Political Thought Capstone


Having been wrongly identified with the Soviet Union and ‘actually existing socialism’, Marx was almost unanimously written off after the fall of the Berlin Wall and consigned to oblivion. Yet, since the outbreak of the current international economic crisis, his thought has again been attracting major attention: the study of his work is reviving almost everywhere, and university courses on Marx are again in vogue.

This course will centre on the critical interpretation of some of Marx’s main writings. It will examine various phases of his intellectual output: early philosophical and political writings, studies of political economy, historical and political works from 1848-1852, journalistic pieces from the 1850s, the drafting of Capital, political activity in the International Workingmen’s Association, the last decade of his life and work. The study of his intellectual biography will, it is hoped, bring out the theoretical gains that were decisive for the development of his thought. Reconstruction of the period and of his personal circumstances will always place the texts in their historical context, and a close examination of the drafts and preparatory materials will show the influence of certain predecessors and contemporaries in the formation of his own ideas. Close attention will also be paid to philological insights contained in recent German volumes of the historical-critical Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe (many of which are still unknown in the English-speaking world), and the resulting new interpretations of Marx’s unfinished manuscripts (for example, the Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, The German Ideology and Volumes Two and Three of Capital) will be compared with the erroneous readings of these texts by the main twentieth-century variants of Marxism.

The final part of the course will look critically at some characteristics of the main schools of Marxism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and consider the most important works published in recent years on the continuing relevance of Marx’s thought for an understanding of the contemporary world and its problems.


York University

Date of course:


Reference number:

POLS 4906 3.0(A) (F)