A Review of Time in Marx by Stavros Tombazos, Time, Capitalism and Alienation by Jonathan Martineau, and Marx After Marx by Harry Harootunian


George Tomlinson

Brunel University




Three recently published books, by Stavros Tombazos, Jonathan Martineau, and Harry Harootunian, join a now established body of literature that highlights the temporal aspects of Marx’s work. Their differences notwithstanding, these books are united by the conviction that, at its core, capitalism is an immense and complex organisation of time, and thus that the importance of Marx’s work is realised by its singular contribution to our understanding of this. Each book is centrally concerned with the historically specific character of capital’s temporal order, such that each presents a new reading of the relationship between capitalism and historical time.


Marx – time – history

Stavros Tombazos, (2014) Time in Marx: The Categories of Time in Marx’s ‘Capital’, with a Preface by Georges Labica and Postface by Daniel Bensaïd, Historical Materialism Book Series, Leiden: Brill,

Jonathan Martineau, (2015) Time, Capitalism and Alienation: A Socio-Historical Inquiry into the Making of Modern Time, Historical Materialism Book Series, Leiden: Brill,

Harry Harootunian, (2015) Marx After Marx: History and Time in the Expansion of Capitalism, New York: Columbia University Press.


What does Marx’s work tell us about the relationship between time and history? The best answer to this question seems to be, simultaneously, quite little and a significant amount. Quite little, because nowhere in his oeuvre is there an explicit examination of this relationship; a significant amount, because a now theoretically robust literature[1] demonstrates that this oeuvre constitutes one of the greatest resources with which to explore this relationship. A number of Marxists after Marx have, of course, taken up this question (Walter Benjamin, Louis Althusser, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Ernst Bloch are the prominent examples), but what the ongoing output of books and articles on this relationship indicates is that our understanding of Marx’s contribution to it is far from exhausted. As a result (apart from the shared conviction that Marx’s work releases us from the straitjacket of historicism, the suffocating confines of Benjamin’s well-known ‘homogenous empty time’),[2] there is little, currently, that might be identified as a ‘majority opinion’ within the relevant literature. Whatever the reason – it is too early, the scope and complexity of this relationship renders consensus impossible, etc. – this is not a problem, but indeed a creative opening that lends itself to theoretical ‘play’,[3] as Kostas Axelos might say. Accordingly three of the latest books, by Stavros Tombazos,[4] Jonathan Martineau, and Harry Harootunian, to enter this arena not only possess different tones, tenors, and styles, but represent distinct – and quite distinctive – interventions into the capitalism–time–history nexus.

Tombazos’s Time in Marx is best read as a contribution to what in the Marxian literature has come to be known, variously, as the ‘New Hegelian Marxism’, the ‘New Dialectics’, and ‘Systematic Dialectics’. This is a unique contribution, for three reasons. First, it not only predates the well-known Anglo-American works in Systematic Dialectics over the last twenty years,[5] it prefigures them, which is to say that it anticipates the kinds of arguments and methodologies that guide these later works. It is, in other words, a pioneering articulation of the Hegel/Marx confrontation that overtly emphasises the influence of the late Hegel on the late Marx: the place of the Logic within Capital, as opposed to the Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. Second, Time in Marx ‘out-systematises’ its successors: the ambition and scope of what comes in its wake largely pales in comparison. Whereas much of the later literature in Systematic Dialectics takes a cautious approach, stressing what it sees as Marx’s selective and changing use of Hegel’s Logic and Encyclopaedia, hence limiting itself to particular sections of the three volumes of Capital (the first six chapters of Volume One being the most common), Time in Marx noticeably differs and stages the Hegel/Marx confrontation across all three volumes. There is in these pages a steadfast conviction in the structural integrity of Capital as a whole, the consequence being a fidelity to Marx that is both philosophically creative and restrictive. Third and finally, Time in Marx stands apart in its singular focus on the complex temporal character of Marx’s work. There is (to my knowledge) no other work in Systematic Dialectics that does the same, no other work in this literature that contends that the overriding framework through which Marx’s critique of political economy must be grasped is, necessarily, a temporal one. Tombazos’s choice of time as ‘the guiding thread’ of his analysis is not arbitrary; on the contrary, ‘capital is, precisely, a conceptual organisation of time’.[6]

Predictably, Time in Marx is divided into three parts which correspond, in order, to the three volumes of Capital. The first part is structured by what Tombazos calls ‘The Time of Production’, which he characterises as ‘a linear and abstract temporality, homogeneous, a time that is supposed to be calculable, measurable’.[7] The predominant subject of this section is labour-time, understood as both a transhistorical economic law[8] and – his primary concern – a ‘regulatory principle’ specific to capitalism. Accordingly, this is where three (wholly intertwined) forms of capitalist labour-time take centre stage: socially necessary labour-time, abstract labour-time, and surplus labour-time. This is also where several of the most precise and sophisticated formulations of Time in Marx make their appearance. Some highlight the social basis of capitalist labour-time: socially necessary labour-time is not originally a quantity but a social relation, a regulatory link that ‘can only be quantified through the effect of a difference that manifests itself in it’,[9] and abstract labour-time is the condition of the individuation of the act of labour, such that it ‘introduces a division within itself that is usually called the “division of labour”’.[10] For its part, surplus labour-time constitutes what Tombazos calls ‘the hidden time of the commodity’, because it emerges from the difference between the labour-time necessary for the production of a commodity and the labour-time necessary for the reproduction of the labour-power whose use produces this commodity.[11]

Other passages in Part One are revealing as much for their actual content as for what they potentially enable. Consider the following on the value/use-value, thus abstract/concrete labour, relation:


In the usual way of reading Capital, the commodity divides itself into abstract and concrete labour, into value and use-value, without being able to be value if it is not also use-value, and vice versa. This is correct but insufficient. Abstract labour divides itself, within itself, into abstract labour (universality) and abstract/concrete labour (particularity). Use-value is not only an aspect of the commodity, but also an aspect of value, a particularisation of it. … Use-values can only have a meaning as particularisations of value … . It seems to us more correct to say that the commodity is divided into value and value/use-value in order to highlight the non-independent (and neutral) character of use-values under capitalism. Thus, abstract labour appears in two forms: as a simple unity with itself (value, universality) and as a ‘composed’ unity (value/use-value, abstract/concrete labour, particularity).[12]


This is an important passage, because it reminds us that use-value, hence concrete labour, only exists consequent to the commodification of labour-power, which is to say that abstract labour produces, within itself, concrete labour as its dialectical exterior, and thus that living labour is only ‘external’ to capital within the production-process.[13] Yet there is also an opportunity here (which Tombazos misses) to investigate the problem of ‘concrete labour-time’, such that, on the one hand, this social individual form of time is already always subsumed by a purely social form of time (concrete labour-time is only actual in its dialectical subordination to abstract labour-time), and, on the other hand, it must, on some level, be understood as different than abstract labour-time (there is, after all, a dialectic at work here). The extent of what Tombazos offers (this is representative of the secondary literature more generally) is that ‘individual time has a particular content … that is experienced subjectively’,[14] but this tells us little about what a concept of concrete labour-time might resemble.

