PostMarxisms, Summer 2011

COMM 6160/8980, Summer 2011
Tuesdays & Thursdays, 4:45-7:30
1020 One Park Place

Course Description
Is Marxism dead? If so, what other forms of critique and imagination can help us think beyond the injustices and unsustainability of global capitalism? What can we learn from the successes and failures of the Marxist project?

The goal of the course is to take stock of the value and legacy of the Marxist critical tradition for contemporary debates about culture and politics. Over the seven weeks, we’ll alternate reading Marx himself with work by theorists engaging his legacy.

Required Texts

Karl Marx, Capital, Volume 1
Terry Eagleton, Why Marx Was Right
Fredric Jameson, Representing Capital
Slavoj Zizek, Living in the End Times
Giles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus
Marcus Boon, In Praise of Copying
Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things

In addition to the readings, you will also be required to watch or listen to David Harvey’s series of lectures, Reading Marx’s Capital. It’s available in a variety of streaming and downloadable formats at http://davidharvey.org/reading-capital.

Schedule

6/7    Introduction
6/9    Capital, chapters 1-2; Harvey, classes 1-2

6/14    Terry Eagleton, Why Marx Was Right
6/16    Capital, chapters 3-6; Harvey, classes 3-4

6/21    Fredric Jameson, Representing Capital
6/23    Capital, chapters 7-11; Harvey, classes 5-6

6/28    Slavoj Zizek, Living in the End Times
6/30    Capital, chapters 12-15; Harvey, classes 7-9

7/5    Giles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus
7/7    Capital, chapters 16-25; Harvey, classes 10-11

7/12    Marcus Boon, In Praise of Copying
7/14    Capital, chapters 26-33; Harvey, classes 12-13

7/19    Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things
7/21    Research Presentations/Party at Ted’s house

Paper due 7/28

Assignments

The class assignments add up to total of 100 possible points. Your final grade for the class is determined by adding up your grades for each assignment, adjusting for attendance, then applying the final number to the following scale:

A+    100-98        B+    89-88        C+    79-78        D    69-65
A     97-93        B    87-83        C    77-70        F    64-0
A-    92-90        B-    82-80

I. Book Discussions – 6160: 20% of final grade each; 8690: 15% of final grade each
You will sign up to lead, with a group, discussions of two of the assigned books (other than Capital). To prepare for the discussion of the reading, research these questions to put the reading in a broader context:

What is the author’s background? What discipline is the author trained in? What else has s/he written? In which journals has s/he published?

What was the reception of the book? How was book reviewed? What criticisms have been made of the author’s work? How has the author responded? Whom has the author influenced?

Then, meet with your group to prepare for a class discussion. Don’t bother summarizing the work. Rather, address on these areas:

Theoretical debates: In what theoretical debates does the work intervene? Where does the author stand? Whom does the author criticize? How does this work move the debate forward?

Examples: Pick 2-3 media examples that are either directly addressed by the author, or that can be illuminated by applying the author’s ideas. Show a representative sample from the text (any clip should be no more than 5 minutes). Discuss how the author would (or does) interpret the example. What are the strengths and limitations of this interpretation? What alternate interpretations are possible?

Outline the key topics of discussion in a short (1-2 page) handout for the class. There’s no need to include more detail, or to prepare a PowerPoint presentation – the focus should be on presenting material orally and facilitating a good class discussion.

II. Contemporary Capital example – 10% of grade
For one week’s reading in Capital, bring in a relevant contemporary example so that class can assess the applicability and value of Marx’s ideas today. Choose a text to present to the class to get the discussion going, such as a video clip.

IIi. Outside reading presentation – 8690 only: 10% of grade
PhD students will read one additional book, and give a 15-20 minute presentation on the work to the class, summarizing the book’s key arguments, the critical response to the book, and how its ideas relate to the themes of the course.

III. Final Paper – 50% of final grade
Write a paper on a subject relating to the ideas of the class. 6160: 12-15 pages. 8690: 18-25 pages. Doctoral work will also be expected to meet a higher standard of theoretical sophistication.

A one-page prospectus is due July 5. I will schedule individual meetings with you to discuss the prospectus.
You will give a short (10 minute) presentation of your work in progress on July 21.
The final paper is due July 28.

IV. Attendance Adjustment
As Woody Allen put it, “80 percent of success is showing up.” It’s less than that in this formula, but the bottom line is that you can’t contribute to the class if you’re not there. You’re allowed one unexcused absence for the semester. After that, each unexcused absence subtracts one point from your grade total. Excused absences include medical and family emergencies. You will be expected to schedule any employment responsibilities around this class, or accept the consequences of missed classes for your grade. If you do need to miss a class, please contact me ahead of time, and make arrangements to catch up on missed material.

Policies

Office Hours
Office hours are by appointment. I’m usually available to meet before and after every class.

Incompletes
Incompletes may be given only in special hardship cases. Incompletes will not be used merely for extending the time for completion of course requirements.

Assessment
Your constructive assessment of this course plays an indispensable role in shaping education at Georgia State. Upon completing the course, please take time to fill out the online course evaluation.

Disability
Students who wish to request accommodation for a disability may do so by registering with the Office of Disability Services. Students may only be accommodated upon issuance by the Office of Disability Services of a signed Accommodation Plan and are responsible for providing a copy of that plan to instructors of all classes in which accommodations are sought.

Changes to the Syllabus
This syllabus provides a general plan for the course. Deviations may be necessary.

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