7001 3 Marx and History

What is worked out scientifically in Adam Smith, Ricardo, and then later scientifically grounded in Marx’s Capital is more or less a theoretical logic of Capitalism—the social pressures to compete and reduce costs in the name of accumulation of capital, or be swallowed by those that do. This is all immensely important and a first necessary step to understanding and critiquing. However, it is still an abstract logic that needs materialist bearers (Träger) for this logic to express itself in the world. At the basic level, the form in which this logic is organized and actualized is the nation-state—and this is the famous “national question” of Marxist theory. In chapters 26-33 and in the Eighteenth Brumaire we see the complex relations between logic and history.

The actual ways in which the social compunctions of capitalism are actualized in history is the national question: how value and surplus value is expressed as international gold standard or better as a national currency and the like. The national question also includes the actual production and reproduction of the categories and identities of Capitalist society, not only the proletariat and the capitalist, but also racial and gendered identities as well.

Readings:

  1. Marx, Capital vol. 1, chs. 26-33.
  2. Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon

Recommended/Background

  1. Walker, “Primitive Accumulation, or the Logic of Origin
  2. Tomba, “Political Historiography: Re-reading the Eighteenth Brumaire” in Marx’s Temporalities, pp. 35-59.