Hegel’s Logic undeniably makes its mark on Part One. Tombazos gives considerable attention, in summary, to the relevance of ‘measure’ to the exchange relation, to the ways in which ‘essence’ bears on Marx’s exposition of value, and to how Marx’s illustration of the movement from simple circulation to the circulation of money-capital is indebted to the transition from ‘chemism’ to ‘teleology’.[15] Yet it is Part Two of Time in Marx, ‘The Time of Circulation’, wherein the Hegel/Marx confrontation is at its most productive. Departing from the premise that ‘the second volume of Capital has been almost completely forgotten’,[16] Tombazos goes to great lengths to demonstrate that this volume not only constitutes the ‘key’[17] for understanding Capital as a whole, but also that the source of this is nothing other than Hegel’s system. The place of Hegel in the early chapters of Capital Volume Two (above all Chapter 4, ‘The Three Figures of the Circuit’) not only lends these chapters a systematicity equal to the systematic development of the value-form in the early chapters of Capital Volume One, it endows them with a power that their counterpart in Volume One does not have: the ability to present the various forms of capital itself, subsequent to the establishment of capital as self-expanding value.

The section of the Logic upon which Part Two of Time in Marx hinges is ‘The Syllogism’ (Chapter Three of ‘The Doctrine of the Concept’). Drawing on the figures of this syllogism, Tombazos shows the extent to which Marx’s presentation of the different positions and relations between money, the commodity, and production in Capital Volume Two can be grasped as a critical appropriation of the Logic which nevertheless corresponds to the different positions and relations between, respectively, universality, particularity, and singularity within this syllogism. This is, as Tombazos describes it, ‘the syllogistic structure of capital’,[18] and after the Logic, it correlates to the sense in which, as the ‘Idea’, capital is a processual ‘living being’ – a teleological ‘living organism’ – that divides itself, within itself, into three processes:[19] the ‘living individual’, or ‘shape’ (the circuit of productive capital); the ‘life-process’, or ‘assimilation’ (the circuit of commodity capital); and finally the ‘genus-process’ (the circuit of money capital). The details of this homology between Hegel and Marx (which, to my knowledge, the rest of Systematic Dialectics does not address) cannot be taken any further here.[20] It must suffice to state that, for Tombazos, the circuits of money, productive, and commodity capital make up, in turn, the ‘valorisation, conservation and auto-critique/self-control of value’,[21] such that as a ‘triple autonomous movement’,[22] and hence as a ‘rich and complex organisation of rhythms’,[23] ‘social capital’[24] – the subject of Capital Volume Two – is Marx’s most complete expression of the life of capital.

Two points follow from this. First, Time in Marx constitutes a useful, if underdeveloped, account of the discourse of ‘life’ in Marx’s critique of political economy more generally. There is a consistent appeal to ‘life’ (Leben) in this critique – there is a consistent use of life-related terms – but there is no theoretical discourse on the ‘life of capital’ (indeed, the same can be said of ‘the life of the worker’, ‘living labour’, human beings’ ‘means of life’, etc., insofar as ‘life’ here only functions ontologically around the concepts with which it is joined). Given its emphasis on the ‘life-processes’ and ‘life-circuits’ of social capital, Time in Marx makes a step towards addressing this absence. Second, Tombazos’s analysis of the syllogistic structure of capital establishes a basis upon which ‘The Time of Circulation’ is philosophically secured as a ‘cyclical’ temporality. While ‘The Time of Production’ is for Tombazos an abstract linear time, ‘The Time of Circulation’ is a cyclical temporality, but – and this is crucial – this temporality has no meaning beyond the ‘ordinary’ or ‘vulgar’ conception of time (to use a Heideggerian expression) unless it is grounded, as it is here, in Hegel’s dialectical exposition of the syllogism. In this way, the times that form Tombazos’s ‘The Time of Circulation’ (and Marx’s Capital Volume Two) – particularly ‘turnover time’ (Umschlagszeit) as the sum of production time and circulation time[25] – are not reducible to quantity alone.

Part Three of Time in Marx touches on the central categories and topics of Capital Volume Three: cost, price, and profit, as well as the derivations of industrial capital and ground rent, leading to the well-known ‘Trinity Formula’. Yet it is Tombazos’s exploration of capitalist crises, coming out of the ‘Law of the Tendential Fall in the Rate of Profit’, which offers the most promise. Inasmuch as social capital is ‘a rich and complex organisation of rhythms’, it is, because of this, equally the permanent tendency towards crisis, such that its rhythmic unity contains the permanent possibility of ‘a kind of “arrhythmia” … a momentary disturbance of the system’s coherence’.[26] This point, made in passing in Part Two, comes to the fore in the closing chapters of Time in Marx, and opens the door to a rare critique of Capital: whereas Marx investigates the ‘periodical crises linked to the industrial cycle, which are therefore “normal”, necessary and inevitable moments of capitalist production’, he leaves unanalysed ‘the structural crises that are abnormal or extraordinary in that they cannot be overcome by the spontaneous or endogenous mechanisms of the system’.[27] This critique is important in its own right, but for the purposes of this review it carries additional weight, because it frames Tombazos’s articulation of the relationship between capital and historical time. He states:


Far from acting in a social environment that it only conquers, capital produces its objective contents that are this environment. It produces its own history. Each particular stage of capitalism, each recovery from a structural crisis, is the peace that capital concludes with itself. … This correspondence between ‘subjectivity’ and ‘objectivity’ is not that of the conceptual totality of capital with an external empirical reality, with a neutral historical time. Rather, it is the relative correspondence of the former with the objective determinations it produces. … Capital as an ‘Idea’ is the correspondence of a logical order of time – obeying its own immanent criteria – with historical time. This correspondence is a permanent relation of tension and conflict, a relation of sometimes hidden and sometimes evident contradiction. Crises, particularly structural crises, are violent moments of confrontation between antagonistic forces. They open up various possibilities, among which is that of a new ‘peace’ between the ‘subjective side’ and ‘objective side’ of capital. This is why capitalism is a coherent system of determinations, at the same time completed and open, dynamic and in movement.[28]


This passage is noteworthy, because it demonstrates another point of difference between Time in Marx and the rest of so-called ‘Systematic Dialectics’: it rejects the notion that the systematicity of Hegel’s and Marx’s systematic dialectic is defined by its separation from – indeed opposition to – a ‘historical dialectic’. This is a tenet of much of the literature in Systematic Dialectics: history and historical time must be excluded from the domain of the systematic.[29] Tombazos obviously contests this. Yet the question that must be posed here is whether or not he goes far enough. That is, do history and historical time merely form the ‘objective side’ of the dialectic of capital, the ‘empirical world’ that is dialectically tied to the ‘subjective side’ – the ‘thought’ or ‘universal reason’ – of capital, such that a ‘mutual fertilisation’ and ‘contradictory unity’ between the universal logic and particular history of capital exists?[30] Or are history and historical time manifestations of the dialectic of capital itself, from both the standpoint of its objectivity and subjectivity, such that it makes no sense to relegate history and historical time to capital’s ‘empirical world’? Tombazos repeatedly states that there is ‘no relation of separation’[31] between the logic and history of capital,[32] but why speak of ‘logic’ and ‘history’ as discrete entities in the first place? What is the point of insisting upon their inseparability if they are (from the standpoint of the process that is capital) indistinguishable in the first place? Is the subjective side of capital, its ‘logical order of time’, not already always historical? Thus the question is not one of ‘coincidence’, ‘correspondence’, or ‘confrontation’, but identity (which contains conflict and crisis within it). The logic and history of capital are not the subjective and objective sides of the dialectic, respectively, but two different expressions of one and the same thing.[33]

These questions cast a critical lens on other aspects of Time in Marx, from lapses into positions consistent with Systematic Dialectics[34] to, of much greater consequence, its most comprehensive concept: the ‘organic time of capital’. In short, this concept (which, incidentally, Martineau does not question and Harootunian approvingly cites)[35] denotes the unity of ‘The Time of Production’ and ‘The Time of Circulation’. It is Tombazos’s culminating formulation of ‘the time of capital’ (assuming that it is possible to speak of such a thing). Yet the fact is that this unity is better understood as ‘the historical time of capital’, a time whose abstract contours are introduced in the second volume of Capital, and subsequently concretised in the third volume. Amongst other things, this reformulation casts light on the need to actually construct a concept of a ‘structural crisis’ of capital (which Tombazos does not do), a necessary step towards thinking social and historical time after capitalism. As it stands, Tombazos leaves the relationship between crises and historical time within the terms of capital’s attempt to resolve every crisis, particularly structural ones: the mediation of linear, progressive time.

