Marx’s Economy and Beyond


I In the present time of financial crisis and economic downturn, there has been renewed interest in Marx's thought and much discussion of its relevance to current problems. The interest centres, for obvious reasons, on his major economic treatise, Capital. That the three volumes of this work and the related manuscripts – the Grundrisse and Theories of Surplus Value – yield insights regarding both the periodic instability of capitalist economies and the maldistribution of the burdens of economic crisis is not to be doubted. At the same time, it is hard to think of a period since Marx's death when Marxist movements and organizations in the world's wealthiest countries were weaker than they are now. More generally, the global left is not well-stocked with practical strategies – strategies for moving towards alternative forms of economy and social organization – that look like being able to persuade Western electorates. The need for a critical renewal of Marx's materialist theoretical legacy, and for its application to contemporary societies, is as pressing as it has ever been. Everywhere the material basis of human life is called to mind: in concerns about climate change; in problems of the availability and the cost of food; in issues of land use, the control of water, and the price of oil. The materialist conception of history, as it came to be called, may sometimes have been formulated one-sidedly by Marx, Engels and the first generations of their followers, but its focus on the material infrastructure of social and political order remains indispensable both for understanding where humankind now 2 stands and for any realistic projection of how to maintain the movement of historical progress in forms that can be defended as increasingly just. One thing that is not helpful in this context, however, is a blank reassertion of the validity of Marx's most central economic categories for the analysis of global capitalism. Capital remains a work of fruitful – particular – explanatory hypotheses: hypotheses regarding, for example, the underlying causes of instability and crisis, the tendency towards the concentration of capital, the persistent production and reproduction of unemployment, the restlessly innovative drive transforming and retransforming technical processes of production and, more generally, social relations at large, and the globalizing dynamic as capitalist imperatives are pressed across national and regional boundaries. It contains the wherewithal for explaining why the geographical limits sometimes imagined for capitalist markets can generally …

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@inproceedings{Harvey2013MarxsEA, title={Marx’s Economy and Beyond}, author={Mark Harvey and NORMAN GERAS and Norman Geras}, year={2013} }