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Assessing the Effects of the Grundrisse in Anglophone Geography and Anthropology

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Selections of the Grundrisse were translated into English beginning in 1964; a full translation did not appear until 1973. Anglophone Marxian social science has changed dramatically since then; this article attempts to assess the role of the Grundrisse in these changes, focusing specifically on anthropology and geography. In geography the effects are most apparent in the work of David Harvey, who was among the earliest Anglophone social scientists to undertake a full reinterpretation of Marx in the light of the Grundrisse. I identify four insights that can be seen in Harvey's writings and elsewhere in recent human geography, but whose relation to the Grundrisse is not often acknowledged. In anthropology, the effects of the Grundrisse are perhaps even more pronounced but also more complex and obscure; nonetheless, a similar, and similarly under-acknowledged, influence can be discerned, especially in historical anthropology and recent studies of value. I suggest that the Grundrisse's translation into English has facilitated a convergence of anthropology and geography, and that critical ethnography in this vein is needed to grapple with the financialization of everything, in which commodification is only a preliminary step.

Keywords: Karl Marx; commodification; critical geography; dependency theory; financialization; formalist–substantivist debate; historical anthropology; political economy

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA;, Email:

Publication date: November 1, 2008

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