Theory and Critique
The theory and critique of work and economic futures
This theme of my research centres on the reconsideration and renewal of Marx’s critique of political economy for the understanding of contemporary capitalism, testing revisionist approaches to Marxian value theory as a framework for relating what goes on in the workplace to what goes on in the market. This theme consists of four strands: New readings of Marx and their relevance to the study of work today; Value, valuation and measurement; Critiques of capitalism and conspiracy theory; and Postoperaismo, postcapitalism and the new politics of labour
New readings of Marx and their relevance to the study of work today
The theoretical backbone of my work is the attempt to rethink Marx’s relevance for new times. At a time where revisionist approaches to Marx guide some of the most interesting thinking coming out of the mainstream and radical left, my work has taken forward the New Reading of Marx and Open Marxism as vital paths for the renewal of the Marxian inheritance in order to decode issues of contemporary concern, including the politics of the Labour Party, the creative industries, the measurement of work, the basic income, and automation. This work comes together in a monograph, Critiquing Capitalism Today: New Ways to Read Marx (Palgrave 2017). I am currently working with Patrizia Zanoni on a paper promoting the approaches delineated in the book to management and organisation studies of value, class and labour. I was interviewed by LBC Radio about my work on Marx, a recording of which is available here.
Value, valuation and measurement
Understanding value as a relationship between things rather than a property of them, my research has used Marx’s conceptualisation of value as a way of framing how what goes on in the workplace is conditioned by and determines what goes on in the marketplace. This is expressed most fully in my 2017 monograph on Marx and a series of articles contesting the idea of a ‘crisis in the law of value’ sparked by the advent of so-called ‘immaterial labour’ and the rise of the machines. Two ongoing projects centre on promoting the ‘value theory of labour’ to a growing body of scholars interested in value and valuation: a paper with Patrizia Zanoni on value in management and organisation studies, and, Value, a book I am writing with Lee Marshall for Polity’s Key Concepts in Political Economy series, which relates Marxian value theory to other perspectives such as the Sociology of Value and Evaluation and the American institutional school. I was also co-convenor of the stream 'Political Economy, Value and Valuation: Advancing Contemporary Critiques of Capitalism and Exploring Alternatives' at the 2017 International Critical Management Studies conference in Liverpool.
Critiques of capitalism and conspiracy theory
One of the contributions of the New Reading of Marx is to the clarification of the object of Marx’s critique of political economy and the political consequences of different ways of theorising capitalism. A topic of increasing contemporary concern and contestation has been the proliferation of conspiracy theories on the left, and their connection with a specific ‘left’ form of antisemitism. In the UK, this has centred on the Labour Party and the rise of Corbynism. Following my previous writing on the work of Werner Bonefeld, among other theorists, an op-ed in the New Statesman with Matt Bolton argued that antisemitic conspiracy theories should be seen as a foreshortened attempt to get to grips with the political economy of capitalist society through the personalising attachment of abstract economic categories to certain groups and individuals, where what is called for is a structural analysis. The op-ed was translated into French by the research institute Conspiracy Watch, l’Observatoire du conspirationnisme. The argument is expanded and augmented in the book Corbynism: A Critical Approach (Emerald 2018, with Matt Bolton).
Postoperaismo, postcapitalism and the new politics of labour
Excavating the roots of the current fascination with post-work and postcapitalist futures, my work has critically engaged with Italian postoperaismo and its claims that the changing world of work renders Marx’s theory of value obsolete and catalyses the collapse of capitalism itself. This is expressed most fully in my monograph Critiquing Capitalism Today: New Ways to Read Marx (Palgrave 2017) and articles in Economy & Society and Capital & Class. Garnering impact among policymakers and politicians in and around the Labour Party looking to understand the intellectual conditions for the most interesting quarters of Corbynism, I have been invited to discuss my arguments at seminars in the Houses of Parliament as well as gaining coverage in the pages of the New Statesman.