Call for Papers


18th Jan 2017

JUNE 24-28, 2017


The MLG Summer Institute on Culture and Society invites proposals from its current and future members for participation in its 2017 annual meeting. Proposals on all topics of relevance to Marxist theory and practice are welcome, with priority given to proposals that critically engage this year’s highlighted theme.

Marx once famously and sharply remarked that “Revolutions are the locomotives of history.” The theme, Marxism and Revolution Now, provides a timely opportunity to discuss the historical and theoretical legacies and problems of the revolutionary tradition in Marxist theory and practice, its contemporary manifestations and future possibilities. This is especially urgent at a historical conjuncture characterized by a deep economic crisis that has brought to the surface once more and more than ever before (at least in our lifetime) not only the contradictions of global capitalism and the ugly realities and consequences of material inequality in people’s lives, but also renewed discourses, forms, and possibilities of collective resistance and struggle in the political and cultural realms.

The Institute recognizes the centennial of the October Revolution of 1917, and the sesquicentennial of the publication of Capital Volume 1 in 1867. These provide among the most fundamental orientations, not just for Marxist thought and practice but for the modern era and its long revolutionary tradition: a tradition dating back at least to the 1789 French Revolution and the later rise of the labor movement in the nineteenth-century, and continuing on to the Chinese Revolution and the anti-colonial struggles and movements of the twentieth century. 

The Summer Institute for 2017 means to take these two anniversaries as orientations for the present moment. However, this means in some sense the inverse of an anniversarial celebration. We plan to dedicate part of the meeting to looking both backwards and forwards as we consider both our distance from and closeness to Capital and the October Revolution. Interested in their consequences, legacies, and continued relevance, we also hope to investigate what propositions, analyses, and revolutionary strategies might need new formulations for changed conditions. 

PRESENTATIONS: We especially encourage proposals that seek to:

(1) Theorize contemporary revolutionary struggles and aesthetics through their relation to the categories set forth in Capital.
(2) Conversely, reflect on whether or not—or to what degree—Capital remains useful in analyzing political economy and class struggle in the current conjuncture.
(3) Situate the October Revolution within the history of Marxist theory and its own development from previous theories and events; or consider the October Revolution’s continued significance or lack thereof for social and political movements worldwide today.
(4) Consider how the following phenomena confirm or challenge the status of Capital and/or the October Revolution for the present: a) The gendered/racialized nature of capital’s domination and how central this is to contemporary revolutionary praxis and aesthetics; b) The centrality of circulation, logistics, finance and related repertoires of struggle to discussions of revolutionary praxis and aesthetics in recent years.
(5) Consider Capital’s and/or the October Revolution’s connections with revolutionary literature, arts and aesthetics, particularly in so far as they remain salient for the present and future. 

These are examples only; all proposals which situate Capital, and/or the 1917 Revolution within a living history, thus allowing us to reflect on their ongoing and changing significance to current and future revolutionary theory and practice, will be considered.

READING GROUPS: This year’s reading groups will all focus on the introduction (GI) and the long chapter on capital (GC) in Marx’s Grundrisse.  While those wishing to form reading groups are of course free to focus upon any issues that they find relevant in these texts, the following topics are suggested as guidelines: 

(1) The Method of Political Economy as set forth in the GI
(2) Population and the Historical Determinants of Class and Classless Societies
(3) Pre-capitalist Social Formations
(4) Circulation: The Space/Time Determinants of Fixed and Circulating Capital
(5) Value, Surplus Value, and the GC’s Fragment on Machines
(6) The Commodity, Money, and Commodity Exchange
(7) The Organic, Value, and Technical Compositions of Capital.

Since Marx’s discussion of these matters is spread out over the GI and the entire GC, suggestions for the pages/sections of the GC relevant to each of these topics will be sent out in a future memo. 

PROPOSALS due by March 1 (early submissions appreciated) to

It will help us if your email specifies in the subject line whether your proposal is for presentation or reading group. Please keep your proposal to no more than 250 words for a presentation or 500 for a reading group, with the latter specifying both your inquiry and the specific texts/pages that will be your focus.