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Kurz, a Journey into Capitalism’s Heart of Darkness

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The late Robert Kurz was one of the principal theorists of ‘the critique of value’ in Germany. This paper uses the recent release of a collection of his essays in French translation and his posthumously published Geld ohne Wert [Money without Value] (2012) as a starting point for a discussion of the critical project that Kurz undertook over a period of 25 years. Kurz was exemplary in returning to the most radical insights of Marx, even when these went against some of the other ideas of the master. He was an ardent proponent of a crisis theory of capitalism: that the categories of the capitalist mode of production have reached their ‘historical limit’ as society no longer produces enough value. On this basis Kurz argued that none of the proposals for dealing with this crisis within the framework of capitalism are feasible. Kurz demonstrated that the basic categories of the capitalist mode of production, such as money, are not universal but that they developed at the same time, towards the end of the Middle Ages, with the invention of firearms and the states’ need for money that this fuelled. In Geld ohne Wert, Kurz asserts that money in pre-capitalist societies was not a bearer of value but a representation of social ties. He wonders whether, with the current crisis, we are seeing a return to a form of money without value, but now within the framework of a social sacrifice to the fetishistic form of mediation. The paper concludes by suggesting that Kurz has not yet reached a wider public outside Germany because for many his ideas still prove too radical to face.

Affiliations: 1: Accademia Belle Arti di


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1. Kurz Robert Der Kollaps der Modernisierung. Vom Zusammenbruch des Kasernensozialismus zur Krise der Weltökonomie 1991 Frankfurt am Main Eichborn
2. Kurz Robert Schwarzbuch Kapitalismus. Ein Abgesang auf die Marktwirtschaft 1999 Frankfurt am Main Eichborn
3. Kurz Robert Weltordnungskrieg. Das Ende der Souveränität und die Wandlungen des Imperialismus im Zeitalter der Globalisierung 2003 Bonn Horlemann
4. Kurz Robert Galtier Olivier, Kukulies Wolfgang, Mercier Luc, Vogele Johannes Avis aux naufragés: Chroniques du capitalisme mondialisé en crise 2005a Paris Lignes/Léo Scheer French translation
5. Kurz Robert Das Weltkapital. Globalisierung und innere Schranken des modernen warenproduzierenden Systems 2005b Berlin Klaus Bittermann
6. Kurz Robert Galtier Olivier, Kukulies Wolfgang, Mercier Luc Vies et mort du capitalisme: Chroniques de la crise 2011 Paris Nouvelles Editions Lignes French translation
7. Kurz Robert Geld ohne Wert. Grundrisse zu einer Transformation der Kritik der politischen Ökonomie 2012 Berlin Horlemann

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