The Centre for Law and Society in a Global Context (CLSGC) recently launched the ‘Law and Marxism: Speaker Series’ inviting scholars from across the world to discuss the latest research on the themes of law and Marxism. Our inaugural lecture was delivered by Dr Rob Knox and his talk ‘Taking Capital's Laws of Motion Seriously: Marxism, Law and Capitalism’.
'Human Rights Standards of Marriage as Response to the Need to Nudge Capitalist Expansion in the Post-Colonies'
When: 3 PM -5 PM, Wednesday 19 April 2023
Where: Room 313, Third Floor, School of Law, Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS (Via Westfield Way)
The Centre for Law and Society in a Global Context’s Law and Marxism: Speaker Series is proud to host Nicole Stybnarova (University of Oxford) to deliver a talk on ‘Human Rights Standards of Marriage as Response to the Need to Nudge Capitalist Expansion in the Post-Colonies’.
‘Taking Capital's Laws of Motion Seriously: Marxism, Law and Capitalism’
In recent years, after a long absence, the term ‘capitalism’ has returned to public debate. Triggered in part by the 2008 financial crisis, the long austerity which followed and political movements contesting both, the concept capitalism has become a central element in describing the world and understanding how it needs to change. Alongside this, the uneven results of capitalisms’ crises have helped undergird new attention to its relationship to race and racialisation.
These developments have been matched in the academy, including – perhaps surprisingly – the field of law. The rise of the Law and Political Economy movement, and an increased prominence of the term ‘racial capitalism’ in legal scholarship are testament to this. Yet, though such work frequently invokes ‘capitalism’ as a term, it also often - implicitly or explicitly - operates in opposition to the perhaps most famous account of capitalism: that of the Marxist tradition. Most significantly, many of these contemporary accounts do not address the ‘laws of motion’ which Marxists have argued are central to capitalism. More often, they stress the contingency and historicity of capitalism, often with a focus on law’s role in constructing many different capitalisms.
This talk offers an alternative to this. I begin by sketching out the Marxist account of capitalism, its internal logic, and its laws of motion. I situate this against Marxist accounts of law and legal theory more broadly, before demonstrating how such approaches are able to explain the changing nature of law and its relationship to processes of capitalist accumulation, as well as the role of race and racialisation therein. In this way, I seek to demonstrate that whilst capitalism is indeed protean and historically contingent, it is nonetheless structured by systematic imperatives.
Ultimately, I argue, this Marxist understanding of capitalism helps us to navigate the shape that capitalism, law and race take in particular conjunctures. It does by focusing on the way in which the systematic imperatives of capital accumulation ultimately condition and limit what is possible in any given moment. Such a position, I argue, has crucial consequences for understanding the political possibilities offered to us by law in transforming – or transcending – capitalist social relations.