Criticism of capitalism today

Capitalism: A Conversation in Critical Theory
Forfatter: Nancy Fraser, Rahel Jaeggi
Forlag: Polity Press (Storbritannien)
The context of crisis: A coherent analysis of dominance is one of the major challenges facing anti-capitalism today.


Two of the most important exponents of critical theory today, the American philosopher Nancy Fraser and the German philosopher Rahel Jaeggi, have sat down and discussed the status and conditions of capitalism-critical analysis today with a special focus on the issue of crisis. The result is a lengthy four-part conversation where they discuss what it means to practice critical theory today. Their conversation book is a testament to a renewed interest in attempting to conduct a critical contemporary analysis based on Marxism's analysis of capitalist mode of production. The immediate background of the conversation is the crisis, understood as the financial crisis and the economic crisis, but of course also the climate crisis and the political chaos that many national democracies are experiencing.


Fraser and Jaeggi see the crisis as a systemic crisis that has to do with deeper problems. These are not just minor local challenges – an unscrupulous banking sector or Greek debt – no, we are dealing with a far more extensive crisis. As Fraser puts it in the conversation: “The crisis is not just economic. It also includes failure to care, climate change and democratization. But even that wording is not good enough. The real problem is what underlies these insoluble difficulties, a sense that their simultaneous emergence is not purely coincidental, but, on the contrary, signals that there is something more fundamentally wrong in our society. "The point of the conversation is to try to find find out what is wrong and how it is possible to analyze all these crises simultaneously, find out how they are related.

As the two philosophers quickly ascertain, the answer is capitalism – which is somehow the common denominator of all the crises we are facing today. Fraser and Jaeggi should be commended for discussing how a coherent analysis of capitalist society can be established. As they themselves note several times, 'capitalism' has for a long time been virtually absent as an object of analysis. They will remedy this, and they are not afraid to embark on major, coherent analyzes.



In the first part of the book, Fraser presents his understanding of capitalism as "an institutionalized social order" – capitalism is not just an economic system, no capitalism is an order of society. A society characterized by separating economic production from social reproduction, economics from politics, man-made sociality from nature, and finally exploitation from expropriation. Phrases analyze the fundamental distinctions between exploitation and expropriation and between sociality and nature. In the second part of the book, Jaeggi explains his analysis of capitalism as a «way of life», that is, a network of social practices and institutions that weave cultural, social and economic dimensions together. Jaeggi will combine an ethical, moral, and functionalist critique of capitalism in order to criticize capitalism as an irrational social order that limits social experiences and is unable to realize the potentials it itself produces. Jaeggi exemplifies this with the notion of «the free labor market», where the worker is equal to the capitalist. However, this is not the case, because the worker is «double free», as Marx writes, free to sell her labor to whomever she wants, but also free of means of production – and therefore forced to try to get a job (or risk trying to survive in crime).

A global social process

Fraser and Jaeggi's conversation is an important contribution to the attempt to develop a coherent critical analysis of capitalism today without reproducing the basic Marxist superstructure model that does not recognize cultural and political autonomy. However, they never really reach an answer. They want to be affirmative of a variety of forms of domination (wage labor, sexism, racism, etc.) and are reserved, for example, by Lukács' concept of equality of things – so that the analysis falls apart. Of course, the difficulties of compiling a coherent analysis of domination are not alone, they are one of the great challenges facing anti-capitalism today.

The abolition of the capitalist economy requires the abolition of its basic forms such as money and wages.

For example, how is exploitation (of the worker) related to annihilation (of the "black")? What is the relation between economics criticism and political anthropology, do they have to come together or run in parallel? Unlike another continuation of the critical theory – the so-called value criticism, which we find in Nordic journals such as Crisis and Exit! – Fraser and Jaeggi never really described capitalism as a global social process in which the exchange value forms appear socially as abstractions that control the social processes.

Therefore, the two philosophers also end up advocating for a completely reformist idea of ​​democratic control over capital accumulation. However, the abolition of the capitalist economy requires the abolition of its basic forms such as money and wages, but Fraser and Jaeggi apparently imagine that production can be managed in a different way. It may well, but it has nothing to do with the liquidation of capitalism. And then the crisis will not be overcome.

Subscription NOK 195 quarter