Moments of Capital
World Theory, World Literature
Eli Jelly-Schapiro



Moments of Capital

IN THE COMMUNIST MANIFESTO (1848), Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels herald the imminent realization of the “world market,” the universalization of capital and its social and political forms. But even as it renders, in floral terms, the consequence of that globalizing force, the Manifesto embeds a parallel history of capital in the age of its planetary projection, which places the accent on difference rather than sameness. Marx and Engels highlight, for example, the connection between the global ascendance of capital and the sharpening of the capital-labor antinomy. And that central contradiction is mirrored and magnified, they suggest, by the constitutive fact of spatial unevenness: “The bourgeoisie has subjected the country to the rule of the towns. . . . [And] just as it has made the country dependent on the towns, so it has made barbarian and semi-barbarian countries dependent on the civilized ones, nations of peasants on nations of bourgeois, the East on the West.” In adjacent passages, meanwhile, Marx and Engels gesture toward the existence of several concurrent and conjoined processes within the age of the bourgeoisie’s ascendance: patterns of colonization, inaugurated by the “discovery of America” and reprised by modern European empires; the “extension of industry,” and its infrastructure of communication and transportation; and crises of overproduction, which compel the “enforced destruction of a mass of productive forces, . . . the conquest of new markets, and . . . the more thorough exploitation of the old ones.”1

How to apprehend, or represent, both the global generality and differential composition of capital? From Marx onward, this problem has animated the practice of critical theory. It is likewise central, and increasingly so, to the production and study of “world literature.” Responding to this fundamental question, Moments of Capital positions itself at the interface of these two fields.

In the Manifesto, Marx and Engels predict that the advent of the world market will occasion the advent of a “world literature.” “As in material, so also in intellectual production,” they write. “The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature.”2 When viewed through the lens of culture, the creation of the world market, in Marx and Engels’s narrative, does not produce difference but subsumes it. In its contemporary iteration, though, the project of “world literature”—a term that signifies at once a cultural form and hermeneutic orientation—evinces the heterogeneity of capitalist modernity, the manifold particulars that make it up. The various subdisciplines that shape the field of “world literature” deploy different analytic categories, or different theoretical vocabularies, to capture this unity and heterogeneity. Comparative literature privileges the differences of nation, region, language, or period. Postcolonial studies foregrounds the dialectical entanglement of colony and metropole, or the Global North and Global South. And a recent literary-critical tendency, borrowing the framework of world-systems theory, invokes the cartography of core, periphery, and semi-periphery. Moments of Capital is a work of comparative critique, which contributes to the postcolonial studies tradition, and which is indebted to world-systems approaches. This book sets out, though, to develop a new conceptual key for the mapping of the world market and world literature alike. Registering but moving beyond the differences of history and geography, I theorize, and examine the literary representation of, the unique “moments” that comprise global capital.

The term “moment” has for me a primarily synchronic rather than diachronic resonance. It refers, in this book, to a discrete moment in a dialectical process or totality. Contemporary global capital, I argue, is composed of three such synchronous moments, which are defined by distinct forms of accumulation and governance, and which correspond to distinct assemblages of theory and fiction. In the moment of primitive accumulation, ongoing processes of extraction, enclosure, and bondage are enabled by state violence. In the moment of expanded reproduction, the basic and constant movement of economic growth—the exploitation of wage labor, and the reinvestment of the surplus value thereby created—is guaranteed by ideology, or by what Max Weber termed “spirit.” Finally, in the moment of what I call “synthetic dispossession,” mechanisms of privatization and devaluation—the fabrication and subsequent assimilation of an outside to capital—and the general ascent of finance capital contribute to the waning power of ideology and heightened importance of state repression. Reading and integrating different works of theory and fiction, Moments of Capital both delineates the three moments of contemporary global capital and elucidates the dynamics of their concurrent combination.