          If Time in Marx is on the whole faithful to Marx, Martineau’s Time, Capitalism and Alienation takes a more ‘heretical’ approach. Yet the peculiar thing about this book is that, like Moishe Postone’s Time, Labor, and Social Domination,[36] its heresy seems to be unconscious, by which I mean that Martineau does not acknowledge, let alone address, the extent to which he has transformed several of the most basic categories of Capital. The heart of this is an analogical extension (straight out of Postone) of abstract labour-time and concrete labour-time into ‘abstract time’ and ‘concrete time’, which, when presumed to be consistent with Marx, leads to other interpretive problems and thereby obscures some essential dimensions of Marx’s work (specifically its deeply dialectical character). Time, Capitalism and Alienation is therefore liable to accusations of a ‘misreading’ of Marx, and while there certainly are formulations and passages that I consider misguided, reducing this book to this vein not only risks complicity in a kind of Marxological arrogance, it neglects the actual contributions made by Martineau’s ‘points of heresy’.[37] This book raises new and complex questions that we cannot ignore.

In contrast to the vast scope of Time in Marx, the focus of Time, Capitalism and Alienation is more directed (its subtitle, ‘A Socio-Historical Inquiry into the Making of Modern Time’, does not reflect the fact that its overriding concern is the relationship between capitalism and the clock). And whereas Tombazos gives us a Marx with few interlocutors (essentially Hegel), Martineau – much to his credit – synchronises a more diverse range of material and accordingly produces a more synthetic book. The purpose of this study is consequently quite ambitious:


[I]t seeks to delineate some of the characteristics of capitalism’s mode of social time and to examine how processes of capitalist value formation and appropriation affect and/or construct a historically specific relationship between an ‘abstract’ time-form (known as clock-time) and ‘concrete’ times … . [T]o provide an analysis of social time in a way that emphasises the commodification of time … and also [treat] the commodification of time not as a once-and-for-all event, but as a conflictual process implying a tendency by capitalism to create and reproduce an abstract time framework which alienates, subsumes, reduces and abstracts from concrete social times, while being contested and resisted by women and men as embodied historical agents thriving for the reappropriation of their concrete times, bodies and lives.[38]


There are multiple things to attend to here, the course of which will take us through the book.

The first is Martineau’s conception of ‘social time’, or more specifically ‘social time relations’. A guiding premise of this book is that ‘time is a social phenomenon’,[39] and Martineau dedicates the first chapter to the theoretical and methodological implications of this insight. This begins with a ‘conceptual mapping’ of alienation and reification, which unfortunately omits some important facets of Marx’s theorisation,[40] and is arguably misplaced within the overall structure of the book, insofar as its link to social time is only established in the final chapter. This is followed by some remarks about the relationship between ideas and contexts more generally, highlighting the works of Neal Wood, Ellen Meiksins Wood, and István Mészáros. However, the better part of the first chapter is concerned with constructing a concept of social time out of the modern social sciences, for it is this avenue, Martineau contends, that offers a potential ‘resolution of what Paul Ricœur has called time’s fundamental aporia between cosmological and experiential conceptions’.[41] In short, it is sociology[42] that directs us towards an overcoming of time’s objective–subjective divide.

Martineau thus casts his lens on two leading figures in sociological ‘time studies’: Norbert Elias and Barbara Adam. In Elias’s Time: An Essay (1992), we have a conception of social time borne from a rejection of the dualisms between ‘nature’ and ‘society’, and ‘individual’ and ‘group’, one that yields a distinction between (natural) ‘time’ and (social) ‘timing’. This is not a new dualism on a different plane, but rather entails a relation between a means of orientation, such as a clock or calendar (time), and the synthesising power of human social activity (timing). While this is a historically and culturally changing relation, what is common to all societies is time’s ongoing derivation from and dependence on timing. Added to this is Adam’s ‘timescape’, a concept which ‘provides a space for understanding the threading of different time forms in coexistence as a process of hierarchisation’.[43] Adam’s emphasis on multiple temporalities is important, but what truly interests Martineau is the question of hierarchy, because it enables him to locate social-property relations, and thus the logics of power and struggle, at the heart of his concept of ‘social time relations’ (the absence of this in Elias’s account is, rightly, taken to task). The stage is now set for a return to the book’s defining argument: ‘social time relations in capitalist societies are dominated by clock-time: capitalist clock-time occupies a hegemonic position in the hierarchy of temporalities that form capitalist social time relations, alienating, subordinating, colonising, absorbing and/or marginalising other conceptions and practices of time and concrete temporalities’.[44]

However, Martineau first takes a historical detour (a fairly long one: Chapter 2), beginning with the emergence of the mechanical clock in European urban centres in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and culminating in clock-time’s ‘development into a social time infrastructure’[45] during the transition from feudalism to capitalism. Topically, this chapter covers a massive amount of territory: the relation between technology and the social, historiographical controversies surrounding the invention of the mechanical clock, the place of work bells in medieval life, the relations between ‘the time of the Church’ and ‘the time of merchants’ (Martineau’s critique of Jacques Le Goff here is particularly strong), pre-capitalist concrete times in light of Mikhail Bakhtin’s ‘grotesque realism’, the transition from feudalism to capitalism more generally (led by Robert Brenner’s account), and finally Isaac Newton’s ‘absolute time’ as a theoretical manifestation of the temporal infrastructure of clock-time. Despite this enormous range of subjects and source material, Martineau’s message is admirably consistent. It has two components: first, clock-time is increasingly constitutive of pre-capitalist social time relations, but it cannot be understood as ‘hegemonic’ within these relations; second, the time of pre-capitalist social practices – above all labour – is in many respects ‘dominated’ by clock-time, but it is not alienated by this time, because clock-time does not penetrate the very fabric of the practices themselves.[46] However, this consistency is not without its costs. Some of it hinges on an uncritical presentation of the sources that cultivate it, a notable example being Martineau’s wholesale endorsement of Brenner’s work, leading to declarations such as ‘England’s capitalist development is endogenous’.[47] This flies in the face of Marx’s analysis of ‘originary accumulation’ (ursprüngliche Akkumulation, on which Martineau remains silent), and thereby shuts the door on the problems that capitalism creates for the concept of ‘origin’ more generally.[48]

Chapter 2 clearly functions as a counterpoint to the third and final chapter, where the focus is on the inextricable fusion between clock-time and capitalist social relations. Clock-time historically precedes (and will presumably exist after) capitalism, but capitalism constitutes a historically unprecedented mode of production wherein clock-time is the hegemonic form of social time. At the heart of this is the valorisation process. Value formation and appropriation ‘take hold of clock-time’s infrastructure’[49] in such a way that concrete times (which cannot, crucially, be reduced to ‘the-concrete-time-of-labour’)[50] are subsumed and thus alienated by ‘abstract time’: an ‘independent’ time which, after Postone, comprises a form of ‘abstract domination’ that structures general social experience.[51] Consequently, there is an ‘intricate relationship between abstract clock-time and value’;[52] ‘abstract time is a fundamental part of the whole edifice of capitalist value formation’.[53] This interpretive framework guides the whole of Chapter 3, including a detailed analysis of World Standard Time, the return to the question of the alienation/reification of time (‘put simply, time is alienated because of its commodification. It is bought and sold on the market’),[54] and finally an account of concrete times as struggles against abstract time (the two examples given are women’s control over pregnancy and childbirth, and the resistance of Australian Aborigines to British colonialism). Given the scope of Martineau’s concept of ‘concrete time’[55] (it far exceeds that of Postone’s, which is ‘limited’ to the production of material wealth), it is not surprising that these struggles are animated by countless concrete times that ‘form an inextinguishable substratum of natural, social, bodily and human processes, which can never be subsumed, even as abstract time strives to alienate them and bring them under the logic of value formation’.[56]

