Envisioning capitalism: geography and the renewal of Marxian political economy



Publication Details

Castree, N. (1999). Envisioning capitalism: geography and the renewal of Marxian political economy. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 24 (2), 137-158.


This paper offers a reinterpretation of what critical theorist Moishe Postone calls 'the fundamental core of capitalism'. In so doing, it seeks to lay a set of theoretical foundations for a renewed Marxian political economy in geography, at a time when Marxism has been eclipsed as a leading critical paradigm within the discipline. The argument works on two fronts simultaneously. On the one hand, the ongoing hegemony of economic and political neo-conservatism is occluding the violent realities of a capitalist world economy behind the anodyne logics of free-market theory. These realities suggest the continued relevance of, and need for, a strong Marxian critique of political economy. But on the other hand, Marxism has been reprimanded by its erstwhile allies on the Left of geography for being too 'modern' and too capital- and class-centred. In light of this double challenge, the paper seeks to develop a 'both/and' Marxism for geography that can chart a third way between the antinomies of modern and after-modern modes of theorizing capitalism and class. A project of 'envisioning capitalism' is suggested on this basis, which combines the 'power' of modern theory with the epistemological reflexivity of after-modern theory. At the same time, capitalism and class are rethought at an ontological level and shown still to be essential features of the fin-de-millennium world, but far less closed and hegemonic than is suggested by modern modes of Marxism. Finally, a return to a class politics of redistribution is suggested, but in a way that draws in more recent Left geographical concerns with identity, difference and recognition.

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