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Marx's Path to Capital: The International Dimension of an Intellectual Journey

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This article seeks to contextualize Marx's path to the Capital volumes through what might be called its 'international dimension'. It explores how Marx experienced an array of differentially developed yet related societies through a consciousness of backwardness, and how this consciousness moulded his praxis. In this respect, the article takes issue with the Marxist assumption that the silence in Capital regarding the multi-linear character of modern world development is ultimately non- harmful to the volumes' uni-linear notion of modern world development. The aim of the article is essentially to clear the way for a more rigorous Historical Materialist appreciation of multi-linearity in modern world development. It does so by arguing that the condition of multi-linearity in modern world development formed the very terrain upon which Marx intellectually journeyed towards Capital. Specifically, the framing of the Capital volumes around a singular dialectic of social transformation should be considered as the failed outcome of Marx's pre-existing engagement with the problem of multi- linearity. This argument has ramifications for contemporary Marxist understandings of world development, as well as demonstrating the general importance of contextualizing political thought through an international rather than national or universal historical narrative.

Keywords: Capital; France; Germay; Marx; Marxism; backward; backwardness; contextualisation; early Marx; eighteenth brumaire; international; multi-linear; multi-linearity; uni-linear; uni-linearity

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Wadham College, University of Oxford, OX1 3PN robert.shilliam@wadh.

Publication date: January 1, 2006


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