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The Fiction of Economic Coercion: Political Marxism and the Separation of Theory and History

In: Historical Materialism
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Abstract

The theory of social-property relations, or political Marxism, has argued that in contradistinction with pre-capitalist forms of exploitation, capitalism is characterised by the separation of the economic and the political, which makes surplus appropriation under this system uniquely driven by economic coercion. In spite of political Marxism’s various strengths, this article argues that the paradigm puts forward an ahistorical and sanitised conception of capitalism typical of bourgeois economics, which is an outcome of its formal-abstractionist approach to the concept of the mode of production and the separation between theory and history that it operates. A more satisfactory solution to political Marxism’s inability to make sense of past and present forms of coercion and violence under capitalism can be found in Jairus Banaji’s emphasis on Marx’s historical – rather than formal – conception of the mode of production.

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