Dana’s Book Clubs

Barnard Book Club – Spring &Summer 2021 (Open to CU, UB, and any interested student of Marx)

Environmental Science Department

Book Club – Marx, Capital . Vol. 1 

Also, available here

Chapter Dana’s questions
1 Ch1. Sect.1. 

  1. Can wealth be described in any other way than accumulation of commodities?
  2. Do you think we can have wants satisfied otherwise than as means of subsistence or means of production?
  3. Let’s talk about use-value and exchange value.
  4. Does use-value become a reality only by use or consumption? “use -values become a reality only by use or consumption:they also constitute the substance of all wealth, whatever may be the social form of that wealth.”
  5. Commodities are the “material depositories of exchange-value” as a quantitative relation.
  6. Let’s consider  exchange value as human labor in the abstract; as use-values commodities are different qualities; as exchange-value merely different in quantity; not an atom of use-value;
  7. Exchange value=Congelation of human labor measured by duration;
  8. Problematic or not?: the value of a commodity remains constant if the amount of congealed work is the same;
  9. Nothing can have value without being an object of utility (for others)


  1. Is division of labor still necessary for the production of commodities (different labor; different use-value; coat; linen; you can’t exchange coat for a coat)
  2. Use-values cannot be exchanged unless they contain different useful labor embodied in them. Is that true? Two coats looking identical but with different labels have different use-value and exchange value;
  3. Let’s consider product activity as the expenditure of human labor
  4. The value of labor; skilled and simple labor – problematic – there is no connection anymore – therefore the reward of CEOs and manual workers is out of sink;
  5. “Since the magnitude of the value of a commodity represents only the quantity of labor embodied in it, it follows that all commodities, when taken in certain propositions, must be equal in value.
  6. Worth thinking about : “an increase in the quantity of use-values is an increase of material wealth. With 2 coats 2 men can be clothed, with 1 coat one man. Nevertheless, an increased quantity of material wealth  may correspond to a simultaneous fall in the magnitude of its  value.” How   can you prevent the fall in value while increasing the material wealth (or the production of coats)?


  1. Commodities have utility and exchange value.
  2. Exchange value  is relational to something else; another exchange value (qualitatively different or money)
  3. Human labor creates value but it is not  a value; only when  it becomes  congealed in use-value items, it has value.
  4. The relational value  needs a constant = money
  5. Nonsense or deep observation? It is not the exchange of commodities that regulates their magnitude of their  value but it is the magnitude of their value that controls their exchange
  6. Money – utility universal value equivalent; exchangeable in itself for itself
  7. NOTHING yet on how the exchange is established – 1 coat for $

Sect. 4

  1. P. 59. Interesting nature of comedies; they develop a relationship with each other although they are human products. TRUE  or FALSE for fashion ?
  2. Bourgeois economy- commodity economy
  3. Fallacy – ignore the time Robinson Crusoe spent praying because it was recreational – can people create value while enjoying their recreational work? 
  4. Personal dependance characterizes the social relations of production in feudalism
  5. The social relations between individuals in the performance of their labor appear at all events as their own mutual personal  relations and are not disguised as social relations between products of labor
  1. Commodities have qualities that differentiate them from other “things”, such as
    1. Things (without power of resistance) p.70
    2.  Within the realm of possession 
    3. Objects of juridical relations between their possessors (guardians)
    4. Objects of private property
    5. Object of contractual relations, 
    6. Contracts are a reflection of economic relations between the contractual parties;
    7. In capitalism, people exist for one another merely as representatives of and as owners of commodities 
  2. (Contradiction? not necessarily true?) To their owners commodities possess no immediate use-value (M doubted there would otherwise have been exchanged)
  3. Commodities have use-value to their non-owners (always true?)
  4. Later – specified commodities must show their use value, before they are realised as values (to their owner?)
  5. To realize their value, commodities must be convertible into suitable commodities of equal value
  6. “In the beginning was the deed” (what does that mean for M?)
  7. Revelations 17:13 and 13:17 – i believe this is anti-semtic (any thoughts about the meaning of restrictions for those engaged in buying and selling?) (p. 72)
  8. I can’t believe what Marx says that “money” was a creation of nomadic people because they were on contact with foreign communities soliciting the exchange of products (bartering can be used for that: beads, etc), but that it reached national scale during the French bourgeois revolution (that ignores the Glorious Revolution (i love its name) and the subsequent capitalist society there, then in the US…this is a bit too unsettling. 
  9. The money form must have required a level of development and settlement to make the money.
  10. (as an aside there are  so many theories of money that there cannot be a simple answer. If you want to have not only a means of exchange, money has a very  long history. If you also require a common unit of account and convertibility  of all other private moneys into that unit – money exists only with the  rise of nation states.  One of the most thoughtful writers on the matter is Roy Kreitner at  Tel Aviv university ; student of Christine Desan at Harvard who describes money as a constitutional  project…)
  11. But Marx uses the idea of land as money and relates it to the French revolution (which is inaccurate)  but let’s wait until he develops it in later chapters
  12. Money serves as the manifestation of the value of commodities. How?
  13. The use value of the money-commodity becomes two-fold. How?
  14. Interesting thought (especially then) all commodities are merely particular equivalents of money
  15. Troublesome assertion: asserting magnitude by the labor-time required for its production 
3 Sect. 1

