[OPE-L:4836] Re: How to teach CAPITAL

Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Tue, 22 Apr 1997 07:27:22 -0700 (PDT)

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Mike L wrote in [OPE-L:4832]:

> 1. re Hegel: I've lectured on the Phenomenology, the Logic, Philosophy of
> Right and Philosophy of History. (Also lectured on Feuerbach.) I haven't
> given the students any of Hegel to read. (I tell them it would be too
> sadistic.)

I think the problem with assigning Hegel in an introductory course isn't
that reading his writings would be "sadistic", but rather it would take a
very substantial portion of a course to read GWH intelligently. Also,
while the _Phenomenology of Spirit_ and the _Science of Logic_ make very
difficult reading indeed, I think that the _Logic_, the _Philosophy of
Mind_ (parts One and Three of the _Encyclopaedia of The Philosophical
Sciences_), and the _Philosophy of Right_ are relatively concise and
intelligeble -- even for undergraduates. Yet, philosophy students might be
better prepared to read these works than economics students.

> However, I have distributed to them several pages of excerpts
> from Lenin's Philosophical Notebooks (that I made years ago--- pre
> -computers), which has the advantage of looking back to Hegel to see what
> was important to a Marxist years later, has some good quotes from Lenin
> as well as his excerpts from the Logic; it means that I can make reference
> to Lenin's comments at those key points.

But, what was important for Lenin and other Marxists might not have been
as important for Marx and vice versa. At the risk of sounding profane, I
must say that I was never too impressed with Lenin's grasp of Hegel as
expressed in his marginal notes that became the _Philosophical Notebooks_.
I also, from the standpoint of pedagogy, believe that the _PN_ make even
more difficult reading than reading Hegel alone (this may be a problem
with any work based on marginal notes where one has to *very carefully*
read what is being excerpted and the notes).

(btw, what I find most enlightening isn't that VIL strongly recommended
reading the _Science of Logic_ as a means towards comprehending
_Capital_, but rather that he read the _Science of Logic_ in *1917*. That
act doesn't fit in well with the perspective of many anti-theoretical
"Marxist activists" on the Net who claim that reading philosophical works
is a diversion from revolutionary practice).

> [...] and
> several chapters from Duncan's book (which I consider to be the best single
> short introduction to Capital for economists--- [...]

I've also used Duncan's book _Understanding Capital_ in the section on
"Marx's Critique of Capitalism" in a course I teach at Pratt called
"Capitalism and Socialism." Non-economics students, however, may find the
equations a bit difficult.

(btw, Pratt eliminated the course on "Capitalism and Socialism" a few
years ago and then told me, unexpectantly, that I would teach it again
last Fall. The elimination of "C&S" was, I think, part of a national
[perhaps international] trend to do away with courses in "comparative
economic systems" after the downfall of the USSR and other "socialist"
societies. In fact, I was told by the Chair of the Dept. a few years ago
that there was no need for a course on Marx or socialism now that
capitalism was world-triumphant! It seems that there is now a
counter-trend in many schools and ces courses are making a come-back).

In solidarity, Jerry