band feels could just as easily apply to the United States.”

The Machine is capitalism and militarism, what Dwight D. Eisenhower once famously called the “military-industrial complex” but which has folded in other oppressive mechanisms since the coining of that phrase, including the prison-industrial complex and immigration-industrial complex. The Machine is a mega-complex with a lot of moving parts, and the members of RATM have done the work to critically examine them, informing their music and activism with reading and study.




Evil Empire, for example, featured in its liner notes a photo of “a pile of radical books,” “and the group posted a lengthy reading list to complement it on their site,” declares the site Radical Reads. Debates often rage on social media over whether activists should read theory. One answer to the question might be the commitment of RATM, who have steadfastly lived out their convictions over the decades while also, ostensibly, reading Marx, Marcuse, and Fanon.

There are more accessible theorists on the list: fierce essayists like former death row inmate and Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal and Henry David Thoreau, whose Walden and “Civil Disobedience” both appear. The Anarchist Cookbook shows up, but so too does Dr. Suess’ The Lorax, biographies of Miles Davis and Bob Marley, Taschen’s Dali: The Paintings, James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist of a Young Man, and Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer. This is not a list of strictly “political” books so much as a list of books that open us up to other ways of seeing.

These are also, in many cases, books we do not encounter unless we seek them out. “I certainly didn’t find any of those books at my University High School library,” de la Rocha told MTV in 1996, “Many of those books may give people new insight into some of the fear and some of the pain they might be experiencing as a result of some of the very ugly policies the government is imposing upon us right now.” Doubtless, he would still endorse the sentiment. The workings of the Machine, after all, don’t seem to change much for the people on the bottom when it gets new management at the top.

Read the full list of Evil Empire book recommendations on Good Reads. And as a bonus, hear a Spotify playlist of radical music just above, compiled by RATM guitarist Tom Morello. The 241 song list runs

via Radical Reads

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

RIP Radical Poet and Revolutionary Publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919-2021)

“Democracy is not a spectator sport,” Lawrence Ferlinghetti proclaimed on the wall of his City Lights bookstore, a San Francisco fixture since the poet, activist, and publisher founded the landmark with Peter D. Martin in 1953. Ferlinghetti, who died on Monday at age 101, was himself a fixture, a venerated steward of the counterculture. (See him read “Last Prayer,” above, in a clip from The Last Waltz). On his 100th birthday–on which the city instituted an annual “Lawrence Ferlinghetti Day”–Chloe Veltman interviewed him, describing the poet as “frail and nearly blind… but his mind is still on fire.” It was the same mind that started a publishing house in the 50s with the intent to stir an “international dissident ferment.”

Ferlinghetti and Martin started their bookstore with a mission: “to break literature out of its stuffy, academic cage,” Veltman writes, out of “its self-centered focus on what he calls ‘the me me me,’ and make it accessible to all.” City Lights was the first all-paperback bookstore, opened at a time, he says, when “paperbacks weren’t considered real books.”




For Ferlinghetti, literature and democracy were not separate pursuits. The idea was radical, and so were his patrons. “A bookstore is a natural place for poets to hang out,” Ferlinghetti told NPR’s Tom Vitale, “and they started showing up there”–“They” being East Coast Beats like Ginsberg, Kerouac, and the great, unsung Bob Kaufman.

Like a Northern California Shakespeare and Company, Ferlinghetti’s City Lights became the physical embodiment of a literary movement, especially after the infamous publication of Allen Ginsburg’s Howl and Other Poems, for which Ferlinghetti stood trial for obscenity, an event that “propelled the Beat generation into the international spotlight,” writes Evan Karp. “For the first and–arguably–only time, literature became a popular movement in the U.S.” Young people around the country realized that poetry was relevant to their politics (and lives), and vice versa.

Ferlinghetti published his own first book of poetry, Pictures of the Gone World, in the same year he published Ginsberg’s, but he has not received his critical due alongside the other Beats, despite the fact that his second book, 1958’s A Coney Island of the Mind, “sold more than 1 million copies over the year, ranking perhaps second to Howl as the most popular book of modern American poetry,” Fred Kaplan notes at Slate. (See him read the book’s first poem, “In Goya’s Greatest Scenes We Seem to See…,” from his City Lights office, above.)

