A month ago I agreed to give a talk on Marx’s Capital. I wasn’t the first choice, but my thesis supervisor had another engagement. Actually he sounded quite happy to have another engagement and warned me that it would be impossible to boil Capital down to 20 minutes. I wasn’t too worried – I’ve spent so much time reading it and the secondary literature that it couldn’t be too hard, surely. Besides I had a holiday in New Zealand and a wedding in beween promise and delivery, so I wouldn’t have to think about it until a couple of days before. I would dash up some notes on the day and things would be splendid.
Well, the supervisor was right, and I’ve had a nail-biting couple of days working out what the hell to say. I found out just how little I could really say confidently about value or capital, how much the wandering in the labyrinth of the secondary lit had confused me about what Marx Actually Said.
The occasion was a meeting of the Monty Pelican Society, a pretty casual reading group with a random membership that’s been meeting for the last few months in a little office in Surry Hills to read through the classics of economic thought. I went along myself while the group worked through Adam Smith and David Ricardo.
It happened tonight and in the end it went pretty well. The group ranged from a pair from a feminist reading group who had been reading Derrida’s Spectres of Marx and decided to get a more solid look at the spectre himself, to a risk analyst for a major investment bank, slumming it. The discussion was great, especially considering most of them were reading Marx for the first time.
Afterwards I ended up having a few beers with the banker, and he told me things were “coming apart at the seams” in the market for commercial paper, and that the general consensus among his mates in the investment banking community was that a big financial shock was coming by 2010 at the latest. Now this is the kind of investment banker who goes to the odd reading group on Marx, but still, if a run on commercial paper sparks the next 1929 (his comparison), well, you heard it here first.
Anyway, I will try to post what I said on Capital here soon, but really this is just a note to explain that life is still hectic. Away for another couple of days at the Society for Heterodox Economists’ Winter School. I might also look into this commercial paper business…