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29 March

Call for Papers

Posted on March 29, 2016

Critique of political economy

The international journal of political thought and philosophy, Crisis and Critique, announces a call for papers for its new issue, which will be devoted to the topic: The Present Critique of Political Economy, or the Critique of the Political Economy of the Present

If Althusser was right to state that “one cannot see everything from everywhere”, and that, therefore, certain positions are better qualified to give us a perspective of the totality than others, then there is no better standpoint from which to grasp the heterogeneous field of Marxism in its totality than the one demarcated by the expression chosen by Marx as subtitle to Das Kapital: “a critique of political economy”. Depending on which element of this brief expression we place our emphasis, a different modulation of Marxism appears.

For those who affirm that the essential component of the formula is the “critique”, Capital might be seen as a work dedicated to denouncing political economy as such, opening the field - through a harsh critique of the capitalist mode of production, and its ideology, bourgeois political economy - for a form of pure politics, separated from economic domination. For others, “critique” might assume a more Kantian sense, transforming Marx’s work into a foray into the antinomies that lie in the heart of capitalism, where politics and economy intertwine in impossible ways.

For those who consider that Marx’s innovation in fact lies in the “political” element, the role of critique rather lies in the demonstration that there is no such thing as a pure economy – no neutral or contingent “forces of the market” - but rather class struggle, a historical and social divide that widens and perpetuates itself through the very form of value, in its different shapes and shapings. Stressing the political dimension might potentially also open up a more constructive position, one that seeks to develop an emancipatory thinking of economy itself, following from a logical and practical primacy of a historical specific instantiation of a revolutionary politics.

There are finally those, however, who stress the “economic” dimension of the very method of Capital and suggest that rather than obfuscating the underlying politics of the dominant class, economy is the inherent structure of capitalist economy which determines and will determine all political life and the entire space of action of its political actors. A critical approach would then unfold in an opposite direction to the former strand, unveiling the economic behind any politics, emancipatory or other. Others, still, would take this reversion to imply also moving the sovereignty of political decision-making away from the apparently autonomous forces of international relations and states to the hand of workers and those who produce value - as they would be already unconsciously in charge - arguing against a too structural understanding of economic logic.

These different tendencies and the tension between them find themselves condensed by the expression that defines what Capital is supposed to achieve, holding Marxism (and maybe this is why it is an “-ism”) together throughout its most distinct and conflicting presentations. This tension requires us to return, time and time again, to Marx’s thought, but also to rethink its meaning, scope and emphasis at every new historical turn. Especially today this same tension seems to re-emerge in a pressing manner - perhaps because new extreme positions have been added to this list of variations, including those who affirm that the time has come to ultimately abandon the critique of political economy altogether as there is no explanatory potential left in it, and those - from all sides of the political spectrum - who announce that Marx’s thinking has never been more opportune and alive than now.

Following this, we can probe into this complex field of positions in order to find out whether there is any contemporary critique of political economy worthy of this name. A first spontaneous answer might appear to be straightforwardly clear: yes, there is, it is the same critique of political economy that was invented by Marx and exercised by, by now, generations of Marx’s readers, including orthodox or rather unorthodox Marxists. But such a spontaneous affirmative answer might raise certain doubts and a maybe vague, maybe refined form of skepticism. Why should Marx’s critique of political economy not need to change when the world around it seems to do so all along? Haven’t we been witnessing by far not only progressive but also and clearly even more regressive phenomena and tendencies of the economic and political dynamics in recent years? Might it not be that the very lack of transformation of the critique of political economy is one of the reasons, why its contemporary efficiency is drastically hindered and inherently limited? Is the critique of political economy as dead (even though still twitching from time to time) as old-school, orthodox Marxism is?

One may argue against this line of question and thus also against the first affirmative answer, that there have been attempts made by faithful Marxists to present and unfold a renewed critique of political economy able to deal with all the contemporary transformation of economy and politics, with its radicalizations as well as with its regressions. Could one not very easily assemble names likes those of Louis Althusser, David Harvey, even already Lenin, Michael Heinrich, Antonio Negri, Slavoj Žižek and many others who tried to actualize Marx’s project for circumstances either anticipated or unforeseen by it? Did not Alain Badiou recently declare that nowadays we reached a historical epoch in which Marx’s analysis is truer than ever, even truer than at Marx’s times?

The journal “Crisis and Critique” wants to investigate the contemporary status of the critique of political economy and its contribution to the overcoming of deadlocks and impasses of the present situation.

In this issue, we want to address questions such as (but not limited to):

  • What is the function (traditional / contemporary) of the critique of political economy?
  • What is political economy?
  • Can Marx’s writings and especially Capital serve as a tool of the analysis of the contemporary capitalism?
  • What is the status of Hegel (and broader: dialectics) in Marx’s critique of political economy?
  • What is the contemporary relationship between the exploited and the exploiters?
  • What does the notion of the proletariat mean in the contemporary capitalism (if it still has a meaning)?
  • What is the distinction between the “proletariat” and “proletarization”?
  • What are the political and economic implications of employing the class struggle to cultural differences, populism, etc.?
  • Immaterial labour vs material labour

Articles should be sent in English. The maximal length is 9000-10.000 words.

Submissions should be sent to: [email protected]

The deadline for submission is 15th of September 2016