The Enduring Relevance of Rosa Luxemburg's The Accumulation of Capital


First published in 1913, The Accumulation of Capital represents Rosa Luxemburg’s quintessential contribution to Marxism and an exceptional, yet equally controversial, ‘modification’ of Marx’s original scheme of accumulation. Built on a cordial critique of Marx’s model of expanded reproduction, Luxemburg’s intervention offers not only a new framework to study capitalist economic development, but also a historical and political compass with which the expansion of capitalist social relations through colonialism and imperialism can be expounded. To celebrate the centenary anniversary of the book in 2013, we assess the enduring relevance of key themes developed by Luxemburg in their conceptual implications, but also in their relevance to understanding dynamics within contemporary capitalism. The first part of the article engages with Luxemburg’s theoretical contribution to the analysis of capitalist expansion with reference to the transformation of peripheral spaces. The second part briefly discusses how the book can be utilised as a starting point to examine the characteristics of today’s crisis-ridden global capitalism. We conclude by highlighting a number of contentious points that challenge Luxemburg’s account, but ultimately claim that The Accumulation of Capital is still an invaluable resource for those who are interested in critically examining international political economy and geopolitics.

Journal of International Relations and Development