150 years since Capital was published – a special symposium

Karl Marx published the first volume of his life work, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, in September 1867. Together with Volumes II and III, published after Marx’s death by Friedrich Engels, this book remains the most profound and challenging study of the logic of the capitalist system that still dominates our lives.

Karl Marx, the German born socialist philosopher, economist and writer. c.1867

To discuss Volume One, in conjunction with King’s College, London, I have organised a special conference to take place almost exactly at the same week as Volume One was published 150 years ago and very near to where Marx researched and wrote it.

150 years after the first appearance of Capital Volume I, that system is grappling with the effects of one of the greatest crises in its history and the resulting political instability. Many have turned to Marx’s Capital seeking to understand the present conjuncture. But Marx never finished this work, and the recent publication of his manuscripts has revealed both the immensity and the complexity of his project.

Within walking distance of the British Museum, where Marx conducted his research, this conference seeks to interrogate his project in the light of the present. It brings together from around the world some of the leading practitioners in the Marxist critique of political economy to explore the relevance of Capital to issues such as crisis, imperialism, social reproduction, class struggles, and communism. The conference is organized with the aim of maximizing debate that can help clarify what Capital means today.

The British Museum: The Reading Room. Illustration for The Queen’s London (Cassell, 1896).

Given that the speakers will include David Harvey, Paul Mattick, Michael Heinrich, Fred Moseley, Guglielmo Carchedi; among others like Tithi Bhattacharya, Eduardo da Motta e Albuquerque,Tony Norfield, Lucia Pradella,Beverly Silver,Raquel Varela and yours truly; it should be a cracker of a conference.

For more details, see:


Watch this space for more discussion on the issues and ideas that will become themes at the symposium.



23 thoughts on “150 years since Capital was published – a special symposium

    1. In Toronto they hitted the jackpot. London would do well inviting Dumenil and Levy, David Mcnally, Samir Amin and last but not least David Harvey.

      1. That’s nice, hopefully there is a marxist who is able to tell us something about these huge transnational corporations and transnational banks and the implications for Marx’s laws of global capitalist development in the 21 first century!

        Repeating what is in Marx’s Capital created during the 19th century is not enough anymore, when this is happening again and again I am sure Marx would say ‘I’ m not a Marxist’!

  1. Dear Mr. Roberts,
    I am usually a silent but passionate reader of your precious blog.
    Indeed, I wrote you just once on facebook for a methodological doubt.
    Today I decided to comment just to say “thanks”.
    Sincerely thanks for your relentless work. I can ensure that several marxists worldwide are inspired by your example and glad of your commitment.
    I would definitely like to attend this conference and I would actually do my best to make it possible though I will be hard.
    By the way, do you know any professor or department (in Europe or anywhere else) that would welcome a (marxian-oriented) PHD proposal on “the role of labour in systemic profitability”?
    Any advice would be highly appreciated.
    Kind regards,
    Marco, a comrade from Rome

  2. I don’t mean to be churlish, which of course is my way of saying I’m being churlish, but I think these conferences stand as their own critique, and a critique of what passes for Marxism– 95%, more or less, of the speakers are academics.

    Engels would be amused; Marx would be appalled.

    1. I think Marx would want to understand why rather than simply be appalled.

      Marx’s correspondence on the finer detail of his work was with academics, and Marx himself was an academic.

      Harvey for example, has been heavily involved in numerous rights to the city campaigns. So he has been getting his hands dirty.

      To be honest if Marx were to be appalled the word hypocrite wouldn’t be far from my thoughts!

      Personally speaking I would rather listen to people who have studied the subject rather than any Tom, Dick or Harry off the street. So there is a time and place for theoretical discussions where the learned come together to develop theory. It is called the scientific method.

      I think Marx liked to claim his work was scientific? You can’t have scientific socialism with the science.

      1. The point being– Marx’s critique is supposed to become a practical critique, the point is the critique of political economy is supposed to get us to the actual issues of class struggle.