  1. “It is not the money that renders commodities commensurable. Just the contrary. It is because all commodities, as values, are realized human labour”… that they can be measured by the same commodity, money. But was this irrefutably demonstrated? How do you feel about using such conclusory/conclusive  statements?
  2. Money = measure of value = labour time = necessary for the very existence of commodities (phenomenal form). Thoughts?
  3. Money has no price; its own equivalent;
  4. We have discussed this before, but here is again the value of a ton of iron is “the quantity of human labor that is contained in [it]” – and that simply is not true: + scarcity; potential usefulness (ok, future labor); anything else that might influence its value?
  5. What 2 functions do money serve? (pg 81)
  6. Inflation leaves the relative prices of commodities the same 
  7. “A general rise in the prices of commodities can result only, either from a rise in their values – the value of money remaining constant – or from a fall in the value of money, the values of commodities remaining constant.” Thoughts?
  8. “Price is the money-name of the labour realised in a commodity.” I would say that price is the money-name of the exchange value of a commodity.
  9. Marx  “price being the exponent of the magnitude of a commodity’s [exchange] value, is the exponent of its exchange -ratio with money [but  not necessarily] the exponent of the commodity’s [use] value . He introduces deviating value in gold as money. Of course, that is not the standard measure for money today…
  10. Magnitude of value expresses  a relation of social production [between the article and the amount of labor required to produce it]. Thoughts? Can it express a different relation? 
  11. Very interesting: “although money is nothing is nothing but the value-form of commodities, price ceases altogether to express value. Objects that in themselves are no commodities, such as conscience, honor, etc. are capable of being offered for sale by their holders, and of thus acquiring, through their price, the form of commodities
  12. The transubstantiation discussion (unnecessary today because money is not gold-based any longer) it is illuminating  (85); 
  13. BUT for Marx, is money about trust (for Dantem faith as a coin)? Thoughts?

«Assai bene è trascorsa
d’esta moneta già la lega e ’l peso;
ma dimmi se tu l’hai ne la tua borsa».
Ond’io: «Sì ho, sì lucida e sì tonda,
che nel suo conio nulla mi s’inforsa». (Par. 24.83-87)

“Now this coin is well-examined,
and now we know its alloy and its weight.
But tell me: do you have it in your purse?”
And I: “Indeed I do—so bright and round
that nothing in its stamp leads me to doubt.”

Sect 2.

  1. Insists that commodities exchange from hands to hands thus from  non-use-values become use-value. But this seems pedantic and untrue (as discussed; selling my blue glasses, etc). Thoughts?
  2. Use-value is associated with consumption. Potential use value is on the market. Can Marx be right here and wrong in Q.1 above?
  3. “Commodities as use-value stand opposed to money as exchange value”. Thoughts? 
  4. The linen explanation – how prices go up and down for the same commodity on the market at the same time (caught together hung together) . Thoughts? (90)
  5. The division of labor converts the product of labor into a commodity (now we understand why Marx needed the division of labor; but is it necessary to explain the role of money?)
  6. Beautiful explanation of the realization of a commodity’s price.
  7. “Up to this point we have considered men in only one economic capacity, that of owners of commodities, a capacity in which they appropriate the produce of the labor of others, by alienating that of their own labor.” How?
  8. Money the metamorphosed shape of all other commodities, the result of their general alienation
  9. Difference between barter and money circulation (money is not consumed through one exchange)
  10. What produces a crisis: if the interval between sale and purchase become too pronounced…
  11. “The antithesis, use-value and value, the contradictions that private labor is bound to manifest itself as direct social labor, that a particular, concrete kind of labor has to pass for abstract human labor, the contradiction between the personification of objects and the representation of persons by things; all of these antitheses and contradictions, which are immanent in commodities, assert themselves and develop their modes of motion, in the antithetical phases of the metamorphosis of a commodity.  
  12. These modes imply the possibility of a crisis
  13. C-M-C
  14. The price depends of the mass of commodities in circulation

Sect. 3

  1. Transformation from coin into money from movable to immovable (civil law terminology)
  2. Money as accumulated wealth = social power becomes the private power of who has it (gold) 
  3. A commodity has specific value =satisfies specific wants; but its value shows the social wealth of its owner (very interesting)
  4. Money as means of payment
  5. Credit – money springs directly out of the function of money as a means of payment. Certificates of the debts owning for the purchased commodities circulate for the purpose of transferring those debts to others. (118)
  6. Conversion of taxes in kind into money taxes
  7. Universal money
  8. Bourgeois form of production…and universal money
Chp 4&5 The transformation of money into capital

Ch. 4. 

