Karl Marx’s Capital is one of the most influential scholarly books ever published and has inspired a significant body of literature, as well as social and political movements around the world. The proposed project will offer an innovative reading of this seminal text, and deepen our understanding of the intellectual and political history of the international labour movement. The main outcome of the partnership research – a collective book entitled the Handbook of Marx’s ‘Capital’: A Global History of Translation, Dissemination and Reception – will critically survey all the most important interpretations of Capital and trace the significant influence that this book has generated in academic disciplines, political parties, governments, trade unions, and social movements. The research will identify the key dynamics that have produced, sustained and eroded political and social movements inspired by Marx over time, and will explain how Capital’s key concepts changed and evolved in regional contexts.
The aim of this project is to re-examine economic, social and political alternatives to capitalism across Europe following the French Revolution. The period between 1789 and 1871 (the year of the Paris Commune) was tumultuous and inspired a significant body of literature outlining novel social and political ideas that merit further attention in light of the current global economic climate. The research will compare the inadequacies of the capitalist system of production and social organization in the 19th century with the contradictions and challenges that capitalism offers today, identify the main characteristics of alternatives to capitalism as conceived by theorists between the French Revolution and the Paris Commune, as well as the most significant reforms implemented in the same period after labour movement mobilizations, and assess the relevance of those ideas and experiments to tackling contemporary social problems and systemic challenges.
By examining the nature and development of alternative conceptions to capitalism, this research will critically reframe issues related to social inequality and promote fresh consideration of such topics as labour rights and democratic practices.
Major political and economic shifts have succeeded one another over the past twenty-five years. The rise to prominence of ecological issues, social changes generated by neoliberal globalization, and – most recently – one of the worst world economic crises ever, compels us to reflect urgently on the need for alternatives to the capitalist system. In its brief life, the International Working Men’s Association (IWMA) became the symbol of class struggle and influenced the ideas of millions of workers all over the planet. The 150th anniversary of its birth (1864-2014) offers an important opportunity to reread their resolutions, to learn from the experiences of its protagonists, and to better theorize solutions to our contemporary issues.
The research project involves several interrelated initiatives – in particular the sourcebook Workers Unite! The International 150 Years Later –, assessing and reflecting the history and the contemporary relevance of the IWMA and its ideas. With the recent socio-economic crisises – that has sharpened once more the division between capital and labour –, the political legacy of the IWMA has regained profound relevance, and its lessons are today more timely than ever.