Rosa Luxemburg: The Accumulation of Capital
Among the first works to theorize a systematic conception of global capitalism, Rosa Luxemburg’s The Accumulation of Capital is a massive augmentation of Marx’s original critique of capital, an attempt to solve the crucial “problem of reproduction.” How, in a relentlessly competitive environment, where capital is compelled to reduce both prices and wages, does the capitalist system perpetuate without succumbing to self-destruction? For Luxemburg, capital cannot subsist on national markets alone, which it would quickly exhaust, but requires endless expansion into foreign territory. Imperialism and colonization, in other words, are necessary to capitalism’s survival. How can we understand Luxemburg’s work today, when “classical” imperialism has faded before new methods of global economic integration? Is capitalism systematically prone to crisis, which only the conquest of foreign markets can alleviate? How can we understand imperialism and the accumulation of capital today?
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: Are imperialism and colonialism, in their various guises, necessary for the very survival of capitalist economies?
Course ScheduleWednesday, 6:30-9:30pm EST
April 07 — April 28, 2021