  1. “Capital, as opposed to landed property invariably takes the form of money” / Thoughts?
  2. Distinction between money that is only money and money that is capital = difference in their form of circulation. Thoughts?
  3. MCM=CMC because 
    1. Antithetical phases
    2. Same material and same dramatis personae
    3. Each circuit is the unity of the same antithetical phases (sell/buy)
  4. MCM # CMC because
    1. Inverted order of succession
    2. What is not spent is advanced.  
  5. Trade is speculation (127)
  6. Fn 127: trade is gambling; every transaction in which one buys  in order to sell, it is a speculation (Corbet, etc)
  7. Momentarily the surplus value is distinguishable from value…but not at the end…Money ends the movement only to begin it again. …the expansion of value has no limit…[remember this when we read ch 5] The conscious representative of this movement … the capitalist ….consciousness and a will]. Thoughts?
  8. Fn 128 capital is divisible into original capital and profit … profit is invested as capital [Engels]
  9. Fn 129 Aristotle’s economics =has a limit = goods, etc;  and chrematistic = art of making money (speculation)
  10. Fn 130 commodities are not the goal of the merchant/”trading capitalist” money is [Chalmers]
  11. All commodities are money [anti-semitic; self hating remark] 
  12. Industrial capital; interest bearing capital, [introducing variations of capital]

Ch. 5

  1. The inverted order in which money becomes capital is the reason for money to become capital rather than remaining a value measure; buy to sell for profit ; but how? If I make a profit here I lose it there and the sum value remains the same, but is it so? a) if there is one standard of measuring value [M introduces quantity of incorporated social labor], and M assumes supply and demand are equal
  2. Could Condillac be right that [at least sometimes] value depends on our wants? [the psychological aspect of value?
  3. Commerce does add value to products. But how? 
  4. The buyer performs an act of production transforming stockings into money
  5. So, something happens during the exchange phase to produce the surplus value;
  6. Is it the added value through the labor added during the exchange ? 
  7. Does it originate outside
  8. Are there laws that explain how value is respected both in selling and purchasing and nevertheless value is added

Barnard Book Club -Fall 2020

Environmental Science Department

The Rule of Five – Available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and on Clio.columbia.edu


Week Chapter/pages Proposed Questions
10/28 1-2; Ch. 1: 3-15; Ch. 2:16-25
  1. What makes Joe Mendelson memorable as a lawyer? 
  2. How did the presidential aspirations of Vice-President Al Gore influence the Clinton Administration’s environmental policies?
  3. Explain the role of Carole Browner, the EPA Secretary regarding the EPA rulemaking role (ability to regulate pollution).
  4. What is your understanding about how Congressional hearings work?
  5. What was the goal of Medelson’s petition to the EPA?
  6. What were the three legal arguments Mendelson made in his petition to the EPA requiring it to regulate carbon dioxide emissions in specific instances?
  7. Which one was the strongest in your view?
  8. Which one was the weakest in your view?
  9. Is the right to petition a first amendment right? Based on what?
  10. Once filed with the EPA, it took seven (7) years to Mendelson’s petition to reach the United States Supreme court. Briefly describe what happened to his petition before it reached EPA’s Office of General Counsel.
11/4 Ch3: 26-35; Ch.4 36-53

Ch. 5 54-64

  1. On the campaign trail, what did candidate G.W. Bush promise regarding environmentalism?
  2. Once electected, President Bush continued his policies, and her nomination at the helm of the EPA proved it.
  3. What does Lazarus mean when he refers to the fact that Vice-President Cheney kneecapped Secretary Whitman?
  4. How do you view the letter that VP Cheney had drafted for Congress, describing the rulemaking powers of the EPA?
  5. Lazarus refers to the letter drafting in the following terms:  “Presidents have wide-ranging policy discretion in deciding whether, when, and how to exercise the authority conferred on them by the Constitution and by act of Congress. But as the US Supreme Court made clear in no less than its landmark 1803 ruling in Marbury v. Madison almost 2 centuries before, ‘It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is’.” How do you judge the White House decision to dictate its federal agency to abdicate its rulemaking power (stating that it has no power to regulate carbon dioxide emissions?)
  6. At page 44  (Ch. 4), Lazarus explains the concerted efforts of the major environmental NGO on Mendelson to do nothing, one year after his petition was filed with the EPA. How do you explain that approach?
  7. What is your understanding about the folks working for the EPA? How can they be described? Politicians? Technocrats? How would you like the EPA to be staffed?
  8. Chapter 5,  “the carbon dioxide warriors” , introduces four other lawyers who championed litigation upon the EPA’s denial of Mendelson’s petition. Can you briefly describe their background?
11/11 Ch. 6: 65-78; Ch.7:79-87
  1. How are lawsuits against the EPA’s denial under the Clean Air Act, litigated differently than any other administrative  lawsuits?
  2. https://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/pdf/05-1120P.ZS 
11/18 Ch.8: 88-96; Ch. 9:97-106; Ch.10: 107-121 Name of Judge Tatel https://youtu.be/D9v3FM0YFS0 
11/25 Ch.11:122-33 ; Ch.12:134-52;
12/2 Ch. 13:153-67 Ch.14:168-84;
  1. Your view on the amount of preparation Milkey put into it; LH’s participation in the Moots; 
12/9 Ch.15:185-203 Ch.16:204-18; Ch. 17:219-38
12/16 Ch.18: 239-54; Ch.19:255-70;
12/23 Ch.20:271-84; Epilogue 285-94