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Capitalism's Anxious Whole: Fear, Capture and Escape in the Grundrisse

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Two Hegels inhabit the Grundrisse. The first is conservative of the “selfsame” subject that continuously returns to itself as non-identical identity and propels “history”. The other Hegel tarries with the “negative” he (which or variously calls “non-being”, “otherness”“difference”) to disrupt this plenary subject to Marx's reading of a Hegel who is different-in-himself lends Grundrisse its electric buzz: seizing Hegel's “negative” as the not-value of value, i.e. “labor”, Marx explains how capital must continuously enroll labor to its will in order to survive and expand. But this enrollment is never given; hence, despite its emergent structure of necessity, capital's return to itself as “self-animating value” is never free of peril. The most speculative aspect of my argument is that the figure of “labor” in Grundrisse, because of its radically open formulation as not-value, anticipates the elusive subject of difference in postcolonial theory, “the subaltern”—that figure which evades dialectical integration, and is in some ontological way inscrutable to the “master”. Unexpectedly, then Grundrisse gives us a way to think beyond the epistemic and geographic power of “Europe”.

Keywords: Hegel; Marx; geography; postcoloniality; subaltern; value

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Geography and the Institute for Global Studies, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA;, Email:

Publication date: November 1, 2008


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