Ferlinghetti himself never wanted to be identified with the movement. In a 2013 documentary, he emphatically says, “don’t call me a Beat. I was never a Beat poet.” He described his poetry as an “insurgent art”:

If you would be a poet, create works capable of answering the challenge of

apocalyptic times, even if this meaning sounds apocalyptic.

You are Whitman, you are Poe, you are Mark Twain, you are Emily Dickinson and Edna St. Vincent Millay, you are Neruda and Mayakovsky and Pasolini, you are an American or a non-American, you can conquer the conquerors with words….

His purpose, he writes, was to pierce a culture he calls “a freeway fifty lanes wide / a concrete continent / spaced with bland billboards / illustrating imbecile illusions of happiness.” From his Navy service in WWII–in which he saw the aftermath of Nagasaki weeks after the dropping of the atomic bombs–to the last days of the Trump administration, he kept his keen eye on America’s abuses. His “poetry is notoriously critical of politicians and the status quo,” Karp writes, and he was “unafraid to name names and take stances publicly” as a writer and a lifelong activist.

“Gerald Nicosia, the critic,” Vitale points out, “says Ferlinghetti’s two greatest accomplishments were fighting censorship, and inaugurating a small press revolution.” What did Ferlinghetti himself think of his place in the culture? “In Plato’s republic, poets were considered subversive, a danger to the republic,” he told The New York Times in 1998. “I kind of relish that role.” As for what might finally shake the country out of the anti-democratic spirit that has held its people hostage to corporations and a hostile government, he was not sanguine: “It would take a whole new generation not devoted to the glorification of the capitalist system,” he said. “A generation not trapped in the me, me, me.”

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Allen Ginsberg’s Howl Manuscripts Now Digitized & Put Online, Revealing the Beat Poet’s Creative Process

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Increasing Disabled/Other-Abled Representation in Media — Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #83

At least 20% of us have some sort of disability, yet such conditions are reflected by only tiny portion of TV and film characterizations, and what characters are portrayed typically get played by non-disabled actors. Depictions often focus on what it’s like to live with the condition. This can of course be socially beneficial, but we don’t want to essentialize people as their conditions, so it’s even more useful to feature disabled actors and characters when the plot is not about their disability.

Pretty Much Pop hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt are joined by playwright Kayla Dryesse to talk about hurdles to representation, disability culture, whether “disability” is even the right word, negative stereotypes (no less than five James Bond villains are in wheelchairs!), and issues in portraying disability related to theater, comedy, horror, and superheroes. Some shows mentioned include Speechless, Atypical, Everything’s Gonna Be Okay, Breaking Bad, Glee, The Stand, The Witches, and The Great British Bake-Off.

Learn more from these articles:

Also, watch Stella Young’s TED talk, called “I’m Not Your Inspiration, Thank You Very Much;” the episode of Drunk History about 504 accessibility; and Stevie Wonder’s SNL parody of a camera commercial.

Hear more of this podcast at prettymuchpop.com. This episode includes bonus discussion that you can access by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts.

Why Public Transit Sucks in the United States: Four Videos Tell the Story

Many different words could describe the state of public transportation in America today. In recent decades, more and more of a consensus seems to have settled around one word in particular: that it “sucks.” Given its “antiquated technology, safety concerns, crumbling infrastructure,” and often “nonexistence,” says the narrator of the video above, “it’s not hard to argue that the U.S. public transportation network is just not good.” That narrator, Sam Denby, is the creator of Wendover Productions, a Youtube channel all about geography, technology, economics, and the infrastructure where all three intersect. He believes not only that America’s public transit sucks, but that the country’s “lack of solid public transportation almost defines American culture.”

This would make a certain sense in a poor, small, struggling country — but not in the United States of America, described not long ago by Anne Applebaum in the Atlantic as “accustomed to thinking of itself as the best, most efficient, and most technologically advanced society in the world.”




