Capital as Power: A Study of Order and Creorder

in Historical Materialism
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Abstract

Nitzan and Bichler’s Capital as Power suggests that conventional theories of capitalism, Marxist and liberal alike, are unable to answer the question: what is capital? They argue that the basic units of Marxist economics, abstract labour and value, are unobservable and immeasurable, and hence ‘non-existent’ and ‘fictitious’. Against Marxists, they argue that capital is not an ‘economic’ entity, but a symbolic quantification of power.This review contends that what Nitzan and Bichler present as a critique of Marxism as such pivots on an incomprehension of dialectical thinking, and thus misses the mark. Furthermore, this absence in their readings of Marx is strictly correlative to the limits of their own theory-building. Capital as Power simply inverts the vulgar economism it finds in Marxist theories, presenting us with a theory in which capital is financial rather than productive, and symbolic rather than material. In doing so, it reproduces the one-sidedness it criticises, while discarding the possibility of analysing capitalism dialectically as a totality consisting of contradictory, but mutually presupposing, moments.

Historical Materialism

Research in Critical Marxist Theory

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