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Working Paper

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This paper attempts to elaborate a political theory of capital’s violence. Recent analyses haveadopted Karl Marx’s notion of the “primitive accumulation of capital” for investigating theforcible methods by which the conditions of capital accumulation are reproduced in the present.I argue that the analytic function accorded to primitive accumulation can be better performedby a pair of new concepts: “capital-positing violence” and “capital-preserving violence.” Irefine the conceptual core primitive accumulation (coercive capitalization of social relations ofproduction) by focusing on the role of colonial violence in the history of capitalism, which Ithen elucidate with reference to Carl Schmitt’s account of European colonial expansion andWalter Benjamin’s reflections on law-making and law-preserving violence. The resultantconcepts of capital-positing and capital-preserving violence, I conclude, can illuminate boththe historical and the quotidian operations of the politico-juridical force that has beenconstitutive of capital down to our present moment.


capitalism, violence, colonialism, Karl Marx, Walter Benjamin, Carl Schmitt


Political History | Political Science | Political Theory

Research Areas

Political Science




American Political Science Association

City or Country

Philadelphia, PA

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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