Theorists and critics, whether their primary concern is the nature of capital itself or the problem of its representation, commonly use the term “neoliberalism” to denote the distinctiveness of the capitalist present. In scholarly and public discourse, “neoliberalism” refers to a series of transformations—provoked, in the first instance, by crises of energy and accumulation and the specter of economic decline—that have reshaped the world over the past four decades: the intensification of crude modes of dispossession, the innovation of various mechanisms of financial speculation and “flexible” production, the retrenchment of the welfare state, the clarification of new rationalities of the responsible and entrepreneurial self, and the extension of market logics to all realms of human social life.

The key plot points in the political history of neoliberalism are by now familiar. The first experiments in neoliberal political economy were conducted in the 1970s in Pinochet’s Chile, under the remote advisement of University of Chicago economists.3 The core precepts of neoliberal policy and thought were subsequently embraced, in the 1980s and 1990s, by the governments of the advanced capitalist world, the United States and the United Kingdom foremost among them. In the aftermath of the Cold War, neoliberal programs and ideas—from the privatization of public services, to the liberalization of trade and deregulation of usury, to the explosive expansion of consumer credit as a key driver of growth—acquired a global generality. Under the sign of “globalization,” liberated financial capital seized upon the marketizing economies of the former Eastern Bloc, while “structural adjustment” initiatives led by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the developing world tied access to sovereign credit to the imposition of austerity measures and erosion of social and economic protections.

Around the turn of the millennium, the global pervasion of capital—the ultimate realization of the “world market” anticipated by Marx and Engels in the nineteenth century—was met, on both the left and right, with the declaration of a new historical age. Euphoric at the prospects of a global capitalist order ensured by the military power of the United States, intellectuals of the right or center—invoking the phrasing of Francis Fukuyama—announced the “end of history”; capitalism and liberal democracy had triumphed over all alternatives. Critical theorists such as Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, meanwhile, used the term “Empire” to name the planetary articulations of capital and supranational bodies of political authority. This enunciation of the global also found expression in the literary-critical sphere, as the figure of “global literature” joined ongoing debates about “world literature,” a concept that has itself acquired a resurgent discursive prominence in recent decades.

Moments of Capital shares with these diagnoses, and these cultural shifts, a fundamental recognition of the globality of contemporary political and economic forms. I am, though, especially concerned to emphasize the heterogeneous composition of contemporary global capital—the contradictions and unevenness that constitute the world market. In both Marxist and postcolonial theory, the unevenness of capital is habitually represented in spatial terms. The field of Marxist geography highlights the spatial dialectic of development and underdevelopment. And the work of certain anticolonial and postcolonial thinkers stresses the colonial origins and essence of that dialectic, the ways in which the economic advancement of the Global North has been made possible by the plunder of the Global South. I affirm this geographic approach. I argue, though, that our understanding of the spatial asymmetry of capitalist modernity is deepened when we attend, at the same time, to the multiple “moments” of capital. Doing so, for example, helps us resist the simple equation of particular modes of accumulation and particular spaces—primitive accumulation and the Global South, expanded reproduction and the Global North. The moments of primitive accumulation, expanded reproduction, and synthetic dispossession exist in synchronic combination, within specific national or regional geographies and in the broader context of the world-system.

