Crisis, Value, and Marx’s Order of Operations

Evaluating and selecting from the disparate theories of crisis circulating through the left can seem as daunting and intimidating as buying a new car. (Yes, this analogy is intentionally ironic.) The aim of this paper is to aid in this daunting task by encouraging us to think critically about what different theories of crisis mean for our understanding of capitalism as a whole and the project to overthrow it.

The theory of capital involves a logical structure of overlapping relations which must be mapped out very specifically if we are to capture both the abstract dynamics at the heart of capital and the concrete forms these dynamics take in real life. The presence of different theories of crisis with their different prescriptions for the left means that there are disagreements, some tacit and others overt, over how to best understand the logical structure of capital. This paper hopes to illuminate some of these differences in the hope that this may help frame these debates in a constructive way.

Brendan Cooney maintains the blog, an experiment in Marxist pedagogy which uses the video-blog format to explore the contemporary relevance of the law of value. His work can also be found at

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October 19, 2010