As anyone making their first visit will experience, America’s still-formidable wealth and power doesn’t square with the experience on the ground, or indeed under it: whether by subway, bus, or streetcar, the task of navigating most U.S. cities is characterized by inconvenience, discomfort, and even impossibility. This in a country whose public transportation once really was the envy of the world: at the turn of the 20th century, its cities boasted 11,000 miles of streetcar track alone.

In the mid-2010s, by Denby’s reckoning, “the combined mileage of every tram, subway, light rail, and commuter rail system” added up only to 5,416. What happened in the hundred or so years between? He cites among other factors the production of the first widely affordable automobiles in the 1920s, and later that of buses, with their lower operating costs than streetcars — but as commonly operated today, their lower-quality transit experience as well. (Resentment about this large-scale replacement of urban streetcar systems runs deep enough to make some consider it a conspiracy.) The U.S. “grew up as the car grew up, so its cities were built for cars,” especially in its more recently settled west. Indirect subsides lowered the cost of gas, and from the 1950s the building of the Interstate Highway System made it easy, at least for at time, to commute between city and suburb.

As pointed out in the Vox videos “Why American Public Transit Is So Bad” and “How Highways Wrecked American Cities,” these massive roads ran not around or under cities (as they do in much of Europe and Asia) but straight through their centers, part of a larger process of “urban renewal” that ironically destroyed quite a few of what dense urban neighborhoods the U.S. had. More than half a century of highway-building, suburbanization, and strict zoning later, most Americans find themselves unable to get where they need to go without buying a car and driving themselves. The situation is even worse for those traveling between cities, as examined above in Wendover Productions’ “Why Trains Suck in America.” As an American, I take a certain satisfaction in hearing these questions addressed — but I take an even greater one in being an American living abroad.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova Tells Protestors What to Do–and Not Do–If Arrested by Authoritarian Police


Note: If the subtitles don’t play automatically, please click the “cc” at the bottom of the video.

Oligarchic regimes built on corruption and naked self-interest don’t typically exhibit much in the way of creativity when responding to crises of legitimacy. The most recent challenge to the oligarchic rule of Vladimir Putin, for example, after the attempted assassination and jailing of his rival, anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny, revealed “the regime’s utter lack of imagination and inability to plan ahead,” writes Masha Gessen at The New Yorker, and seems to promise an opening for a revolutionary movement.

Perhaps it’s safer to say, Joshua Yaffa writes, “that Russian politics are merely entering the beginning of a protracted new phase,” that will involve more large, coordinated mass protests against the “perceived impunity and lawlessness of Putin’s system,” such as happened all over the country in recent days: “In St. Petersburg, a sizable crowd blocked Nevsky Prospekt, the city’s main thoroughfare. Several thousand gathered in Novosibirsk, the largest city in Siberia. Even in Yakutsk, a faraway regional capital, where the day’s temperatures reached minus fifty-eight degrees Fahrenheit, a number of people came out to the central square.”




Footage from the protests “shows activists pelting Russian riot police and vehicles with snowballs,” Dazed reports. Massive, in-real-life protests have been organized and supported by online activists on Tik Tok, YouTube, and other social media sites, where young people like viral teenager Neurolera share tips—such as pretending to be an indignant American—that might help protestors avoid arrest. In one video calling on young students to attend Saturday’s protests, a young woman holds a book, and captions “explain how she is reading about how citizens’ rights are guaranteed,” writes Brendan Cole at Newsweek. “But wait!” she says in one caption, “In Russia things happen differently.”

Russian citizens, and especially young activists, do not walk into protest situations unprepared for arrest and detention—particularly those who follow longtime trouble-makers Pussy Riot, famous for staging flamboyant anti-Putin protests and getting arrested. In the video at the top, the band/activist collective’s Nadya Tolokonnikova explains “how to behave when you’re arrested.” Detention “is an unpleasant experience,” she says, but it need not “end up being such a traumatic experience.” One must conquer fear with knowledge. During her first arrest, “I was scared because I felt that the police officers held an enormous power over me. That’s not true.”

