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The genesis of capitalism in the thought of Karl Marx I Lecture class: „Transition and Transition Debates in Global History“, 15.03.06, David Mayer.

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Presentation on theme: "The genesis of capitalism in the thought of Karl Marx I Lecture class: „Transition and Transition Debates in Global History“, 15.03.06, David Mayer."— Presentation transcript:

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2 The genesis of capitalism in the thought of Karl Marx I Lecture class: „Transition and Transition Debates in Global History“, , David Mayer

3 Overview The intellectual context of the genesis of Marx‘s thought: Philosophy of history „commercialization theroy“ of the development of capitalism Introduction to Marx‘s conception of History and to some of Marx‘s general categories

4 Philosophy of history in 18th/19th century Context: Enlightment, French Revolution, emergence of bourgeois society. „History“ conceived as abstract and discrete category, representing a coherent process. History is intrinsic and functional. -> realization of a preconceived destination (civic liberties and property rights) History as philosopher‘s business -> The underlying principles of reason are to be detected.

5 Stages under the sun of reason... Rius, Introducing Marx, Cambridge , 74

6 Human labour executing principles... Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) „Reason“ as general principle of history acting in the „background“. General tendency towards the better interfered by human shortcomings. Georg Willhelm Hegel (1770–1831) History is the (dialectical) self-realization of the „World Spirit“. “As a rational process, history is a record of the development of human freedom, for human history is a progression from less freedom to greater freedom.”

7 Commercialization-model of the emergence of capitalism Ellen Meiksins Wood, The origin of capitalism. A longer view, London/New York, Commercialization model (classical political economy) -> capitalism is outcome of: age-old and NATURAL human practice to „truck, barter, and exchange“ (Adam Smith) -> trade and markets evolving division of labour technical improvements („technological determinism“) rising productivity obstacles for these developments removed -> capitalism is the highest stage, THE commercial society

8 Division of labour as key in explaining social transformations? From: Prospect 02/06

9 Marx‘s interpretation of history Human labour IS the principle...

10 General remarks No unitary Marxian notion of history: fragmentary, complex, „elastic“. Starting point: material (re-)production of social life by the human beings themselves. Three perspectives of the historical process: Anthropogenetic outlook -> self-realization of human nature Pragmatological oulook -> practices of human beings Nomological outlook -> laws of motion ( Helmut Fleischer, Marxismus und Geschichte, Frankfurt a. Main 1969/ Helmut Fleischer, Marxism and History, Harmondsworth 1975)

11 Anthropogenetic outlook The so-called „early Marx“ (1840s) There is an intrinsic meaning to history: human beings realize themselves in all their potential. There is a long intermediary phase to pass through – a phase of ever increasing alienation. History so far is just „prehistory“.

12 Pragmatological outlook Break with philosophy of history and telelogical thinking. „History does nothing, it ‚possesses no immense wealth‘, it ‚wages no battles.‘ It is man, real, living man who does all that, who possesses and fights; ‚history‘ is not, as it were, a person apart, using man as a means to achieve its own aims; history is nothing but the activity of man pursuing his aims.“ (Karl Marx/Friedrich Engels, The Holy Family, 1845, in: family/ch06_2.htm) family/ch06_2.htm

13 „Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.“ (Karl Marx, 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, 1852, in: brumaire/ch01.htm) brumaire/ch01.htm

14 Nomological outlook „In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production.“ (Karl Marx, A Preface to the Critique of Political Economy, 1859, in: economy/preface.htm) economy/preface.htm

15 „Definite relations“? General relations for human beings: Humans Nature Humans labour process Humans „Labour process“ as conditio humana: „metabolic interaction“ between human beings and nature in the „everlasting nature-imposed condition of human existence.“ Meeting ends: (Re-)producing subsistence in social- cooperation.

16 „Definite relations“? Productive forces (Produktivkräfte – productive powers): all the material and immaterial capacities at hand to realize the labour process. Means of production. Human labour-power and its knowledge. Social relations of production connect labour power and means of production in a specific way. -> Who controls? Who possesses? Who commands the surplus labour? -> Classes and class struggle.

17 Modes of production Productive forcesSocial relations of production Mode of production Assumption: In a viable socio-economic system the productive forces must correspond to the social relations of production.

18 The course of world history or just a „broad outline“? Asiatic Ancient Feudal Modern bourgeois mode of production? Each „mode of production“ has its own „laws of motion“ Transition from one mode to another by „social revolutions“ The Focus is on social relations, the specific way of exploitation – not technology or degree of exchange.

19 WHAT is being socially produced? In general „goods“. In capitalism: „commodities“ „The wealth of those societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails, presents itself as ‚an immense accumulation of commodities,‘its unit being a single commodity.“ (Karl Marx, Capital Vol. 1, in: x.htm) x.htm

20 From: David Smith/Phil Evans, Marx‘s Kapital For Beginners, London 1982, p. 30

21 The commodity as an oddity... From: David Smith/Phil Evans, Marx‘s Kapital For Beginners, London 1982, p. 30


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