Cookies Policy

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

I accept this policy

Find out more here

The Capitalist Labour-Process and the Body in Pain: The Corporeal Depths of Marx's Concept of Immiseration

No metrics data to plot.
The attempt to load metrics for this article has failed.
The attempt to plot a graph for these metrics has failed.
The full text of this article is not currently available.

Brill’s MyBook program is exclusively available on BrillOnline Books and Journals. Students and scholars affiliated with an institution that has purchased a Brill E-Book on the BrillOnline platform automatically have access to the MyBook option for the title(s) acquired by the Library. Brill MyBook is a print-on-demand paperback copy which is sold at a favorably uniform low price.

Access this article

+ Tax (if applicable)
Add to Favorites
You must be logged in to use this functionality

image of Historical Materialism

One of the most common critiques of Marx is that he mistook the birth pangs of capitalism for its death throes, on the basis of which he made the completely erroneous prediction of the increasing immiseration of the working class – a critique that rather superficially reduces immiseration to a simple matter of standard of living. The goal of this essay, however, is to expose the corporeal depths of Marx's notion of immiseration, and, in so doing, to show that immiseration is by no means a long-since disappeared attribute of early capitalism. To do so, I reread the chapters on surplus-value in Capital by following the corporeal leitmotifs suggested in Franz Kafka's short story, 'In the Penal Colony'. Kafka's narration of the condemned learning the meaning of his fate through the corporeal experience of wounding evokes Marx's very graphic narration in Capital of workers experiencing exploitation and immiseration on their own bodies. Raising themes found later in Kafka's narrative, Marx tells of the arranging of the entire workplace 'under the command of capital', of the design and employment of technology both to secure that command and to extract surplus-value; and he shows how capital, like Kafka's torture machine, writes its messages on the body of labour in a script not immediately decipherable by observers. The history that Marx tells in Capital is less graphic in form than Kafka's, but it is in content at least as fantastic and horrific – perhaps even more so. Their common concern with machines painfully inscribing bodies helps to highlight the corporeal dimension of Marx's concept of immiseration.

Affiliations: 1: University of Oregon


Full text loading...


Data & Media loading...

Article metrics loading...



Can't access your account?
  • Tools

  • Add to Favorites
  • Printable version
  • Email this page
  • Subscribe to ToC alert
  • Get permissions
  • Recommend to your library

    You must fill out fields marked with: *

    Librarian details
    Your details
    Why are you recommending this title?
    Select reason:
    Historical Materialism — Recommend this title to your library
  • Export citations
  • Key

  • Full access
  • Open Access
  • Partial/No accessInformation