Martineau is clearly aware that his ‘concrete time’ represents a distinct extension of the scope of Marx’s ‘concrete labour-time’, but it is less clear (because it remains unanalysed, indeed unasked) what effects Martineau understands this to have on the intelligibility of Marx’s system more generally (e.g. the difference and relation between the production and circulation processes, the difference and relation between labour-time and free/leisure time).[57] This points to a related but more fundamental issue, one that constitutes the defining difference between Martineau and Marx, and one that, since it is passed over with no commentary, constitutes what I consider to be the defining limitation of Time, Capitalism and Alienation. This is the presumed consistency, and hence conflation, of Marx’s ‘abstract labour-time’ and Martineau’s ‘abstract time’/‘clock-time’.[58] The problem here is one of manifestation (Erscheinung) and thus measure. Whereas for Martineau ‘different concrete times of different concrete labours are abstracted, reduced to abstract time, and made commensurable through their expression in clock-time units’,[59] for Marx it is not the clock but money which renders equivalent different concrete labour-times. To put this another way, abstract labour (-time)[60] ontologically depends upon the clock – its homogeneity, quantifiability, and divisibility is predicated on clock-time – but it is not equivalent to it. Abstract labour controls the clock (most directly by its measure of concrete labour), such that, in capitalism, the clock is subservient to money as a temporal form. Thus money, in both its function as a commodity and as capital – as the ‘materialisation of universal labour-time’[61] and as value made formally independent – is the real manifestation of ‘abstract time’. For Marx, money, not clock-time, is the hegemonic capitalist social time relation.

Perhaps the most apparent corollary of this difference is Martineau’s continual reference to ‘the commodification of time’ (and the corresponding political call for the ‘decommodification’ of time). From Marx’s perspective, this is mistaken: time itself is not commodified. Rather, it is labour-power that is commodified, producing the abstract labour – the socially necessary labour-time – that is both the presupposition and result of commodification more generally. It is the use of labour-power that yields a form of time without which commodification cannot (re)occur. This dovetails with Marx’s contention that ‘we should not say that one man’s hour is worth another man’s hour, but rather that one man during an hour is worth as much as another man during an hour’.[62] This is crucial, because it avoids the disaggregation of the unity of the concept of ‘labour-time’ (Arbeitszeit), a unity, at least from Marx’s standpoint, that risks being jettisoned by concepts such as ‘abstract time’. The hyphen within ‘labour-time’ is important: it registers the ontological unity of Arbeitszeit.

For all this, it is impossible to deny that Time, Capitalism and Alienation raises questions that Marx’s work either does not ask or inadequately tackles. What is the relationship between value and the clock? Between the innumerable concrete times of human life and capitalism more generally? And how do we imagine, let alone practise, a politics of time which potentially unseats value as the self-mediating ground of the social? Again, the problem is not the construction of concepts such as ‘abstract time’ and ‘concrete time’ to help us answer these vital questions, but an unacknowledged departure from the source in whose name they are constructed. There is nothing wrong with departing from Marx to answer these questions – indeed, we must – but this would have been a more persuasive book had Martineau recognised, and engaged, the extent to which Marx is being transformed. As it stands, it reproduces many of the problems of Postone’s Time, Labor, and Social Domination. However, and unlike Postone, Martineau does not flirt with what Antonio Negri calls ‘the complete realisation of the law of value’:[63] he rejects a conception of subsumption wherein ‘a complete absorption or eradication of concrete times by abstract time’[64] occurs, for this would signal the death of capitalism.[65]

On this count, Martineau is squarely in line with the most consequential US historian of Japan to date. In a career that now spans over fifty years, Harry Harootunian’s oeuvre includes pioneering books on Tokugawa nativism (Things Seen and Unseen, 1988), the Meiji Revolution (Toward Restoration, 1970), intellectuals’ deliberations on capitalist modernity (Overcome by Modernity, 2000), and the question of everyday life (History’s Disquiet, 2000). Since History’s Disquiet, a signature move of his work has been to pit the indissociable histories of capitalism and colonialism against the culturalisms of area studies (particularly ‘Asian Studies’) and postcolonial studies alike. At the heart of this is the conviction that unlike the provincialisms of area and postcolonial studies, the history of capitalism – whose ‘area’ is the world as such – bears witness to the fundamental unevenness reproduced by labour processes, and therefore cannot be grasped by a linear, progressive conception of historical time (historicism). Historical capitalism, indeed history itself, is better comprehended as stratified layers of multiple and discordant temporalities, where past temporal forms are synchronised, but never always or fully, by the imperatives of the present.[66] The present is the prime mover of historical time, but its hegemony is continually liable to disruption by its received pasts. For this reason, as Harootunian asserts, ‘each present … supplies a multiplicity of possible lines of development’.[67]

This is the outlook of Marx After Marx, but it now comes with a twist: the object of critique is no longer area and postcolonial studies, but ‘Western Marxism’, a name that for Harootunian signifies a clear prioritisation of circulation over production, and a concomitant ‘distancing from the economic for the cultural … which contributed to valorising a specific (and provincial) cultural endowment as unique, superior, and universal’.[68] The accused include Lukács’s History and Class Consciousness (for its reliance on Max Weber’s instrumental rationality, to be precise), the early Frankfurt School (‘with its insistence on the commodification of life at the level of mass consumption and culture’),[69] and finally Negri and his followers, ‘who have presumed the final completion of the commodity relation everywhere’.[70] In turn, Harootunian has been accused of creating a ‘simplified image’, and thus a ‘fantasy construct’,[71] of Western Marxism, first by neglecting vital differences between its purported agents, and then by declaring that it ‘[made] a provincial culture serve as a universal standard for the rest of the world to follow … [promoted] a unique cultural configuration as a model of imitation’[72] (there is very little, if any, evidence for this). In the end, however, what matters is the reading of Marx and the Marxists (who are not Lukács, Adorno or Negri) which animates this book. ‘Western Marxism’ is overstated in Marx After Marx, but it does not overdetermine Marx After Marx. Rather, it is a symptom of a particular, and particularly unique, interpretation of Marx and some of his most significant (largely non-European) interlocutors. We turn, then, to the concept which singlehandedly inspires this book: subsumption.

