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Theoretical Explorations Module XV
Capitalism: History, Logic, Limit
This course considers the history, logic, and limit of ‘capitalism’, the social form of human being at least since the late 15th century Italian city-states, having mutated unevenly through imperial and colonial conquest, massive warfare, and through scientific discovery, to arrive in our historical present as the global nomos of the earth, the only conceivable way of being together. Indeed, as Fredric Jameson has suggested, ‘today, it is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism.’ This insight is confirmed in the contemporary production of fantasies of apocalypse and extinction, screens that obscure thinking through the real contradictions of capitalism, the limits to capital and possible alternatives.
We’ll carefully consider the history, logic, and limits of capital with the aim of rehoning the razor edge of critique. We’ll read foundational texts by Smith and Marx, the strongest historical work on the emergence of capitalism (i.e. Arrighi, Karatani, ‘The Brenner Debate’), as well as theoretical analyses of the logic and contradictions, the recurrent crises of capital (i.e. Harvey, Heinrich, Jameson, Tomsic, the Slovenian School). We’ll also pay mind to the historical specificity of contemporary finance capital, considering the rise of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology (i.e. Appadurai, Meister).