The Marxist theorization of “uneven and combined development” does address the geographic co-belonging of different forms of accumulation. Leon Trotsky’s treatment of “uneven and combined development,” notably, focused on the concurrence of industrial and agrarian cultures of production within Russia.4 Evading the assumption of a neat identity between different geographies and different modalities of capital, theories of uneven development, however, sometimes encourage the conflation of geographic and historical difference. Because capital presents itself, ideologically, as historically progressive, geographic differences are often read, by disparate discursive formations, as differences of time. This tendency is most pronounced in colonial mappings of the world. The authors and architects of empire imagine the (post)colony as “backwards,” either premodern or belatedly and incompletely modern, confined to an earlier stage of economic and political development that Europe and North America long ago superseded. But the impulse to read geographic difference as historical difference is one feature, too, of the “stage theory” school of Marxist thought, which conforms to the teleological idea that all societies pass through discrete phases on their way to a common endpoint of industrial (or postindustrial) modernity. Abiding by this stadial conception of capital’s historical unfolding, we might be tempted, for example, to identify primitive accumulation with the past, or regard as antiquated those spaces wherein crude methods of expropriation are pervasive or intensive. Moments of Capital resists the progressivist assumptions of these historicist tendencies, by illuminating the concurrence, and structural combination, of the three moments of capital. Primitive accumulation, expanded reproduction, and synthetic dispossession are equally present, and equally modern. They do not represent successive stages within, but compose the synchronic totality of, global capital.

In both the Hegelian and Marxian traditions, “moment” has a double meaning. It indicates, at turns or at once, a moment in history or time, and a moment in a dialectical process or totality. (In German, notably, these two meanings are accompanied by a differently gendered article: the masculine der for the former, and the neuter das for the latter.) My own treatment of the multiple “moments” of capital, while engaging the problem of time, aligns with this second resonance—“the reciprocal entailment and inseparability of the parts of a whole or totality,” as Michael Inwood defines it in A Hegel Dictionary (1992).5 The moments of primitive accumulation, expanded reproduction, and synthetic dispossession are inseparable “parts of a whole or totality.” This understanding of “moment”—as one part of a dialectical unity—was taken up by Stuart Hall, a thinker whose work I engage often throughout this book. In particular, Hall’s examination of the Introduction to Marx’s Grundrisse (1939) includes an intriguing reflection on the “moments” of production, distribution, and consumption. Though implying a sequential movement—a commodity is produced and then distributed and then consumed—these activities, Hall observes, are all distinct moments of “a single act.” Similarly, the three moments that structure my inquiry might initially suggest a kind of linear sequence: primitive accumulation founds expanded reproduction, the crises of which provoke rounds of synthetic dispossession. This abstract linearity—which the arrangement of the first three chapters of this book mimics—appears logical but is analytically limited and misleading. Primitive accumulation, expanded reproduction, and synthetic dispossession, I contend, do not unfold diachronically, but are synchronous and conjoined moments that constitute the singular act of capital’s perpetual valorization.

This book demonstrates the synchronic unity of primitive accumulation, expanded reproduction, and synthetic dispossession. But I also acknowledge and grapple with their historicity. I attend, most significantly, to the historical conjuncture of the neoliberal present—the articulation therein of the three moments of capital. And I recognize, relatedly and more broadly, that the contours of each moment are especially defined—or attain a contingent, paradigmatic importance—in concrete spaces and times. I am, all this is to say, attentive to the first meaning of “moment” outlined above, even as I focus on the second. Primitive accumulation is constant, but its emblematic political and economic forms have been emphasized in particular periods: the high point of modern European imperialism, in the decades surrounding the turn of the twentieth century; the anticolonial foment of the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s, when the brutality of Europe’s imperial history was exposed by intellectuals and artists from across the colonized world; and the twenty-first-century synthesis of market fundamentalism and permanent war, which has highlighted anew the enduring combination of state violence and primitive accumulation. The moment of expanded reproduction, meanwhile, appeared hegemonic to Marx and other European intellectuals in the nineteenth century, who were writing at the nexus of the first and second industrial revolutions; the political and economic machineries of expanded reproduction again attained a certain discursive primacy, in the advanced capitalist world, in the decades that followed from the Second World War—the apotheosis of the social democratic consensus, and the beginnings of its unraveling; and in the current conjuncture, the insidious nature of neoliberal ideas has provoked new inquiries into the “spirit,” ideology, and modes of governmentality that ensure the reproduction of capitalist social relations, even in the context of heightened inequality and contradiction. The technologies of synthetic dispossession, finally, were crystallized, and provoked significant theoretical interventions, in the early decades of the twentieth century, following the ascent of finance capital and an associated series of economic cataclysms; and today, as the instruments of financialization are again dominant, and as the crises they occasion are both pervasive and acute, the moment of synthetic dispossession occupies the analytic and structural foreground.

