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Publication Details

Reference
Hopfmann, Arndt (2006) The Accumulation of Capital« by Rosa Luxemburg in Historical Perspective. Centre for Civil Society Colloquium on the Economy, Society and Nature: 1-7.

Summary
Rosa Luxemburg was compelled to write her treatise on the accumulation of capital in an incredibly short period of time. Her burning desire was to publish a theoretical solution to what she believed were two paradoxes. The first was that in Karl Marx’s ‘reproduction schema’ published in Das Kapital, volume II, it was impossible to explain permanent increasing output, i.e. accumulation. The second paradox proved to be even more challenging.

In the 1890s, young Russian Marxists successfully established not only that Marx’s schema – with slight corrections – could in fact be used to explain an accelerated process of reproduction – but that, in addition, the capitalist mode of production could generate within its own sphere, ie. as a closed system, unlimited demand. The capitalists themselves would solve the ›realisation problem‹ as long as the process of accumulation goes on and on uninterruptedly.

To resolve both paradoxes, Luxemburg developed her concept of the necessity of a non-capitalist sphere as an immediate and vital condition for capital and its accumulation. This necessity is however undermined by imperialist tendencies which destroy more and more all non-capitalist surroundings. Thus the collapse of the system is unavoidable in the long run, Luxemburg claims. However, this argument has not stood the proof of time. Nevertheless, in her desperate attempt to find a »theoretically precise solution« to the reproduction process schemes drawn by Marx, in particular to explain the accelerated accumulation of capital, Luxemburg arrived (somehow unwillingly) at a whole set of valuable insights. Amongst others these include the economic role of force and violence in the old and the new, imperialism, the role of demand in a capitalist accumulation process, and the limits of growth to capitalism as a social system.

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 The Accumulation of Capital. Chapter 27: THE STRUGGLE AGAINST NATURAL ECONOMY: Rosa Luxemburg 
 Capitalism & cheap labour power in South Africa: Harold Wolpe 
 Labour Market Discrimination and its Aftermath in Southern Africa Guy Mhone 



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