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The Dynamics of Capitalism: Inquiries to Marx on the Occasion of His 200th Birthday

Conference jointly organized by the MPIfG and the Hamburg Institute for Social Research | Hamburg, May 3-5, 2018

What does Marx's political economy still have to say? This is the question the conference will address.
Marx's political economy is a particularly interesting and also topical subject for sociology: In the process of its disciplinary consolidation, the core of sociology has either largely excluded economic issues from its empirical focus, handing them over to subdisciplines such as industrial and economic sociology, or it has downplayed the social impact of economic dynamics in order to sidestep the theoretical accusation of economic reductionism. One result is that Marx' contribution to political economy was largely absent from the so-called classics of sociology. As a consequence, sociology has been rather helpless in a theoretical and conceptual sense when confronted with the cycles of growth and destruction in capitalist economies.
Today, we certainly cannot directly and without further reflection build upon Marx' heritage. The theoretical and empirical criticism of Marx and Marxism, more or less systematically pursued over the last 150 years, has undoubtedly uncovered the weaknesses of many of Marx's arguments. This does not mean, however, that all the concepts and theorems introduced by Marx into the discussion have become obsolete or useless.
The conference will reexamine some of the central aspects of Marx's political economy and ask how concepts such as money, labor, profit, value, market, violence, and technology as well as property and class can still be useful today. The conference will not be an exercise in Marx philology. On the contrary: The central question is, in fact, both a topical and a theoretical one, insofar as sociologists should discuss whether and how Marxian concepts might be discarded, modified, or extended in order to deal in a theoretically meaningful way with the problems and features of contemporary capitalism, be it "financialized," "digital," or "aesthetic" capitalism.
The conference is expected to include presentations from around 15 participants, with perhaps 25 additional researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne and the Hamburg Institute for Social Research in attendance. The conference language will be English.



Jens Beckert
Director at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, Cologne
Wolfgang Knöbl
Director of the Hamburg Institute for Social Research




Hamburger Institut für Sozialforschung
Mittelweg 36
20148 Hamburg

Phone: +49 40 414 097-22



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