21st Century Communists of the Commons and Contemporary Proudhonism

A presentation and discussion with Radhika Desai

If Proudhonism in the nineteenth century was, as Marx argued, a petty bourgeois ideology, Radhika argues that the new communism of the commons propounded by Badiou, Hardt and Negri, and Zizek (among others) is a twenty-first-century avatar of the Proudhonism that was a perennial obstacle to developing a broad opposition to capital during the 19th and 20th centuries. The 21st Century Proudhonist speaks not for what Poulantzas called the‘traditional petty bourgeoisie’, as Proudhon did, but for the ‘new petty bourgeoisie’ of ‘non-productive wage earners’, which has also lately styled itself the ‘creative class’.

A failure to comprehend the dynamics of capitalist accumulation and a general antipathy to any general organization of labor in society, and thus to any serious politics, are common to both. In addition, the protection of the cultural commons, the core of the project, is but a program aiming for the continued reproduction of the creative class within the dictates of capital. The sum of what the 21st Century Proudhonists put forth as innovation, is instead prey to a series of misunderstandings – of the concept of the commons itself, of contemporary capitalism whose dynamics forms the backdrop of their project and key economic and political ideas of Marx whose authority they seek to attach to their project.

Radhika Desai is Professor at the Department of Political Studies, and Director, Geopolitical Economy Research Group, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada. She is the author of Geopolitical Economy: After US Hegemony, Globalization and Empire (2013), Slouching Towards Ayodhya: From Congress to Hindutva in Indian Politics (2nd rev ed, 2004) and Intellectuals and Socialism: ‘Social Democrats’ and the Labour Party (1994), a New Statesman and Society Book of the Month, and editor or co-editor of Russia, Ukraine and Contemporary Imperialism, a special issue of International Critical Thought (2016), Theoretical Engagements in Geopolitical Economy (2015), Analytical Gains from Geopolitical Economy (2015), Revitalizing Marxist Theory for Today’s Capitalism (2010) and Developmental and Cultural Nationalisms (2009). Currently she is working on three books: Capitalism’s Geopolitical Economy: From Imperialism to Multipolarity, Marx as a Monetary Theorist and The Making of the Indian Capitalist Class. 


all tickets are sliding scale. No one is turned away for inability to pay. Please write to info@marxedproject.org for access if you find yourself unable to purchase tickets.


Unearthing The Grundrisse (continuation)

After the defeat of the 1848-50 revolutions in Europe, Marx acknowledged that he failed to provide an adequate analysis of the economic foundation of society and turned from a focus on organizing to an intense, life-long study of political economy. Catalyzed by the first global economic crisis in 1857 and after 10 years of concentrated study, he started the first of seven notebooks to self-clarify his work up to that point. Not published or available outside the USSR until 1953, Martin Nicolaus provided the first—and only —English translation of all seven notebooks in 1973 as the Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy. As Nicolaus asserts, Marx considered this effort to be ‘the first scientific elaboration of the theoretical foundations of communism’. Moreover, represented by both brief and often lengthy segments of planned works, it contains what Nicolaus argues is the only outline of the entire political economic project Marx hoped—but was mostly unable—to complete. As Nicolaus suggests, the Grundrisse provides fresh insights into the ‘inner logic’ of Capital and perhaps the most important source for understanding Marx’s method; particularly as it develops and ‘turns Hegel’s philosophy on its feet’. Moreover, it perhaps most clearly unites what some have, instead, argued is a separation between Marx’s early ‘humanism’ and his later economic work. Indeed, in the Foreword to the Grundrisse, Nicolaus argues that it “challenges and puts to the test every serious interpretation of Marx yet received”.

The second half of the MEP class focuses on the heart of the Grundrisse, the second and final ‘Chapter on Capital’ that dissects the exploitation of labor and the contradiction between labor and capital.

GIL GARDNER has interests in radical prisoner education and political economic analysis. He has taught in, developed and administered college programs and in prisons for 40 years, including initiating Marxist education in Colorado’s state prisons. Gil’s writing and research includes works on the history of prison industry in the U.S. and he is presently completing an introduction to the works of Marx.

Marx, Capital and the Madness of Economic Reason

A reading group of David Harvey’s Marx, Capital and the Madness of Economic Reason

The MEP’s Capital Studies Group will readand discuss David Harvey’s recently published Marx, Capital, and the Madness of Economic Reason over four weeks in January. Session one will cover the Prologue and the first two chapters. Arrangements can be made for purchasing the Oxford University Press book by contacting the MEP at info@marxedproject.org
sliding scale: $30 / $45 / $60
no one turned away for inability to pay

Kluge’s News From Ideological Antiquity. Part 2: All Things Are Bewitched People

When Eisenstein had the idea to film Capital, he thought that the literary methods found in Joyce’s Ulysses would be helpful for his project. According to Fredric Jameson, what Eisenstein had in mind here is “something like a Marxist version of Freudian free association—the chain of hidden links that leads us from the surface of everyday life and experience to the very sources of production itself. Eisenstein’s idea was use the structure of Ulysses, a ‘day in the life’ narrative interrupted by stream-of-consciousness, together with his theories of montage to depict a narrative film version of Capital. ” (See New Left Review, No 58 for Jameson’s review)
“… important devices should be added: Russian Formalist defamiliarisation and Brechtian distancing. Never very far from didactic methods, Kluge insists: “We must let Till Eulenspiegel [a trickster figure in German folklore] pass across Marx and Eisenstein both, in order to create confusion allowing knowledge and emotions to be combined together in new ways.” — Julia Vassilieva, Screening The Past
Kluge’s film is divided into three parts: Part III. Paradoxes of Exchange Society will be scheduled at a future July date.

Marx’s Grundrisse

February 11 to March 25
7 more sessions
The Grundrisse, Session A

The object before us, to begin with, material production.

Readings and discussions led by Sam Salour and others

Perhaps the most curious and least understood aspect of Marx’s work is his method of analysis. Marx viewed all his economic laws as tendencies and it is hard to deny that those tendencies are becoming more and more the realities of today’s capitalism. However, to understand our society we need to do more than reading and accepting his concepts, we must critically analyze them and look for the way of thinking that produced them. It is with this goal in my mind that we should embark on a journey through the long and complex sentences of The German Ideology and the Grundrisse. These works are perhaps the best representation of the process of thinking that found its culmination in Capital and we will be engaging with it during our study. Without a doubt, this will be a long and arduous process but we should always keep in mind that “there is no royal road to science and only those who do not dread the fatiguing climb of its steep paths have a chance of gaining its luminous summits.

For the first session, please read Grundrisse (Penguin edition): Chapter 1 with a focus on the first 2 sections (p. 83-100)

The fees at the website are suggested fees and are optional. We are sliding scale and allow all to attend as they are able to afford.

Session B of the Grundrisse will run from April 1 until June 17.