So this is a course in Marxian theory. And I want to lay out for you a little bit about who I am, and how this is going to be organized. It’s going to be quite intensive. I have four weeks, every Monday, for two hours for four weeks to present a kind of condensed, intense, version of what I think Marxian theory basically is like. That means that today I’m going to introduce Marxian theory. But particularly by distinguishing it from other kinds of theory so that you can see what makes it the unique and different theory it is and enable you, hopefully, to use Marxian theory alongside of, or instead of, other kinds of theory when trying to understand the world around you. Say, for example, the current economic crisis. First let me introduce myself, so you know where this is coming from. I’m a professional economist. I went to the University and got PhD to become a professor of economics. And I have been doing that for the last 30 years. Most of that time at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst from which I officially retired december of last year. And I now teach at the New School in Manhattan, New York City. In my capacity as an economist I have had to learn both the conventional, often referred to as mainstream economic theories, and, on my own, I learned the Marxian economic theory. I had to do it on my own because it’s not part of the curriculum here in the United States. And a word about that is appropriate. in other societies, including many other capitalist societies, It is perfectly normal, usual, routine for people who are Marxists to lecture and teach courses in schools and universities, alongside their non-Marxists colleagues. That is not the case here in the United States. United States is afraid. As a society it is afraid and has been for a very long time. So for example the majority of Economics Department in the United States do not have any Marxist at all on the faculty. A few, in the interests of diversity or balance, get a token Marxist. A little bit like they would get a token woman, a token african-american etc you get a token leftist, a token marxist… And there are some like that… and I myself have been that in a variety of situations. I was helped in my particular case, which is relevant here, because my education was at the what I consider the premier American universities. I went as an undergraduate to Harvard, then I went to Stanford to get a masters in economics, and then I went to Yale, to finish my education, when I got another masters in economics, a masters in history and a PhD in economics. So I am a loaded product of the best United States has to offer. And apropos of course in Marxian economics, let me explain that at no time, when I was a student at Harvard, or Stanford, or Yale, did any professor – with one exception and he was the only Marxist there – no professor ever required me to read – with one exception – Marxism. […?] If you ask these folks “why?”, they would be awkward. There is really no explanation. The truth of it is, which they mostly wouldn’t say, is that people in my age, my colleagues, don’t know Marxian economics… Hence, they are literally not qualified to teach it, partly because where they went to school no one taught them. So where they would have learned it? They would have had to do it on their own, which is what I did. From an early age, partly because of my family and partly because of people that I sought out outside university, I learned what this was about. I was given, by kind professors who are friends in other departments or universities, I was given books to read. They would occasionally meet with me to discuss it. Basically I carved out my own curriculum, because I wanted to learn. But absent that desire, and absent some people to help me, it would have been undoable. So I am in a peculiar position as a an older American professional economist that I have and had to develop in my life a competence in the conventional mainstream theories because that’s what they taught me in school, that’s what they tested me on to get my PhD, and that’s what I have to teach in many of the school in what I have worked in my life. That’s my assingnment: go, teach that material. So I know that. But I have also learned the Marxian alternative. My colleagues never had this opportunity. They know what they had to learn like I did, but when I begin to talk, when I present my analysis, they have NO IDEIA what I’m talking about. They either cannot participate in a conversation, or make a kind of shorthand in which they are either hostile, because Marxism generates hostile feelings in people. Or they are simple minded. That is, they offer a kind of Marxism in discussions with me that’s a bit of a caricature. It’s like a difference between trying to talk to a literary professor about a great piece of English literature and having someone chime in, who never did more than read the classic comic book about that novel. And that’s not a very interesting conversation after a few minutes. That has been my experience. And so part of the rationale of this course, the whole idea of teaching this way, is to try – in my own limited way – to remedy the defect of American higher education: the fear in the United States about confronting, learning and critically thinking about an alternative way of thinking. And let me give you a metaphor that I think captures this. If you were interested in understanding a family, say a family of a boyfriend/girlfriend that you have, or the family of a relative of yours, or the family of your neighbors, and you knew that there was mother and father and three children. And you began by saying: I’m gonna ask the children what they think about this family, in way to learn about it. You quickly discover that one of the children – the first one you happen to encounter – loves their mother father and just