Marx After Marx lives up to its title. There is a genuinely new Marx being presented here, because Harootunian has armed Marx’s concept of subsumption with the capacity to express the relationship between capitalism and history itself. More specifically, he has granted Marx’s concept of ‘formal’, as opposed to ‘real’, subsumption the exclusive rights to this relationship. As a result, the difference he establishes between these two kinds of subsumption (chiefly in Chapter One, ‘Marx, Time, History’) is remarkable. To begin, the real subsumption at work in these pages is not the usual account guided by Capital Volume One (the production of relative surplus-value underpinned by transformations of the labour-process itself, e.g. cooperation, the division of labour, the use of machinery), but rather a notion that indicates the ‘untroubled completion’ of capitalism, a concept that Marx needed ‘in order to present capitalism as a completed totality’.[73] ‘Real subsumption’ imagines capitalism released from its ‘disturbing subsidiary circumstances’ (Marx’s words), such that it is effectively ‘a model … a proto-ideal type, which envisions the possible realisation and completion of the commodity relation in an as yet unrealised future, in a last instance that never comes’.[74] In short, one might say, the only thing that is ‘real’ about real subsumption is its methodological purpose and function, driven by Marx’s ‘analytic desire to totalise capitalism’.[75] In this sense, an overriding problem of Western Marxism is its presumption that real subsumption has actually been achieved, announcing the end of unevenness and thus ‘the final completion of capitalism’s domination of everyday life’.[76]

This depiction of real subsumption (which simultaneously seems to disavow Negri and turn Marx into a late Negrian) paves the way for the enthusiastic inquiry, bordering on enshrinement, of formal subsumption. On the whole, the relation between formal and real subsumption in Marx After Marx is not a mutually constitutive one, an interplay or continual crossing-over from one kind to another, or what Tomba elsewhere describes as the ‘reciprocal co-penetration between absolute surplus-value and relative surplus-value’.[77] Harootunian’s relation is instead one of diametric opposition: while real subsumption invokes a mystical world where valorisation is finalised everywhere, ‘whereby value has trumped history’,[78] formal subsumption demands the sober confrontation with the messy reality of history, and thereby with the radical openness and incompleteness of capitalism. As the ‘principal logic of capitalist development’[79] and ‘general rule of all capitalist development’[80] (phrases that recur across Marx After Marx, and modifications of a single sentence in ‘Results of the Immediate Production-Process’),[81] formal subsumption is a temporalising form that ‘through its protean capacity to appropriate from the past what it found useful to capitalism, constantly introduced practices that embodied past times in every present’.[82] Therefore, ‘we must recognise in it the form of history itself’;[83] it entails ‘the categorical logic delegated to express the sensible materiality of historical change’.[84] So strong is Harootunian’s investment in formal subsumption that it might be taken as a challenge to Marx’s claim that communism is the riddle of history solved.

This commitment to formal subsumption comes down to the idea that it is the binding agent, the ‘connecting hinge’, between history and capital’s abstract logic (like Martineau, and after Postone, ‘capital’ in this work is essentially synonymous with ‘abstract logic’), and thus between the old and new more broadly, generating a ‘constantly changing historical landscape’ whose repository is the untimely and uneven temporalities of everyday life.[85] This argument directs the entire book, but it does not shoehorn it, as each of the chosen interlocutors reframes, qualifies and extends its contours. Indeed, a brilliant dimension of Marx After Marx is the fact that the evolution of its argument reflects the protean capacity of formal subsumption itself. A shared feature of Lenin’s The Development of Capitalism in Russia (1899) and Rosa Luxemburg’s The Accumulation of Capital (1913) is the insistence that originary accumulation is ‘always immanent’[86] to the logic of formal subsumption, be it through the wage-form yoking itself to existing forms of exploitation in the agricultural countryside, or the colonial violence that underpins the dependence of capitalism on ‘noncapitalism’ more generally. The concept of ‘passive revolution’ in Antonio Gramsci’s The Southern Question (1926) is the ‘equivalent political form’[87] of formal subsumption, because it transferred the encounter between the economic ‘new’ and ‘old’ to a tactic which recruited and mobilised ‘what was near at hand’: the fluid and uneven mix of ‘different classes and political ambitions that constituted the “revolution”’.[88] José Carlos Mariátegui’s appeal to surviving traces of archaic Incan communal orders is in no way a romantic desire for the recovery of an ‘Inca utopianism’,[89] but rather a hedge on an unheralded Peruvian socialism, made possible by formal subsumption and its ‘coexisting different contemporaneities … constant collision of pasts in presents that are never completed but always left open’.[90] The sustained attention to ‘feudal remnants’ in China (Wang Yanan) and Japan (Yamada Moritarō and Uno Kōzō) inevitably runs into formal subsumption as the optic through which the historical ‘lateness’ of these nation-states can be theorised, without resorting to historicist – and racist – claims of ‘backwardness’.

The overriding image/metaphor that Harootunian employs to bring Marx and these interlocutors together is the palimpsest, as it evokes the ‘stratigraphic history’[91] – the vertical layering – that formal subsumption produces. Conversely, the methodological ‘fiction’ (Luxemburg’s word)[92] of real subsumption, which ‘[misrecognises] a model for real existence’,[93] regards the residues of older economic and political forms as wholly removed by later arrivals, and therefore relegates history to a ‘homogeneous, unitary, and linear trajectory of time’.[94] But is the concept of real subsumption really guilty of these charges? Does it, ultimately, ‘literally imagine’ capitalism as a ‘completed totality’?[95] The connection of real subsumption to the discourse of ‘completion’ is so deeply entrenched in Marx After Marx that to answer these questions in anything but the affirmative risks destabilising, if not dismantling, the theoretical edifice upon which this book is built. Yet if one believes (as I do) that real subsumption (in tandem, of course, with formal and hybrid subsumption) is squarely at the heart of the unevenness and necessary incompletion of capitalism and history alike, then this edifice cannot stand. Of critical importance here are the conceptions of ‘totality’ and ‘totalisation’ at work in Marx After Marx. After Sartre,[96] totalisation in Marx is not, as it is often understood to be, an ‘adding up’ of innumerable multiplicities into a single, ‘completed totality’. It is, on the contrary, the creation of difference, a unification whose unity is the process of its disintegration. In this sense, capitalism is a totality precisely because it cannot and never will be completed.

This opposing vision, between Harootunian and Marx, of the relationship between capitalism and totalisation is the gateway to a new relationship between subsumption and history, one that unsettles Marx After Marx but nonetheless maintains its commitment to ‘deprovincialising Marx’ and hence to world history. This begins with removing real subsumption from the misty realm of the ‘ideal model’ and returning it to where Marx clearly locates it: within the production-process of capital, which is to say within the actuality of the historical present of capitalist labour-processes. If real subsumption ‘is logically implicit in the concept of capital’,[97] so too are the material coexistence and interplay between formal and real subsumption. This does not preclude the possibility of stretches of chronological time, across various places in the world (particularly colonised societies), where formal subsumption is the predominant or even exclusive mode of capitalist appropriation, whereby there are no changes in the labour-processes themselves, and ‘nothing … has changed but [the worker’s] soul’.[98] But it is one thing to accept this possibility, as Marx does,[99] and another to turn formal subsumption into the law of world-historical capitalism, the ‘general rule of all capitalist development’. Harootunian puts such a heavy burden on formal subsumption that, on Marx’s terms, he denies ‘capitalist’ status to the world he brings into focus. After Marx, real subsumption constitutes the ‘specifically capitalist mode of production’; it defines a capitalist society as ‘capitalist’, such that it enables capitalist production to ‘[establish] itself as a mode of production sui generis’.[100] To insist on the presence of real subsumption in the non-European world does not erase the traces of older modes of production, nor does it put a fully-fledged industrial capitalism – complete with factories and machines – where it does not belong, but simply suggests the need to recognise some transformation of labour-processes themselves, in the vast majority of places where capital arrives on the scene.

As it stands, this distinct priority afforded to formal subsumption has two peculiar consequences. The first is that it reproduces the premise of many Western Marxists that the scope of subsumption extends beyond the production-process of capital to society as a whole. Against Marx (who explicitly limits subsumption to the production-process), Harootunian’s interpretation of Lenin as ‘[extending] the scope of formal subsumption to include areas outside the economic domain’,[101] of Gramsci as ‘[transferring] … formal subsumption from the economic to the political register and beyond’,[102] and of formal subsumption as ‘defining the social totality’[103] of Italy and Peru, ironically aligns with Jacques Camatte’s declaration of ‘the total subsumption of labour under capital’,[104] Fredric Jameson’s pronouncement that ‘everything has been subsumed under capitalism’,[105] and Negri’s claim that we have entered ‘the phase of the total subsumption of society’.[106] There is of course a palpable difference of content here, between Harootunian and the others, but the formal relationship between subsumption and totalisation is the same: subsumption, whether formal or real, stretches to all facets of social life. This is reinforced by the fact that Harootunian accepts the Western Marxist notion that real subsumption corresponds to ‘capitalism as a completed totality’ (his only point of contention is the presumption of realisation).

