For the early Marx, the history of civil society unfolded as a process of accumulation that took off with the privatization of archaic quasi-natural communities and came to a conclusion with the abolition of the state, property and the family. Competition propelled a continuous accumulation of the results of the labour of preceding generations, making possible an ever more extensive ‘division of labour’. Marx’s first version of historical materialism was a history of the division of labour, but the latter term had a meaning in this period that it would subsequently lose: ‘Division of labour and private property are . . . identical expressions.’ The evolution of the division of labour was thus the history of private property, and in turn this was the story of the accumulation of capital as the stock of past, saved-up labour. Although Marx conceived of labour and capital in this essentially Smithian sense, the dynamic of their relationship was taken more dialectically. ‘Labour’, far from being a constant of the species-relation to nature, existed only in this divided form, one that culminated in the opposition of wage labour and capital: ‘Labour is man’s coming-to-be for himself within alienation, or as alienated man.’
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Conceptions of a revolution from the right in the era of European fascism, and an activist overcoming of conservative dejection at the fate of the West. Political and philosophical imaginings of an alternate capitalist modernity, capable of settling accounts with decadence and Bolshevism.
Opening salvo of a two-part reconstruction of Marx’s intellectual passage through the Hegelian—then Ricardian—conceptual landscape of his early years, taking him to the threshold of his mature architectonics of capitalism as a mode of production. From a starting-point in the philosophical empyrean of the 1830s to a turning-point with the economic upturn of the early 1850s, the development of one sketch of an historical materialism to the brink of another.
The Geopolitics of Separation
Contra Benno Teschke’s critique of Carl Schmitt in NLR 67, Gopal Balakrishnan argues that bourgeois society’s constitutive separation of the political and economic was a central problematic for the strategist of the intransigent right.
The Coming Contradiction
Reflections on Fredric Jameson’s Valences of the Dialectic and its engagement with questions of historicity, narrative and time. Categories and concepts from Hegel, Marx, Sartre and Ricoeur, used to interrogate the impasses of the present—and to envision what lies beyond.
Sermons on the Present Age
Gopal Balakrishnan on Reinhold Niebuhr, The Irony of American History. Consoling homilies for today’s liberal imperialists, from the theologian of the nuclear era.
Speculations on the Stationary State
Will the present crisis issue in a new phase of accumulation, or a growthless ‘stationary state’? Gopal Balakrishnan charts epochal trends in world capitalism, and their imbrication with the debt-fuelled imbalances of the long downturn.
News from Nowheresville
Gopal Balakrishnan on Parag Khanna, The Second World. Globe-trotting account from beyond the OECD, surveying the stakes in a coming battle between ascendant China and a West caught in imperial doldrums.
Role of Force in History
Gopal Balakrishnan takes issue with an ambitious attempt to apply evolutionary paradigms to human history, which would locate the wellsprings of conflict in the combative make-up of the species. Azar Gat’s War in Human Civilization as an instance of neo-social darwinism adapted to the multicultural spirit of the age.
States of War
Reflections on the challenge of Afflicted Powers, from the Retort collective. How is America’s forward policy since 9/11 best explained, and what does it tell us about the nature of the inter-state system today? Has the age of Great Power rivalry passed, and if so, what kind of geopolitical order is replacing it? Capital, spectacle and war in the vortex of the Middle East.
Future Unknown: Machiavelli for the 21st Century
To which thinkers should we turn in a bid to ground a new conceptualization of political agency—or to determine whether such a move has been nullified by the transformations of the last decades? Gopal Balakrishnan on Machiavelli’s parables of innovation and readings of him from Rousseau to Schmitt, Strauss to Gramsci. The Florentine as strategist of beginning anew, in the context of historic defeat.