Rosa Luxemburg: The Accumulation of Capital
Rosa Luxemburg was many things—an activist, politician, and ferocious polemicist. Perhaps most importantly, she was a political economist. Her only book-length work of political economy, The Accumulation of Capital is a true landmark text. Among the first works to theorize a systematic conception of global capitalism, it’s a massive augmentation of Marx’s original critique of capital—an attempt to solve the crucial “problem of reproduction” (that is, how capitalism perpetuates) for which Marx had no decisive answer. For Luxemburg, capital cannot subsist on national markets alone, but requires endless expansion into foreign territory. Imperialism, in other words, is necessary to capitalism’s survival.
In this course, we will read from Luxemburg’s magnum opus, evaluating its arguments both in the context of early 20th-century capitalism and imperialism, and with respect to globalized, financialized capitalism today. We’ll begin by examining Luxemburg’s interpretation of the problem of capital reproduction and her analysis of Marx. Next, we’ll focus on Luxemburg’s theory of imperialism and capital’s supposed imperative to seek out and colonize foreign territory and markets. We’ll examine, too, how imperialism operates, both historically and contemporaneously, and in what ways both imperialism and capitalism have evolved in the intervening century since the publication of Luxemburg’s work. And throughout, we will ask: Do imperialism and colonialism underwrite the very survival of capitalistic economies? What is the link between capitalism, economic growth and the modern face of imperialism? What is the role played by the process of capital accumulation in the recent global financial crisis? How should we understand the accumulation of capital today?
Course ScheduleWednesday, 6:30-9:30pm EST
April 07 — April 28, 2021