The second consequence of formal subsumption as ‘the general rule of all capitalist development’ is a one-sided, and therefore problematic, understanding of the relationship between capitalism and ‘noncapitalism’, which is to say between capitalism and ‘prior’ or ‘older’ practices. This, in turn, simplifies the historical-temporal relationship between the ‘new’ and ‘old’ more generally. As one might expect, Harootunian’s formal subsumption offers scarce acknowledgement of capital’s incessant reproduction of existing practices as ‘past’, and thus presents far too neat a separation between ‘capitalist production’ and ‘prior practices that are at hand’. This reproduction is only mentioned in passing,[107] presumably to mitigate the presence of real subsumption and the new ‘olds’ it creates. There is in Marx After Marx no consideration of the inescapable equivocation that marks the capitalist ‘old’ from the start, no analysis of the conjoined but contradictory olds put into service by formal and real subsumption. The result is that the standard (chronological) conception of the ‘old’ guides this work, despite the ‘coexisting different contemporaneities’ showcased by its stratigraphic history. When real subsumption is denied, so too is capital’s ongoing designation of existing capitalist labour-processes as either ‘insufficiently capitalist’ or as outright ‘noncapitalist’ (this is part and parcel of its totalising process). This is important, because it is the basis of the argument – central to Marx After Marx – of the permanence of originary accumulation.[108] More broadly, it is the basis of the ‘constantly changing historical landscape’ that Harootunian attributes to formal subsumption alone. Capitalism constantly revolutionises itself, and thus generates the historically new within itself, because of formal and real subsumption. When given the exclusive rights to the relation between capitalism and history, formal subsumption actually diminishes the dynamism of the historical present.[109]

It is suggestive that Marx After Marx never broaches the conceptual history of subsumption itself, specifically the manner in which Marx’s work decisively modifies, but is nonetheless indebted to, the emergence of subsumption as a modern, critical concept in Kant, and the introduction of new social and historical dimensions to subsumption in Hegel.[110] Whatever the reasons for this absence, it reinforces a well-known standpoint on the relationship between Marx and philosophy as such: the position, after Louis Althusser and Georges Labica, that Marx eventually ‘breaks’ with philosophy. For Harootunian, once Marx ‘liberated history from philosophy, time or temporality is left to temporalise itself in the present’,[111] in accordance with ‘real history’ as ‘the actual empirical existence of men’.[112] The problem here is larger than the endorsement of empiricism as the anti-philosophical meaning of history, and with it a certain faith in the self-sufficiency of history (which is not an adequate solution to the faith in the self-sufficiency of philosophy). At a more basic level, the problem is the lack of a sustained consideration of Marx’s deeply ambivalent, but thereby productive, relationship with philosophy. The Grundrisse and Capital do not break with philosophy, but enhance it; to paraphrase Balibar, philosophy has been kicked out the front door, only to sneak back in, enriched, through the window.[113] Harootunian undeniably deepens our understanding of the relationship between capitalism, time, and history. However – and this point extends to Martineau and Tombazos as well – one is left wondering in what ways, precisely, Marx’s work problematises, and is problematised by, the philosophy of time and history more generally. Despite – in fact, precisely because of – Marx’s vexed relationship to this philosophy, this is, I believe, the most important question surrounding the concept of historical time.

Sartre famously declared that ‘far from being exhausted, Marxism is still very young, almost in its infancy; it has scarcely begun to develop’.[114] It is, for this reason, the unsurpassable philosophy of our time: ‘we cannot go beyond it because we have not gone beyond the circumstances which engendered it’.[115] Nearly fifty years on, this rings true for these three books, if not the body of work on capitalism, time, and history more broadly. What these books reveal is that the theoretical and political potential of Marxism is not only not exhausted, but that such exhaustion is impossible: Marxism is as incomplete as the capitalism and history to which it is joined. In this regard, the particular limits of these books – of every book that confronts the capitalism–time–history nexus – introduce future lines of enquiry which, in turn, will introduce others.[116]





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Axelos, Kostas 2015 [1966], Introduction to a Future Way of Thought: On Marx and Heidegger, translated by Kenneth Mills, edited and introduced by Stuart Elden, Lüneburg: Meson Press.

Balibar, Étienne 1995, The Philosophy of Marx, translated by Gregory Elliott and Chris Turner, London: Verso.

Balibar, Étienne 2015, ‘Foucault’s Point of Heresy: “Quasi-Transcendentals” and the Transdisciplinary Function of the Episteme’, Theory, Culture & Society, 32, 5–6: 45–77.

Bensaïd, Daniel 2002, Marx for Our Times: Adventures and Misadventures of a Critique, translated by Gregory Elliott, London: Verso.

Bonefeld, Werner 2010, ‘Abstract Labour: Against its Nature and On its Time’, Capital & Class, 34, 2: 257–76.

Camatte, Jacques 1988 [1976], Capital and Community, translated by David Brown, London: Unpopular Books.

Harootunian, Harry 2007, ‘Remembering the Historical Present’, Critical Inquiry, 33: 471–94.

Harootunian, Harry 2010, ‘Who Needs Postcoloniality? A Reply to Linder’, Radical Philosophy, 164: 38–44.

Harootunian, Harry 2015, Marx After Marx: History and Time in the Expansion of Capitalism, New York: Columbia University Press.

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Tomba, Massimiliano 2013, Marx’s Temporalities, Historical Materialism Book Series, Chicago: Haymarket Books.

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[1] In addition to the three books reviewed here, see in particular Postone 1993, Bensaïd 2002, Tomba 2013, Osborne 2008, and Bonefeld 2010.

[2] One is hard pressed today to find anyone who advocates a historicist reading of Marx, so much so that the novelty of the anti-historicist position is quickly fading, if not already gone. A corollary of this is the frequent presupposing of precisely what needs to be explained: capitalism as the condition of homogenous empty time. As Peter Osborne suggests, ‘critical reference to historicism as a falsely linear and homogeneous conception of historical time has become a familiar trope of left-academic discourse over the last two decades, largely as a result of the still-growing influence of Benjamin’s writings. However, it often has a citational or positional function, rather than an analytical or theoretical one’. Osborne 2016, p. 51.

[3] See Axelos 2015. Axelos’s concept of ‘play/the game’ (le jeu) is difficult to pin down, but it is undeniably motivated by the place of ‘das Spiel’ in Heidegger. Broadly speaking, it signifies the sense in which the world deploys itself as a play of time, and is thereby the basis of the creative openness of what Axelos calls ‘planetary thought’.

[4] Tombazos’s Time in Marx was actually published in France in 1994, but was relatively unknown (at least by Anglo-American readers) until it was translated and republished a few years back.

[5] The paradigmatic example here is Arthur 2004. See also Moseley and Smith (eds.) 2014.

[6] Tombazos 2014, pp. 3, 5. ‘Conceptual’ in the active sense of ‘The Doctrine of the Concept’ in Hegel’s Logic.

[7] Tombazos 2014, p. 3.

[8] ‘Economy of time, to this all economy ultimately reduces itself’. Marx 1993, p. 173.

[9] Tombazos 2014, p. 4.

