Capitalism and Robbery

The Expropriation of Land, Labor, and Corporeal Life...

John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark and Hannah Holleman

The expropriation of the mass of the people from the soil constitutes the basis of the capitalist mode of production. —Karl Marx

he power of abstraction, Karl Marx noted, is absolutely crucial to the theoretical analysis of historical systems, as exemplified by his critique of capitalist political economy. But while the force of abstraction is indispensable to any attempt to grasp the inner character of capital, also implicit in Marx’s historical materialism is the notion that capitalism can never be reduced simply to its internal logic. Rather, it is also the product of numerous contingent historical conditions that form the empirical boundaries and limits within which the system operates and are integral to its functioning. Thus, historical capitalism cannot be understood aside from its existence as a colonial/imperialist world system in which the violent exercise of power is an ever-present reality. In order to uncover the material conditions governingconcrete capitalism, including its interface with land, non-wage labor, and corporeal life, it is therefore necessary to go beyond the inner reality of exploitation, and address expropriation, or the process of appropriation without equivalent (or without reciprocity) through which capital has sought to determine its wider parameters.

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