A journal founded in Milan in April 2014.
“But some day it is essential to read Capital to the letter. To read the text itself, complete [...] line by line.”
—Louis Althusser, Reading Capital
Das Kapital isn’t simply an abstract field, or a toolbox equipped with logical and economic instruments; it is also a machine with which to produce a new form of subjectivity and to introduce new characters and, consequently, new stories into any given political context. The extent to which Das Kapital can continue to be used to make sense of our economic–political reality is an open question. What is less so is the fact that the figures who tended to embody Marx’s revolutionary potential have disappeared from the political discourse today, as if the modern/political subjects that Das Kapital helped to define no longer figured in our collective imaginary. There is no proletariat, bourgeoisie, or intellectual, at least the way Marx and later Marxists imagined them, nor is there class struggle or revolution in the material means of production and forms of life. Although Das Kapital survives, it does so as a machine célibataire deprived of the subjects that activated it and gave it a sense of urgency.
Letters on Das Kapital is an attempt to (re)imagine the text’s characters, and with them the figures and stories that could use Marx’s toolbox to construct their subjectivity. It is an attempt to reintroduce certain figures, stories, and positions into the contemporary economic–political context. It is a search for the nonmodern subjects who can play out the capital drama; it is the project of an epic based on the depletion of a repository of philosophical wealth. Letters on Das Kapital reads Marx’s text from a multidisciplinary point of view; it is an exercise in the practice of reading, noting, commenting, repeating, interpreting, playing, ignoring—in short, it is an exercise in writing. These activities will be recorded through the exchange of letters featured regularly on the Tomorrow and through a series of seminars organized in Venice during the course of the Biennale.
In his Preface to the French edition, Marx “applauded” the idea of “publishing the translation of Das Kapital as a serial.” His reason for supporting the idea was that it would “make the book more accessible to the working-class, a consideration which to me outweighs everything else.” He did have some reservations about this procedure—for instance, he complained that it did not work very well with the method of analysis he employed, and he worried that the French might be put off by the serial format because they always want to “move on at once.” Reservations aside, however, he was seduced by the idea, and the first volume of Capital was published in France as a serial over three years, from 1872 to 1875. This serial rhythm provides a wonderful working structure for the public discussions we are proposing.