The English translation seems inexact and many of the intricacies of Russian law will not translate to other national contexts. Woven throughout the video, however, are generally prudent tips—like not adding criminal charges by attacking police during arrest. Last year, the group distributed anti-surveillance make-up tips also useful to activists everywhere. The viral spread of videos like Pussy Riot’s and Neurolera’s tutorial show us a worldwide desire for youthful hope and determination in the face of brutal realities. Yaffa describes the “scenes of police employing brute force” that filled his Russian-language social media during the protests:

In one such video, from St. Petersburg, a woman confronts a column of riot policemen dragging a protester by his arms and asks, “Why are you arresting him?” One of the police officers kicks her in the chest, knocking her to the ground. Watching these scenes, I couldn’t help but think of Belarus, where months of street protests against the rule of Alexander Lukashenka have been marked by brutality and torture by the security forces, and a remarkable willingness from protesters to fight back against riot police, at times forcing them to retreat or abandon making an arrest.

These images do not spread so readily in English-language media, perhaps giving a superficial impression that the current anti-Putin, pro-Navalny movement is a new, young online phenomenon, rather than the continuation of a battle-hardened resistance to twenty years of misrule. “Throwing the book at Navalny could spark protests of undetermined strength and longevity,” Yaffa argues, from which mass movements around the world draw inspiration for years to come.

via Dazed

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

How to Talk with a Conspiracy Theorist: What the Experts Recommend

Why do people pledge allegiance to views that seem fundamentally hostile to reality? Maybe believers in shadowy, evil forces and secret cabals fall prey to motivated reasoning. Truth for them is what they need to believe in order to get what they want. Their certainty in the justness of a cause can feel as comforting as a warm blanket on a winter’s night. But conspiracy theories go farther than private delusions of grandeur. They have spilled into the streets, into the halls of the U.S. Capitol building and various statehouses. Conspiracy theories about a “stolen” 2020 election are out for blood.

As distressing as such recent public spectacles seem at present, they hardly come near the harm accomplished by propaganda like Plandemic—a short film that claims the COVID-19 crisis is a sinister plot—part of a wave of disinformation that has sent infection and death rates soaring into the hundreds of thousands.




We may never know the numbers of people who have infected others by refusing to take precautions for themselves, but we do know that the number of people in the U.S. who believe conspiracy theories is alarmingly high.

A Pew Research survey of adults in the U.S. “found that 36% thought that these conspiracy theories” about the election and the pandemic “were probably or definitely true,” Tanya Basu writes at the MIT Technology Review. “Perhaps some of these people are your family, your friends, your neighbors.” Maybe you are conspiracy theorist yourself. After all, “it’s very human and normal to believe in conspiracy theories…. No one is above [them]—not even you.” We all resist facts, as Cass Sunstein (author of Conspiracy Theories and Other Dangerous Ideas) says in the Vox video above, that contradict cherished beliefs and the communities of people who hold them.

So how do we distinguish between reality-based views and conspiracy theories if we’re all so prone to the latter? Standards of logical reasoning and evidence still help separate truth from falsehood in laboratories. When it comes to the human mind, emotions are just as important as data. “Conspiracy theories make people feel as though they have some sort of control over the world,” says Daniel Romer, a psychologist and research director at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center. They’re airtight, as Wired shows below, and it can be useless to argue.

Basu spoke with experts like Romer and the moderators of Reddit’s r/ChangeMyView community to find out how to approach others who hold beliefs that cause harm and have no basis in fact. The consensus recommends proceeding with kindness, finding some common ground, and applying a degree of restraint, which includes dropping or pausing the conversation if things get heated. We need to recognize competing motivations: “some people don’t want to change, no matter the facts.”

Unregulated emotions can and do undermine our ability to reason all the time. We cannot ignore or dismiss them; they can be clear indications something has gone wrong with our thinking and perhaps with our mental and physical health. We are all subjected, though not equally, to incredible amounts of heightened stress under our current conditions, which allows bad actors like the still-current U.S. President to more easily exploit universal human vulnerabilities and “weaponize motivated reasoning,” as University of California, Irvine social psychologist Peter Ditto observes.

To help counter these tendencies in some small way, we present the resources above. In Bill Nye’s Big Think answer to a video question from a viewer named Daniel, the longtime science communicator talks about the discomfort of cognitive dissonance. “The way to overcome that,” he says, is with the attitude, “we’re all in this together. Let’s learn about this together.”