[10] Tombazos 2014, p. 29.

[11] Tombazos 2014, p. 85.

[12] Tombazos 2014, pp. 29–30. The problem with this passage is not that use-values are dependent on value, but that they are ‘neutral’ (the use-value of labour-power is by no means neutral).

[13] The point here is to emphasise the highly asymmetric dimension of the dialectical relationship between abstract and concrete labour, and thus value and use-value. Concrete labour and use-value are not only dialectically tied to abstract labour and value, but also only exist within abstract labour and value, as, to use Sartrean language, ‘exteriorised interiors’ of abstract labour and value. This unsettles the transhistorical validity of the categories of concrete labour and use-value, and suggests – against Marx – that they are only intelligible as economic categories specific to capitalism. Thus if the commodification of labour-power is historically specific to capitalism, and if it is a condition of the production of abstract labour and value, then concrete labour and use-value only exist consequent to this commodification.

[14] Tombazos 2014, p. 18.

[15] Unlike the chemical process (simple circulation), the teleological process (capital) not only presupposes but posits the moments of its self-renewal.

[16] Tombazos 2014, p. 119.

[17] Tombazos 2014, pp. 2, 120.

[18] Tombazos 2014, p. 140.

[19] ‘The living being is the syllogism whose very moments are inwardly systems and syllogisms … but they are active syllogisms, or processes; and within the subjective unity of the living being they are only One process. Thus, the living being is the process of its own concluding with itself, which runs through three processes’. Hegel 1991, p. 292 (§217).

[20] It is important to keep in mind that ‘production’ in the second volume of Capital (the ‘circuit of productive capital’) denotes the capacity of the living organism to preserve/maintain itself, not the manner in which this being reproduces itself as more than itself, in which it ‘gives birth’ to more than what it already is (this is the function of the circuit of money capital). To put this another way, whereas the production-process in the first volume of Capital corresponds to the production of surplus-value, this is, from the standpoint of the second volume of Capital, registered by the circuit of money capital, not that of productive capital. As Marx puts it, ‘the general form of the movement P … P′ is the form of reproduction, and does not indicate, as does M … M′, that valorisation is the purpose of the process’. Marx 1978, p. 172.

[21] Tombazos 2014, p. 144.

[22] Tombazos 2014, p. 144.

[23] Tombazos 2014, p. 144.

[24] ‘Social capital’ or ‘total social capital’ (gesellschaftlichen Gesamtkapital) in Capital Volume Two is the successor to ‘capital in general’ (Kapital im Allgemeinen) in Capital Volume One, although it is crucial to state that the former does not invalidate the latter. Rather, ‘social capital’ expresses within itself (which ‘capital in general’ does not) the three metamorphoses, the three cycles/circuits (Kreislauf), of the life of capital.

[25] Tombazos 2014, p. 168. It is worth noting that ‘circulation time’ is not, for Tombazos, the same thing as ‘The Time of Circulation’ (nor is ‘production time’ the same thing as ‘The Time of Production’). The former is contained within the latter, and entails the simple conception of ‘circulation’ qua the time of the purchase of commodities intended for production and the time of the sale of produced commodities (Tombazos 2014, p. 167).

[26] Tombazos 2014, p. 145.

[27] Tombazos 2014, p. 274. This dovetails with Peter Osborne’s claim that whereas Marx is undoubtedly a thinker of crisis, it is unclear whether he is a theorist of crisis, whether, that is to say, he ‘propound[s] something that might legitimately be called a “crisis theory”’. Osborne 2010, p. 19. However, Tombazos’s ‘structural crisis’ is not the same thing as what Osborne calls ‘the all-pervasive, general-historical character of the concept of crisis in its modern form’, which includes ‘the historico-political notion of a crisis of the capitalist system as a whole, as a condition of a transition to a new mode of production’. Osborne 2010, p. 20.

[28] Tombazos 2014, p. 300.

[29] This is certainly the standpoint of, again, Arthur 2004, and Moseley and Smith (eds.) 2014.

[30] Tombazos 2014, p. 303.

[31] Tombazos 2014, pp. 6, 303.

[32] Although he also contradicts himself on this point, for instance on p. 62. See endnote 34, below.

[33] One consequence of Tombazos’s relegation of history to the ‘objective side’ of capital is an unavoidable slide into stagism and thus historicism, wherein historical time is only realised in the specific moment and place of its dialectical correspondence with the ‘logical time’ of capital. The point, rather, is to grasp history as the totalising and temporalising manifestation of capital itself, from all of its sides.

[34] At one point, Tombazos suggests that ‘indeed, the exchanges outlined in the first chapter of Capital are not historical but logical’ (Tombazos 2014, p. 62). This is a misguided and common standpoint of Systematic Dialectics, as well as other (non-Hegelian) representations of Capital. For instance, in his Kantian rereading of commodity exchange as the a priori synthetic matrix of the social, Alfred Sohn-Rethel states that ‘the exchange abstraction excludes everything that makes up history, human, and even natural history’, and that through the exchange relation ‘time becomes unhistorical time’. Sohn-Rethel 1977, pp. 48–9, 56. These positions obscure the fact that history and historical time are immanent to the systematic development of the value-form in Capital.

[35] Harootunian 2015, p. 25.

[36] Time, Labor, and Social Domination remains – at least in the Anglo-American context – the predominant touchstone of secondary literature on Marx, time, and history. Of the three authors reviewed here, it has the strongest and most direct impact on Martineau, although Harootunian dovetails with Postone on some matters (Tombazos wrote Time in Marx before Time, Labor, and Social Domination was published).

[37] I am appropriating Balibar’s recent reading of Foucault. See Balibar 2015.

[38] Martineau 2015, pp. 4, 8.

[39] Martineau 2015, p. 3.

[40] In the section entitled ‘From Species Being to Alienation’, Martineau highlights consciousness as that which, for Marx, differentiates human beings from other animals (Martineau 2015, p. 12), and also maintains that the 1844 Manuscripts ‘examines three interrelated forms of alienation’ (Martineau 2015, p. 14). First, Marx’s stance, articulated in The German Ideology, is that it is not consciousness but the production of the means of life that actually differentiates humans from other animals (Marx and Engels 1965, p. 42); second, there are in fact four interrelated forms of alienation in the 1844 Manuscripts: Martineau does not identify the alienation of one individual human being from another, one worker from another, as the fourth and final form (Marx 1964, p. 114). Both of these are indelibly social dimensions of Marx’s human; their omission weakens Martineau’s conceptualisation of ‘social time’.

[41] Martineau 2015, p. 23.

[42] This italicisation is a rather cryptic way of drawing attention to the paucity of Martineau’s engagement with the philosophy of time in the post-Kantian European tradition (a point to which I will return in relation to all three books). His only general engagement is also mistaken: an account of Norbert Elias’s argument, but one that he does not contest: ‘Philosophers, for their part, have made time a feature of human consciousness, of the human power to reason. They have not examined how time is learned, and how it is socially constructed’ (Martineau 2015, p. 42). The first sentence is selective, and the second is demonstrably untrue.

[43] Martineau 2015, p. 45. Dovetailing with the previous endnote, it is remarkable how much Elias’s and Adam’s work is indebted to Heidegger’s Being and Time: the former’s ‘timing’ is basically a socialised rendition of ‘originary temporality’ (ursprüngliche Zeitlichkeit), whereas the latter’s grounding of time in the finitude of human existence directly aligns with the concept of ‘being-towards-death’.

[44] Martineau 2015, p. 46.

[45] Martineau 2015, p. 47.

[46] Martineau 2015, pp. 47, 104. The ‘time of labouring practices’ was not alienated, because ‘the moment of appropriation did not correspond to the moment of production’ (Martineau 2015, p. 105), as is the case in capitalism.

