This event is part of the CIDRAL 2017/18 programme, Constraints of Creativity
A Roundtable hosted by CIDRAL, Economic Humanities Research Group, History @UoM and AMBS
Professor Michael North (Professor in Early Modern History, University of Greifswald and Beijing Normal University)
Dr Cath Feely (Senior Lecturer, History, University of Derby)
Dr Ed Granter (Lecturer, Sociology, AMBS)
Chair: Dr Phil Rössner (Senior Lecturer, Early Modern History UoM
Marx has been the founding figure in the modern social sciences. He revolutionized the horizon of thinking and methods of social and historical analysis. His works continue to shape historical and social science enquiry and real-time policy and politics. Marx shaped the twentieth century – with the globalization of war, ideology and social matters, class struggle and inequality. Yet, others would argue that Marx was very much a nineteenth century man. Much of his work would have been misappropriated by later times and purposes. Francis Fukuyama even pronounced the End of History when the USSR collapsed, the Iron Curtain fell, and the series of political and economic revolutions that swept Europe and the world in the aftermath of 1990/1991 finally paved the way for neoliberalism. Yet, the global crashes, cracks and crises in the global economy after 2007 brought the analysis of capitalism back on to the agenda. As the 2014 blockbuster of Piketty shows, economists and other social scientists have turned back to a less politicized Marx and his work, not only in historical context but also in the light of what answers his work provides to current problems of inequality and uneven global development. But Marx can also be read as an historian of the relationship between emotions and technological change. Tracing the history of the relationship between man and machine in Capital, current work on Marxist historians and their difficulties in dealing with ‘emotion’ suggests that we need to revise our picture, especially given the context of overly deterministic and rigid readings of Marx in the mid-twentieth century. Marx and his legacy also speak to modern debates around capitalist production and the end of work – debates played out, once again, in the media around automation and artificial intelligence. One can look at the ways language and culture are operationalized to mystify the exploitation inherent in capitalism, for instance the apparent parallels between neoliberal capitalism and the behaviour of organized crime groups.
Has Marx been rehabilitated? Has he never been away? We would like to take stock and discuss where we, as historians and social scientists are left with Marx and his legacy in the bicentenary of 1818/2018: in terms of method, reading, interpreting and applying Marxist readings to the analysis of capitalism, and current matters of inequality, freedom and democracy. In an age when the core achievements of the enlightenment – freedom, humanity, equality, democracy and free trade – appear more fragile than ever, perhaps there is something to be learnt from Marx?
The present roundtable, co-organised by the Economic Humanities Research Group at UoM, the History Division (SALC), CIDRAL, as well as the Hallsworth Fund at UoM brings together experts from across SALC and AMBS as well as eminent external scholars. Prof Michael North is a world-leading economic and social historian and authority on early modern Europe and global trade. Dr Ed Granter (UoM, AMBS) has studied, amongst other things, how the work of the Frankfurt School Critical Theorists represents a form of Marxism applicable to twenty-first century organizations and societies. Dr Cath Feely (University of Derby) has worked extensively on the publication and reception of Marx's work in late nineteenth and twentieth century Britain.