May 25, 2008

James - eat the rich

Hi, My name is James and I'm a third-year in history at Columbia. I study modern European intellectual history, with a special interest in the history of political economy, so my interest in Marx is probably more historical than theoretical. I had a years-long brush with "hardcore neo-classical economics" (as my then-adviser put it), which left me suspicious, probably unfairly, of economics as a discipline, which would have to include Marx, although I've lately changed my mind about this.

More specifically, I'm interested in thinking about the sociological role of the intellectual in modern societies, so I'd like to keep in mind Marx's rhetorical stance vis-a-vis his material - i.e. what is his privileged role qua intellectual - in terms of the analysis he provides about the distinction between manual and intellectual labor. So perhaps this is self-serving: I don't think intellectual history, as opposed to the history of philosophy, can justify itself qua discipline without a great deal more thought about the production of the social space in which the intellectual operates than is usually provided.

May 23, 2008

Qian - Capital vs Labor


I am Qian, a Fourth-year Ph.D student of History at NYU.
I am working on Modern Chinese intellectual history. My dissertation focuses on Chinese non-affiliated left-wing intellectuals (1920s-30s) in a socially-engaged fashion. Marx's Capital and other French Marxists' theories are the entries to configure what "the social" means in my thesis.

Marx's Capital as well as many other Marxists usually start from the lens of Capital accumulation, while labor somehow is seen as secondary and dependent to Capital. My personal interest is rather slightly different by equalizing them as two independent modes of logic/reason/history. Therefore, my theoretical stance (obsession?) is more close to Hegelian Marxist Lukacs (20%) and the so-called "post-Althussurian" Marxists, Foucault (10%) and Ranciere (70%).

I am leaving next week for China and stay there for two months. I will be in touch!

Looking forward to our discussion!

May 10, 2008


I'm Paul, a first year Ph.D student in the communication studies department at the University of Iowa. My research interests include post-structural theory with an eye towards the psychoanalytic, and I firmly straddle the divide between rhetorical theory and media studies. I guess I'm most interested in getting a primary handle on the text, and figuring out what has and has not filtered down to contemporary rhetoric and media studies. The treatment my field has given to Marx has been both slight and heavy, and so I'm looking for how persuasion functions generally in his work, and also am just interested in reading parts of the history of social theory more generally, of which this is obviously a huge part.


Hi, I'm Nate, I'm a 3rd year PhD student in Modern Japanese Lit. at Columbia. My research deals with Marxist and Avant-garde literature in Japan from the 1920s - 1950s, specifically through the lenses of technology, sensation, and mediation. To that effect, in terms of my research, I'm interested in how Marx formulates and develops his theories of the objective and material worlds, as well as his discussions of the perceptual changes that accompany urbanization and industrialization. I've read chunks (you can probably guess which ones) of Vol. 1 here and there, as well as a few other selected works (again, probably the ones you'd guess), and in a more general sense, the more I read of Marx's own writing, the more I'm impressed with the relevance of his critique of capitalism for assessing our own present moment. As an undergrad, I had a brief but frightening brush with neo-classical and neoliberal economic theory, international capital development, and the like, which is perhaps part of the reason why I'm so excited about a more systematic engagement with a text such as Capital.


I've been working in magazine journalism for the past two years, after graduating from Columbia with a bachelors in Comparative Literature. I’m planning on applying to graduate programs in Anthropology this year, for Fall of 2009. I’ve only read very small excerpts from Capital before and I’m looking forward to reading a lot more with this group and discussing. I miss reading with other people and I'm excited about this!


I'm a 3rd-year doctoral student in the Columbia history department. My research is on science and philosophy in Japan from the thirties to the mid-fifties. During this reading of Capital, I think I will be looking closely at Hegelian residues and scientific metaphors... and Spinoza. Capital as physical science!


I am 4th year PhD Candidate in the NYU History Dept. focusing on modern Japanese history - with a particular interest in intellectual and social history of the interwar period. This reading group comes at a perfect time for me since, as many of us are doing in the 2008-09AY, I will be abroad for an indefinite amount of time and am eager to create some sort of engaged reading group (virtual or otherwise) to keep me from getting 'archive fever'.

While my past engagements with Capital have continually returned to the early chapters of Vol. I (commodity form/social praxis) - I would like to review the later volumes, in particular the question of reproduction (dept I and II) as well as the chapters on land, ground rent and where Marx develops his infamous 'trinity' (land-labor-capital) synthesis. Although I pitch myself as a student of 'intellectual/cultural history', I often feel drawn to the classics and current works of political economy (Hilferding, Schumpeter, Polanyi, World-Systems Theory, Regulation Theorists, Harvey, et al). But, in any event, I'm excited to read these volumes in collective approach.......look forward to future discussion......

May 9, 2008


I've just graduated from the engineering school at Columbia with a bachelor's in computer science - actually, technically I have another couple of weeks until commencement. Post graduation, I'm hoping to replace reading for class with a more systematic approach to self-education, e.g. tackling Capital.

I'm a member of the International Socialist Organization, a group in the Trotskyist tradition, and active in the antiwar movement. (For more info, please do check out our just-launched fancy new website, now updated daily.) That means I want to approach Capital with a focus on how Marx' analysis continues to apply to the world we live in. Specifically, I suppose my strongest interest is in deepening my understanding of the contradictions of capitalism - the forces driving it towards periodic crisis, the factors which give it the ability to overcome crises, and the limits to those factors.

I've read several chapters of Capital, but only a small proportion of the whole book. I know Andy, who invited me to participate in this reading group, from the Columbia policy debate team, which my partner and I more or less took over from him and which, unfortunately, died on our watch.