[47] Martineau 2015, p. 95.

[48] Insofar as a ‘mode of production’ is a totalising abstraction of multiple, actually existing societies, the desire to locate the ‘origin of capitalism’ in a particular time, place, and phenomenon (let us say sixteenth-century English agrarian relations) is misguided. That is, capitalism is capitalism by virtue of the fact that, as a world system of social forces and relations irreducible to linear causation and time, its ‘origin’ belongs to no one time, place, or phenomenon. Barbados or Peru is as much ‘the first capitalist country’ (Martineau 2015, p. 95) as England (Martineau basically endorses the old story that ‘capitalism began in the West’, and thus utilises the categories of ‘West’ and ‘non-West’ in an uncritical fashion). In short, capitalism significantly destabilises the concept of ‘origin’ (and with it the concept of ‘transition’). This is the lesson of the ongoing originary accumulation of capital, and it is, to varying degrees, lost on the major writers on the ‘origin of capitalism’ (e.g. Robert Brenner).

[49] Martineau 2015, p. 106.

[50] Martineau 2015, p. 114.

[51] Martineau 2015, p. 140.

[52] Martineau 2015, p. 120.

[53] Martineau 2015, p. 120.

[54] Martineau 2015, p. 132.

[55] ‘Concrete time is … both a result and a condition of the encounter between humans, their practices, and temporal socio-natural material realities. It is time as (re)produced by the combinations and ruptures of these processes of interaction between humans, their social relations, and their world. … [B]y the experience and reproduction of human life’ (Martineau 2015, pp. 115, 148). In a word, Martineau’s concrete time is everything.

[56] Martineau 2015, p. 148.

[57] The question of free/leisure time in capitalism is raised, but only in passing (Martineau 2015, p. 144). There is no mention of Marx’s multiple passages on free/leisure/disposable time in the various drafts of Capital.

[58] Martineau affords a slight conceptual distinction between ‘abstract time’ and ‘clock-time’ (Martineau 2015, p. 111), but the fact is that they are largely interchangeable in this book, as evidenced by the frequent use of ‘abstract clock-time’.

[59] Martineau 2015, p. 118.

[60] For Marx, ‘abstract labour’ and ‘abstract labour-time’ are two different expressions of one and the same thing. The ‘time’ of ‘labour-time’ is inseparable from the ‘labour’: this ‘time’ is not something that can be tacked on to, or severed from, ‘labour’. More on this in a second.

[61] Marx 1970, p. 49.

[62] Marx 1963, p. 54.

[63] Negri 2013, p. 27.

[64] Martineau 2015, p. 148.

[65] This despite the fact that Martineau clearly extends the scope of Marx’s concept of subsumption beyond the production-process of capital (where Marx clearly intended it to remain).

[66] The influence of Tomba 2013 is clear.

[67] Harootunian 2015, p. 53. See also Harootunian 2010, p. 43.

[68] Harootunian 2015, p. 5.

[69] Harootunian 2015, p. 68.

[70] Harootunian 2015, p. 4.

[71] See Osborne 2016, pp. 48–50. The problem with this review is that it fixates on Harootunian’s construction of Western Marxism, at the expense of the real interlocutors in Marx After Marx (most of whom are not even mentioned). In effect, Osborne’s review reproduces the Eurocentrism that Harootunian opposes.

[72] Harootunian 2015, p. 236.

[73] Harootunian 2015, p. 67.

[74] Harootunian 2015, p. 68.

[75] Harootunian 2015, p. 68.

[76] Harootunian 2015, p. 1.

[77] Tomba 2013, p. 155. On the whole, because Harootunian’s use of ‘hybrid subsumption’, particularly in his discussion of Lenin’s The Development of Capitalism in Russia, mitigates the otherwise stark opposition he sets up between formal and real subsumption. The difference here between Harootunian and Tomba is ironic, given that the former’s conception of historical time is highly indebted to the latter.

[78] Harootunian 2015, p. 1.

[79] Harootunian 2015, p. 14.

[80] Harootunian 2015, p. 16.

[81] ‘[Formal subsumption] is the general form of all capitalist production-processes [formelle Subsumtion … ist die allgemeine Form alles kapitalistischen Produktionsprozesses]’. Marx 1976, p. 1019. Undeniably, the scope of ‘capitalist development’ is broader than capitalist production-processes.

[82] Harootunian 2015, p. 26.

[83] Harootunian 2015, p. 59.

[84] Harootunian 2015, p. 63.

[85] Harootunian 2015, p. 29.

[86] Harootunian 2015, p. 108.

[87] Harootunian 2015, p. 130.

[88] Harootunian 2015, p. 130.

[89] Harootunian 2015, p. 139.

[90] Harootunian 2015, p. 151.

[91] Harootunian 2015, p. 143.

[92] It is worth noting that Luxemburg never explicitly utilises the concept of subsumption in her writings, a fact that Harootunian acknowledges in relation to formal subsumption (Harootunian 2015, p. 93). This points to a larger tendency in Marx After Marx, in which many of the interlocutors are read as engaging formal and real subsumption, ‘even though the process is not named as such’, ‘without naming it as such’, etc.

[93] Harootunian 2015, p. 99.

[94] Harootunian 2015, p. 64. For a different perspective on ‘layering’ and its philosophy of time, see Osborne 2015.

[95] Harootunian 2015, p. 8.

[96] See, namely, the Introduction to Sartre 2004.

[97] Arthur 2004, p. 76.

[98] Harootunian 2015, p. 86.

[99] Marx 1976, pp. 1020–1.

[100] Marx 1976, p. 1035.

[101] Harootunian 2015, p. 85.

[102] Harootunian 2015, p. 121.

[103] Harootunian 2015, p. 137.

[104] Camatte 1998, p. 45.

[105] Jameson 2011, p. 71.

[106] Negri 1996, p. 159.

[107] For example, Harootunian 2015, pp. 39, 65–6, 233.

[108] ‘Insufficiently’ and ‘non-’ capitalist labour-processes are dialectically tied to ‘sufficiently’ capitalist ones, and thus re-subject to formal and real subsumption. Essential here is the re-separation of the means of production from the producers, a process which is in no way predominantly marked by coercion and violence, but which is never absent the latent possibility (everywhere) and overt actuality (somewhere) of originary accumulation.

[109] Marx After Marx thus stands in tension with, for instance, Harootunian 2007.

[110] See Sáenz de Sicilia 2016.

[111] Harootunian 2015, p. 45.

[112] Harootunian 2015, pp. 42, 44. Ironically, the notion that ‘temporality temporalises itself’ comes from Heidegger. The expressions ‘real history’ and ‘the actual empirical existence of men’ come from Marx. The assertion that Marx ‘liberates’ history from philosophy dovetails with Postone’s claim that ‘the historical specificity of the critique of political economy delineates Marx’s final break with his earlier transhistorical understanding of historical materialism and, hence, with notions of the philosophy of history’. Postone 1993, p. 258.

[113] Balibar 1995, p. 27.

[114] Sartre 1963, p. 30.

[115] Ibid.

[116] Consider, for instance, the guiding premise of Martineau’s book, namely that ‘time itself has a history’ (Martineau 2015, p. 4). This is of course true, but an immediate response to this is also that ‘history itself has a time’. To his credit, Martineau raises this as an area of future research in his conclusion (Martineau 2015, pp. 165–7). It would be worthwhile to investigate the manner in which the modern conception of ‘history’ as a collective singular (following Reinhart Koselleck) is predicated on clock-time, such that the clock is at the crux of why history appears as outside of and opposed to the individuals that constitute it.