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Marx’s Inquiry into the Birth of Capitalism: Why Does It Matter?

Sat, July 10, 2021 @ 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM

$7.00 – $11.00

with John Milios

“In themselves, money and commodities are no more capital than are the means of production and subsistence. They need to be transformed into capital.”    —Karl Marx, Capital, A Critique of Political Economy, Volume 1, Chapter 26

Since Adam Smith, political economists, historians and other social scientists have offered various explanations about the beginnings of capitalism as a mode of production. Their different conclusions imply very different ideas about what capitalism is. In The Origins of Capitalism as a Social System (Routledge paperback, 2019), author John Milios delves deeply into the historical circumstances that turned money and commodities into capital on a systemic scale. In doing so, he develops theoretical insights into the nature of capitalism as a system of class domination that has swept away all previously existing social relations throughout the world.

As Marx argues, “original accumulation” of capital, the transformation of pre-capitalist to capitalist social relations, is not explained by the fairy tale of wise and thrifty household producers getting wealthy by their own labor. John Milios’ research into the “pre-capitalist money owner”, the role of commodity production (as opposed to production for direct consumption) based on slave labor in the ancient world, and the development of ”contractual money begetting” production in Europe in the middle ages, helps us understand what is and is not capitalism. He critically analyzes both Marxist and non-Marxist literature. He uses the rise and fall of the Venetian mercantile republic as a case study. He concludes that “No version of capitalism is the realm of … freedom or justice. Capitalism is a social system in which … coercion guaranteeing economic exploitation of the ruled by the rulers is incorporated into the economic relation itself.”

JOHN MILIOS is Professor of Political Economy and the History of Economic Thought at the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), Greece. He has authored more than two hundred papers published or forthcoming in refereed journals (in Greek, English, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Chinese and Turkish) including the Cambridge Journal of Economics, History of Political Economy, History of Economics Review, Review of Political Economy, European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, The American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Science & Society, Rethinking Marxism, Review of Radical Political Economics, and has participated as invited speaker in numerous international conferences. He has also authored or co-authored some eighteen scholarly books. His most recent books in English are A Political Economy of Contemporary Capitalism and Its Crisis: Demystifying Finance (Routledge 2013, Paperback Edition 2014, co-authored with D. P. Sotiropoulos and S. Lapatsioras) and The Origins of Capitalism as a Social System: The Prevalence of an Aleatory Encounter (Routledge 2018). He is director of the quarterly journal of economic theory Thesseis (published since 1982 in Greek) and serves on the editorial boards of four scholarly journals.


Capital Studies Group


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