Date(s) - 05/06/2014
The current sense of crisis – in the economy, ecology, politics and society – is prompting many critical theorists to revisit the problem of capitalism. I salute this return to core issues of social theory after a period of neglect. But received understandings of capitalism are not adequate to 21st century conditions. I propose, accordingly, to re-examine a basic theoretical question: How is capitalism best conceptualised? As an economic system, a form of ethical life, or an institutionalised social order?
To answer this question, I will integrate some relatively familiar concepts from Marx with newer insights from feminist, ecological, and political theorising. Whereas Marx sought the essence of capitalism by looking beneath the sphere of exchange to the ‘hidden abode’ of production, I shall look behind production to abodes that are more hidden still. The result will be an expanded conception of capitalism, better able to accommodate the multiplicity of crisis tendencies and social struggles that characterise the 21st century.
Nancy Fraser is Henry A and Louise Loeb Professor of Philosophy and Politics at the New School for Social Research in New York. An Einstein Fellow at the John F Kennedy Institute, Free University of Berlin, she also holds the Chair in Global Justice at the Collège d’études mondiales, Paris.
Nancy Fraser’s most recent book is Fortunes of Feminism: From State-Managed Capitalism to Neoliberal Crisis (Verso, 2013). She is currently working on a book called Crisis, Critique, Capitalism: A Critical Theory for the 21st Century.