Think another time: Rosa Luxemburg and the concept of history

Autumn 2018
DOI: 10.3898/NEWF:94.01.2018

This essay considers the significance of Rosa Luxemburg’s thought in relation to discourses on the materialist conception of history. Luxemburg engaged extensively with Marx’s method in order to understand the consequences of capitalism and socialism as a concrete possibility. In The Accumulation of Capital (1913), she deals with the problem of economic reproduction and the material conditions for the global expansion of capital. Yet, her writings have sparked a long tradition of debate concerning her contribution to Marxist theory. Within this tradition, Michael Löwy and Norman Geras have discussed Luxemburg’s idea of history, giving divergent interpretations of her influential phrase, ‘socialism or barbarism’. Building on the key terms of their argument, this essay proposes to read The Accumulation of Capital as a compelling reflection on the contingency of capitalism. Luxemburg’s analysis of the drive to accumulation shows capitalism’s manipulation of the process of social transmission and urges a re-appropriation of history against capitalism’s teleology of perpetual expansion. 

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