Case Studies in the Origins of Capitalism

As Marxist economist Anwar Shaikh puts it, ‘capitalism's sheath mutates constantly, but its core remains the same’. To understand the distinct core logic of capitalism is crucial to grasp the political terrain on which socialists are struggling today. One of the most powerful ways to identify the specific ‘laws of motion’ of the capitalist mode of production is through a comparative study of its historical emergence in different settings. Such a comparative analysis is precisely the aim of the book Case Studies in Capitalism which will be launched at this panel. This book uses a ‘political Marxist’ (or Capital-centric) theoretical framework and mobilizes the work of a dozen authors to explore transitions to capitalism in nine countries on four different continents. From its very beginning capitalism has involved specific modes of class exploitation that are internally related to distinct forms of racial and gendered oppression. This panel will use the historical insights presented in different contributions of the book so as to inform contemporary political and strategic issues that anti-capitalist, anti-racist and feminist activists are facing today in North America and elsewhere. Emphasis will be put on the role of the state in the emergence of capitalism and the character of the contemporary capitalist state, as well as on the co-constitution of capitalism and racial and gendered oppression.

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