Living Amidst the Catastrophes of “the Living Contradiction”:

Theses on Marx at 2001




Marx, Grundrisse, value-form critique, wertkritik, surplus population


Two hundred years after Marx’s birth, we find ourselves living amid the
catastrophes of what Marx terms “the living contradiction.” I argue here that
Marx’s immanent critique of capitalist society’s “economic law of motion”
remains the indispensable basis for any coherent understanding of capital today
and, hence, of any revolutionary project to bring about capital’s demise and
supersession. This essay develops a careful reading of a discrete section from
Grundrisse where we find key elements of Marx’s critique in concentrated form. I
focus on the way that Marx consistently frames capital as contradiction – a set of
barriers or limits that capital posits, presses past, and in superseding, posits again
at a higher level of contradiction – culminating in Marx’s formulation of capital
as “the living contradiction.” In conversation with contemporary value-form
theory I consider what makes this contradiction living; in particular I consider
the intertwined phenomena of class decomposition and surplus population as
the phenomenal expressions of what value-form theorists have termed “asocial
sociality,” the characteristic condition of commodity-subjects under capital.
Ultimately, I contend that Marx remains the seminal theorist of capitalism, and
that his immanent critique of the capital-relation and the value-form remains not
merely relevant, but necessary and indispensable if we are to understand, and,
more important, survive the pervasive crises of the present.




How to Cite

Benjamin, B. . (2020). Living Amidst the Catastrophes of “the Living Contradiction”: : Theses on Marx at 2001. Crossings: A Journal of English Studies, 11(1), 23–39.