We can perhaps best approach those who embrace harmful conspiracy theories by not immediately telling them that we know more than they do. It’s a conversation that requires some intellectual humility and acknowledgement that change is hard and it feels really scary not to know what’s going on. Below, see an abridged version of MIT Technology Review’s ten tips for reasoning with a conspiracy theorist, and read Basu’s full article here.

  1. Always, always speak respectfully: “Without respect, compassion, and empathy, no one will open their mind or heart to you. No one will listen.”
  2. Go private: Using direct messages when online “prevents discussion from getting embarrassing for the poster, and it implies a genuine compassion and interest in conversation rather than a desire for public shaming.”
  3. Test the waters first: “You can ask what it would take to change their mind, and if they say they will never change their mind, then you should take them at their word and not bother engaging.”
  4. Agree: “Conspiracy theories often feature elements that everyone can agree on.”
  5. Try the “truth sandwich”: “Use the fact-fallacy-fact approach, a method first proposed by linguist George Lakoff.”
  6. Or use the Socratic method: This “challenges people to come up with sources and defend their position themselves.”
  7. Be very careful with loved ones: “Biting your tongue and picking your battles can help your mental health.”
  8. Realize that some people don’t want to change, no matter the facts.
  9. If it gets bad, stop: “One r/ChangeMyView moderator suggested ‘IRL calming down’: shutting off your phone or computer and going for a walk.”
  10. Every little bit helps. “One conversation will probably not change a person’s mind, and that’s okay.”

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Antonio Gramsci Writes a Column, “I Hate New Year’s Day” (January 1, 1916)

I want every morning to be a new year’s for me. Every day I want to reckon with myself, and every day I want to renew myself. No day set aside for rest. I choose my pauses myself, when I feel drunk with the intensity of life and I want to plunge into animality to draw from it new vigour.

“Everyday is like Sunday,” sang the singer of our mopey adolescence, “In the seaside town that they forgot to bomb.” Somehow I could feel the grey malaise of post-industrial Britain waft across the ocean when I heard these words… the dreary sameness of the days, the desire for a conflagration to wipe it all away….

The call for total annihilation is not the sole province of supervillains and heads of state. It is the same desire Andrew Marvell wrote of centuries earlier in “The Garden.” The mind, he observed, “withdraws into its happiness” and creates “Far other worlds, and other seas; Annihilating all that’s made / To a green thought in a green shade.”




Is not annihilation what we seek each year on New Year’s Eve? To collectively wipe away the bad past by fiat, with fireworks? To welcome a better future in the morning, because an arbitrary record keeping system put in place before Marvell was born tells us we can? The problem with this, argued Italian Marxist party pooper and theorist Antonio Gramsci, is the problem with dates in general. We don’t get to schedule our apocalypses.

On January 1st, 1916, Gramsci published a column titled “I Hate New Year’s Day” in the Italian Socialist Party’s official paper Avanti!, which he began co-editing that year.

Every morning, when I wake again under the pall of the sky, I feel that for me it is New Year’s day.

That’s why I hate these New Year’s that fall like fixed maturities, which turn life and human spirit into a commercial concern with its neat final balance, its outstanding amounts, its budget for the new management. They make us lose the continuity of life and spirit. You end up seriously thinking that between one year and the next there is a break, that a new history is beginning; you make resolutions, and you regret your irresolution, and so on, and so forth. This is generally what’s wrong with dates.

The dates we keep, he says, are forms of “spiritual time-serving” imposed on us from without by “our silly ancestors.” They have become “invasive and fossilizing,” forcing life into repeating series of “mandatory collective rhythms” and forced vacations. But that is not how life should work, according to Gramsci.

Whether or not we find merit in his cranky pronouncements, or in his desire for socialism to “hurl into the trash all of these dates with have no resonance in our spirit,” we can all take one thing away from Gramsci’s critique of dates, and maybe make another resolution today: to make every morning New Year’s, to reckon with and renew ourselves daily, no matter what the calendar tells us to do. Read a full translation of Gramsci’s column at Viewpoint Magazine.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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