        Marx was never an academic. After receiving his doctorate he threw himself into the critique of the academic Hegelians, and was focused on the emerging revolutionar

  3. Who would ever have presumed to accuse Artesian of being churlish? The hard facts of the matter are that socialism, having become a science, has to be studied, and for the most part only academics have the free time available to do this in the requisite depth. Even some of them are complaining of the burdens placed on them by greater teaching loads, so that their free time for research is curtailed. A case in point is Steve Keen, who has issued an appeal for a portion of surplus value ( though he claims to have undermined Marx’s theory of value in his ”The Demise of Marx’s Labour Theory of Value”) to be redistributed in his direction so as to be able to continue his role as a “public intellectual” (sic). So I say to Saint Sartesian: ”Don’t be churlish! Spare the beggar a dime!”

  4. …sorry the last comment got screwed up:

    …the emerging revolutionary struggle building in Germany and the continent. He spent 0 hours as an academic in an academic environment, but engaged in journalism as a radical, even revolutionary, democrat.

    I don’t know what you mean when you say he discussed the finer points of his work with academics, particularly since the overwhelming response to Capital was one of silence. He spent spent his time not discussing the finer points of his work with academics, but organizing the IMWA, defending the Commune and communists, struggling against Bakunin and the anarchists, Lasalle, exploring the non-capitalist modes of production, learning Russian, corresponding with revolutionists– but never did he engage in his work as a professional academic.

    You may prefer listening to Harvey. I don’t. The last time I heard him speak he was going on about “oxidizable money” (this was what? 5 years ago at the New School). If I still smoked I would have lit up a dollar bill and said “Here’s your oxidizable money.”

    As for Tom, Dick, and Harry… suit yourself. I’d rather hear what Tomas, Harriet, Rachel and Ricardo have to say on the picket line.

    Thanks to jLowrie for recognizing that I am not a churlish person, and I take those words to heart. If I ever run across Keen, I’ll spare him a dime.

  5. How much money do these conferences cost the consumer?

    Will they be recorded for the poorer sections of the working class to listen to and comment on say on youtube?

    1. I have noted myself that every one of these ‘academics’ provides lots of free resources for any Tom, Dick or Harry to view.


      “I’d rather hear what Tomas, Harriet, Rachel and Ricardo have to say on the picket line.”

      This isn’t being churlish but completely disingenuous!

      I can’t help but notice that when developing his theories Marx was criticizing Adam Smith, Malthus, Say et al and not Tomas, Harriet, Rachel or, well hang on a minute he did criticize Ricardo but the guy who played the stock market, not that guy from the picket line!

      1. “Marx’s correspondence on the finer detail of his work was with academics, and Marx himself was an academic.”

        That’s not being churlish or disingenuous– that’s being completely mistaken.

      2. Marx passed his work onto a number of university professors whom he had friendly relationships with, as did Engels. Some published their reviews and sometimes at the request of Marx or Engels to generate publicity, Sombart and Smidt for example. They were in correspondence with such people over the finer details of the theory.

        Marx spent most of his time in the British Museum Library.

        I mean if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck and swims like a duck, it is probably a duck!

      3. Sombart? Schmidt? Marx had exactly zero correspondence with Sombart and Schmidt about Capital, probably because they were only 4 years old when Marx published volume 1.

        Engels had some correspondence with them about a dozen years after Marx died. Does that make Engels an academic?

        But hey, pay not attention to the actual details of history.

        Spending time in a library does not make one an academic, no more than it makes one a librarian– Spending time in Switzerland did not make Lenin Swiss.

        Let me know when you find an academic with whom Marx corresponded over the “finer details” to Capital as opposed to the Toms Dicks and Harrys he corresponded and worked closely with in the IWMA.

  6. Please if it is possible, put mp3 files of the conference on the Internet. Mp3 files are easier to download than video files in some corners of the world where the Internet speed is not high.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: