Two decades after 1989, when he was too hastily consigned to oblivion, Karl Marx has returned to the limelight. In the last few years Capital has not merely received the attention of university professors, but has also been the focus of widespread interest prompted by the international financial crisis, as leading daily and weekly papers throughout the world have been discussing the contemporary relevance of its pages. Furthermore, the literature dealing with Marx, which all but dried up 20 years ago, is showing signs of revival in many countries; and there are now, once again, many international conferences and university courses dedicated to his analysis of capitalism.
Though among the most important books of the last 150 years, Karl Marx’s Capital nevertheless represents an incomplete project. Marx himself was only able to publish the first volume (1867) in his lifetime; volumes two (1885) and three (1894) were prepared for publication by Friedrich Engels. Moreover, after Engels’ death, many of Capital’s preparatory manuscripts were published by others, still some of which provided valuable further elucidations of Marx’s theoretical project, sometimes significantly changing previous interpretations (e.g., Theories of Surplus Value, edited by Karl Kautsky, in three volumes between 1905 and 1910, and the Grundrisse, published by the Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute of Moscow between 1939-41).
Marx’s notebooks of excerpts and preparatory manuscripts for the second and third volumes of Capital are now being published in German under the auspices of the Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe (MEGA²) project. The former include not only material from the books he read but also the reflections they stimulated in him; they reveal the trajectory of his thought and the sources on which he drew in developing his own ideas. The publication of all the Capital manuscripts, and all the editorial revisions made by Engels (to be completed in German in 2012), enable a reliable critical evaluation of the extent of Engels’s input into the published editions of Volumes Two and Three.
In the light of the philological acquisitions of MEGA², this course aims to reconstruct all the stages of Marx’s critique of political economy (starting from Parisian studies of 1843-44), and, particularly, the making of Capital through the various drafts, like the Grundrisse (the interpretation of which will be emphasized), the Theories of Surplus Value and the ‘Results of the Immediate Process of Production’, better known as the ‘Unpublished Chapter VI’. Similar attention will be devoted to Marx’s 1850s journalism for the New-York Tribune, in which he dealt with topics beyond those explored in Capital and his scholarly manuscripts, which are important sources for every serious scholar of Marx.