Late Marx and the Conception of ‘Accumulation of Capital’
Professor of Economics, State University of New York at Buffalo and
General Editor, Research in Political Economy
Please cite the paper as:
Paul Zarembka, (2016), Late Marx and the Conception of ‘Accumulation of Capital’, World Economics Association (WEA) Conferences, No. 1 2016, Capital Accumulation, Production and Employment:, 15th May to 15th July 2016
Marxist political economy very often refers to the “accumulation of capital” as if it were a transparent concept, one easily understood from Marx’s work. The problem is that, as a concept, it is not clear what accumulation of capital is to mean. In fact, capital is so often referred as means of production, following the classical economists, that Marxist political economists have not seemed to have broken from Marx’s predecessors when mentioning the accumulation of capital.
Marx’s multiple-volume work was not called “Capital” in order to refer to means of production. Class is the fundamental issue. Therefore, his accumulation of capital must be understood with class in mind, not means of production, not constant capital.
Marx had assumed in Capital that he was offering an understanding of a world that was fully capitalist. This continued to be the context for his discussions of accumulation of capital that took place in Volume 1 and in Volume 2. And these discussions suggest, in major part, that more wage-laborers would be involved, in addition to more constant capital. However, when we read carefully his discussions, contradictions emerge. These are discussed in the first two sections of this paper.
Rosa Luxemburg clearly argued that expansion of wage-labor employment was fundamentally involved in the accumulation of capital. In the next two sections, we elaborate her main points and then point to responses by her critics.
Resulting from the preceding discussion, value as a concept may be called into question, first because an argument has been offered that the very concept of value falls without full realization of commodities produced. Even if we do not accept this argument, we still need to consider how value works in a theoretical environment in which non-capitalist environments are being penetrated by capitalism.
The article then briefly concludes that Marxist political economy may need some re-examination, as a result of the totality of the problems opened up by careful consideration of this one concept: the accumulation of capital.