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Marxist Social Theory

3. Capitalism

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In this lecture, we think about Marx’s writings on the emergence of capitalism and its key characteristics, focusing in particular on: (i) Marx’s account of the collapse of feudalism as a result of the formation of a mercantile class which displaces the aristocracy; (ii) the transition from mercantile capitalism to industrial capitalism; (iii) the emergence of a new form of exploitation under industrial capitalism based on wage labour, and the intensification of this exploitation as technology develops; (iv) Marx’s concept of the proletariat as a working class which is different from those of previous modes of production.


In this course, Dr Ross Abbinnett (University of Birmingham) explores Karl Marx’s theory of society. In the first lecture, we consider Marx’s analysis of labour, its importance to humanity, and alienation from labour under capitalism. In the second lecture, we look at how Marx approaches history and social change, particularly his base and superstructure model and his notion of modes of production. In the third lecture, we think about Marx’s account of capitalism’s emergence and characteristics. Next, we think about the political forces which lead society from capitalism to communism. In the fifth and final lecture, we consider efforts to bring communism about in the real world, such as those of the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China.


Dr Ross Abbinnett is Senior Lecturer in Social and Political Theory at the University of Birmingham. His recent publications include The Neoliberal Imagination: Politics, Aesthetics, and Economics in the Evolution of Hyper-Industrial Capitalism (2021), The Thought of Bernard Stiegler: Capitalism, Technology and the Politics of Spirit (2018) and Marxism After Modernity: Politics, Technology and Social Transformation (2006).

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Abbinnett, R. (2021, August 31). Marxist Social Theory - Capitalism [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Abbinnett, R. "Marxist Social Theory – Capitalism." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 31 Aug 2021,

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