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Lineages of Capital

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AbstractBanaji’s essays offer a powerful plea for a renewal of Marxism, a passionate argument to emancipate Marxism from the dead weight of vulgar traditions – with their simplifications, forced abstractions, mechanical reductions, generalised a-historical theorising, and familiar teleologies. To reinvigorate Marxism, argues Banaji, it is essential to use theory creatively, and recognise the need for complexity in thinking about categories. We cannot generalise about modes of production simply by referring to the forms of labour exploitation in the abstract: associate serfdom or coerced labour with feudalism, and free wage-labour with capitalism. Without historical research into the specific ways in which each economy works – its history and logic of operation – we cannot in the abstract characterise a mode of production: we only end up producing a formal evolutionary sequence of modes. Agreeing with the general thrust of the critique mounted in the book, this essay suggests that Banaji’s own arguments often reproduce the binaries and linearities he opposes, and remain framed within certain forms of reductionism.

Affiliations: 1: Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru


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