An Introduction to the Work of Karl Marx: Science of Revolution and Revolutionary Science

Screen shot 2015-09-21 at 10.50.47
In this lecture I claim that the work of Karl Marx (1818-1883) was not only a science of revolution but also a revolutionary  science, constituting a scientific revolution in social and political thought. This claim is based on Marx’s discovery of the dynamic substance: value in motion, on which  the social universe of Capital is founded: a dynamic substance that is unknown and invisible to the methods of bourgeois social science. This claim is grounded in a reappraisal of Marx’s social theory that seeks to recover and develop the revolutionary proposition in Marx’s writing through ‘a critique of value’: or anti-value in motion, which recognises the revolutionary principles (communism) and practices(class struggle) out of which a postcapitalist society is already emerging, but is always and everywhere at risk.

Revolutionary Science

‘In 1858, not a single person in the world understood the Grundrisse except Marx, and even he had trouble with it. It was an altogether unique and in every sense strange product of the intellect, and must have appeared like the reflections of some man from a distant planet. Emerging from a rat hole of an apartment in a London slum a bearded foreigner in worn clothing makes his way to the British museum; writes articles all day for a newspaper in far-off New York; reads obscure treatises no one else has read; pores over a ton of government Blue Books ignored by all; returns to the slum, works deep into the night, piling up notebooks in an illegible script. Hegel? Adam Smith? Ricardo? Proudhon? Who knew or cared? If Marx had died in mid-1858 (it was not so distant a possibility) these seven winter work books might well have remained a book of as many seals. Instead, he emerged in 1863 as the only man in London – where working-class leaders from all over the world were in exile or visiting – who could precisely articulate the grounds for the general working class feeling that the emancipation of wage slaves required the abolition of slavery in its chattel form; the only man in 1864 who could formulate the elementary principles of unity for the first effective international association of workers; the only man within that association who could refute the narrow reformism of the trade union leaders and the doctrinaire anti-unionism of the utopians and anarchists, all in one coherent systematic argument. Amidst the enormous welter of sects, tendencies, utopias, schemes and hare-brained notions that rose to the surface like froth in a storm, there was only one person who had the basic outline of the entire historical movement firmly and clearly in mind; who had a concept of the whole, of its contradictions and limits, and of the road to its overthrow. If we are able to understand the Grundrisse at all today it is because Marx began and others have continued to demonstrate the actuality of its concept in practice and because history itself has leaped ahead. Much that could be expressed in 1857 and only in the form of a hopelessly abstract abstraction has become today so concrete and familiar as almost to become commonplace. Cataclysms, crises?..What is remarkable about all this…[historical]… development is not so much that is has developed but that Marx was able more than a century ago to grasp its outlines. This is a tribute not to his “genius” – that is a nonsense term – but to his method of work.’

(Martin Nicolaus, Foreword to the Grundrisse, 1993:  lv)

Free Education! A “Live” Report on the Chilean Student Movement 2011-2014 – reform or revolution? [A Political Sociology for Action]

Screen shot 2015-09-19 at 17.16.00

Magical Realism #lookingforallende @mikeneary

Written by Elisabeth Simbuerger and Mike Neary


This paper provides a report on the Chilean student movement, 2011 – 2014, from the perspective of the students themselves, based on the research question: are the student protesters for reform or revolution? The research was done just before the November 2013 Chilean Presidential and Parliamentary elections using  ‘live methods’ (Back and Puwar 2012).  The live methods used here include an  ethnographic report from a student protest march in downtown Santiago, Chile, illustrated with a Twitter hashtag (#lookingforallende) and shaped by an analytical framework through which the student protest can be interpreted. The analytical framework is made up of paradigms that seek to explicate radical political social transformations: charisma, social movement theory, an historical-materialist political economy, and a critique of political economy, based on an interpretation of Marx’s labour theory of value in a postcolonial context.  Each of these paradigms are elaborated with reference to an exemplary publication that deals with the Chilean situation in particular and Latin America more generally. The paper refers to this version of live methods as ‘political sociology for action’. The paper maintains that the students have developed a sophisticated consciousness in relation to the problems and possibilities of charismatic leadership, an awareness of the power and complexity of their own position as a social movement, together with a strong understanding of the need to contextualise their resistance within a particular version of political economy: neoliberalism. The paper suggests that a paradigm based on a critique of political economy can provide a foundational analysis for further understanding the circumstances of Chilean political society. Taken together: reporting ‘live methods’  within this analytical framework, the paper argues that political sociology for action provides a realistic estimate of the powers required not only to interpret history, but to transform it.

Keywords – reform, revolution, student movement, Allende, labour theory of value, charisma, political economy, Chile, social movements, historical materialism, postcolonialism

Published in  Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies Volume 13 No. 2