thinks that the family they grew up in was a blessing, was the best possible family they could have had, that nurtured and loved them and so forth. Would you seriously think about this person’s evaluation of the family? For sure. There was a child, children study their parents a lot more than we mostly recognize. And so, such a child would have invaluable insights into the knowledge about that family. Now suppose you found out that one of the other two siblings didn’t like the family, didn’t feel nurtured, felt excluded, felt hurt, felt to be less love than the others. Would you talk to that one also if your goal was to understand the dynamic of the family? Would you restrict yourself to a celebrant? Or would you feel it was more appropriate to interview this one who celebrates, but also the one who criticizes? I think most reasonable people would answer that question by saying: of course to get reliable insights you should investigate both the observer who loved and the observer who didn’t”. The one who praises and the one who criticizes. You will then have to make up your own mind as to which of the more persuasive or more likely you’ll take a little bit of each one in composting together your particular ideia. That would be the reasonable way to economics too. The point of the the story is this: capitalism in Europe is about 200 to 300 years old and from the beginning of capitalism’s arrival on the scene, as it replaced the pre-existing system – feudalism that existed Europe – capitalism, like every other economic system human beings have ever lived in, has had people who loved it, and has had people who DON’T! That’s normal, that’s natural. Karl Marx was born in 1818 in the midst of this successful emergence of capitalism in Europe. He is a product of modern capitalism as it took hold in the 19th century. He lived from 1818, when capitalism was really coming into Germany, to 1883, when capitalism had become the dominant economic system in that country. So he is a student on a product of capitalism. But, like many, he was a product who became critical. That is, his experience as a mature young person – I’m going to describe it in few minutes – was an experience of thinking and living in capitalism that lad him, as indeed many others, to be critical. And he developed an analysis of capitalism that was critical of… He believed the human race could and should do better than capitalism. As I said, I’m going to explain it in a moment, but I want to get clear that he is critical. And that one of the key distinctions between Marxian economics and conventional economics is that the conventional economics fundamentally celebrates, applauds and values capitalism. And Marx DOESN’T! They both studied capitalism… a little footnote for those who may not be familiar with this: Marx never wrote a book about communism. Marx never wrote a book about socialism. he never wrote an article about either of these. That was not his interest. He felt that was looking into the future, which is not what he did. He was an ANALYST OF CAPITALISM. His books are about how the capitalist system works. But he never hid the fact that he was a critic who wanted to get beyond capitalism. And so he’s like that sibling who is critical of that family, as opposed to the celebrants, who aren’t. Let me turn then to Marx as a particular figure, since this critical approach to capitalism is associated with his name. As I say he was born in Germany in 1818. And as a young man he came from middle-class parents and so he did something that was very rare for German young people at that time: he went to college. Something like 1% of young people ever did that, which was typical of Europe at that time. Mass education is a 20th century phenomenon. Didn’t existed in 19th century anywhere. Any case, he went to the university and he majored in Philosophy. And he got the equivalent of a PhD, his doctorate, in Germany. And his first job was as a young professor of philosophy of a German university. Because this was around the middle of the 1840’s it was a time when there were revolutionary changes, because capitalism coming in and contesting with feudalism, produce lots of struggle in these societies. And particularly in 1848 there was a wave of revolutions – they called the revolutions of 1848. They happen in every European country. Marx got caught up, as many young intellectuals and Germany did, in the revolutionary ferment. And this introduced him to critical thinking about German society, which he really hadn’t encountered so much as a pretty pampered young student, who studied Greek Philosophy. His doctoral dissertation was on Epictetus, an ancient Greek philosopher. So he got caught up in political action, like many young people, and it really changed his way of thinking. He began to be less interested in Philosophy, although always remained interested. And focused himself instead on understanding the world as it was. What he called, and others at that time called, “Political Economy”. In those days they made didn’t rigid separations between economics over here and politics over there. That was thought to be artificial and unlike the way the world was… the world mixes everything together, so it makes politics and economics, because they’re always so inter-joined. So everybody in those days called themselves, who studied these things, a “political economist”. That was the name that was given to what Adam Smith did, what David Ricardo did, and what Marx did. In his involvement, he came to the attention of the German police, whose job was always to keep an eye on this. And as he became more active the German police did to him what they did it to many young radicals. In those days the appropriate thing was: you do not arrest these people, you do not jail this people, you do not injury these people and you do not kill them.