Capital accumulation and debt colonialism after Rosa Luxemburg (New Formations 94, Autumn 2018)
Author: Stephen Morton
In The Accumulation of Capital (1913), Rosa Luxemburg offers a sophisticated account of the foundational¬† role of colonialism in the development and expansion of the capitalist world system. By interrogating the¬† blind spots in Marx‚Äôs account of capitalist political economy, Luxemburg emphasises the importance of¬† ‚Äònon-capitalist strata and countries‚Äô in the production of surplus value. Crucial to Luxemburg‚Äôs re-thinking¬† of capitalist political economy, in other words, was the accumulation and dispossession of non-capitalist¬† societies on the periphery of the world economy. Beginning with an assessment of Luxemburg‚Äôs central thesis¬† in The Accumulation of Capital, this article proceeds to suggest that Luxemburg‚Äôs analysis of imperialism¬† has important and far-reaching consequences for understanding contemporary formations of capital¬† accumulation¬† and¬† debt¬† colonialism¬† in¬† the¬† postcolonial world.¬† What‚Äôs¬† more,¬† Luxemburg‚Äôs¬† reflections on primitive communism and the challenge this posed to the universalising historical narrative¬† of bourgeois political economy offer an important counterpoint to the predominant conceptualisation of the¬† world as an abstract space for the uneven and unequal circulation of capital and commodities. By reading¬† Luxemburg‚Äôs writings on primitive communism against the grain of her writings on imperialism and debt colonialism in The Accumulation of Capital, I suggest in conclusion that Luxemburg‚Äôs writing offers a¬† valuable contribution to contemporary accounts of the¬†commons.