These historical specificities betray, even as they might seem to belie, the synchronous interrelation of the three moments of capital, and the conversation, implicit or explicit, between their particular theoretical frameworks. Perhaps most tellingly, each moment corresponds to a unique strand of contemporary critique. But the simultaneity of the three moments of capital is evidenced as well by the historical-theoretical archive. For example, at the same time that Louis Althusser was meditating on the problem of ideology, the soft power of the capitalist state, anticolonial intellectuals such as Frantz Fanon were chronicling the outright violence of colonial depredation. Reading these two thinkers alongside one another—and staging other such critical encounters, across the spatial and temporal fault lines—helps to illuminate the concurrence, and dialectical interrelation, of capital’s multiple moments.

My approach to both theory and fiction is necessarily comparative. The theoretical archive that this book marshals is composed, in large part, of different trajectories of Marxist thought—theories of primitive accumulation and imperialism, expanded reproduction and the problem of ideology, financialization and crisis, and the differential unity of the capitalist world-system. I also examine, though, the investigations of Max Weber and Michel Foucault, and their contemporary exponents, into the mechanisms of capitalist power. The juxtaposition of ostensibly disparate theoretical vocabularies and methodologies elucidates the broad shape and internal complexity of global capital. The dialogue between Marxist theories of racialized dispossession and Weberian theories of capitalist “spirit” is marked by tension rather than intuitive agreement. But such discordances, I contend, reflect how the different questions posed, or different diagnoses made, by different theoretical interventions are an effect of the different moments those interventions emerge from.

Capital’s global generality and internal heterogeneity is also demonstrated by the corpus of novels that this book engages. Since the eighteenth century, when the establishment of new relations of production coincided with the innovation of new cultural forms, capitalism and the novel have been intimately entwined. The modern novel, in its inception, was one cultural expression of a nascent bourgeois consciousness and ideology; but what would become its dominant form, realism, also made possible the critical revelation of capitalism’s constitutive contradictions. Joining or juxtaposing realist and more experimental techniques of representation, the contemporary novel, I argue, is a privileged site for identifying and deconstructing the differential composition of global capital—the modes of governance and accumulation, and cultures of critique and resistance, that inhere in the three moments of capital, and the dynamics of their interrelation. The works I analyze are manifold in form. And they range across space and time—from a mineral mine in Central Africa to a corporate office in midtown Manhattan, from a plantation in eighteenth-century Jamaica to a shipyard in contemporary Seoul. Placing, for example, bourgeois realist novels in close analytic proximity to speculative postcolonial fictions, my literary readings make vivid the uneven texture of lived experience under capital.6 This book’s literary excurses, that is, limn the particular “structures of feeling,” to invoke Raymond Williams’s phrase, that mark the different moments of capital—the affective atmospheres, and figures of thought, within and through which individual and collective subjects register existing social and political realities and, perhaps, intimate new ways of organizing human community. The concept of “structures of feeling,” Williams avowed, describes “meanings and values as they are actively lived and felt . . . practical consciousness of a present kind, in a living and interrelating continuity.” It is, Williams wrote, a “cultural hypothesis,” which is often signaled by the aesthetic artifacts of art and literature, and which is irreducible to, but exists in dialectical relation with, “more formally structured hypotheses of the social”—such as those advanced by the theory I engage throughout Moments of Capital.7

The basic argument of this book—that global capital is composed of three distinct moments, which correlate to distinct modes of governance and accumulation, and distinct modalities of theory and literature—is reflected by its structure. The first three chapters outline in turn the moments of primitive accumulation, expanded reproduction, and synthetic dispossession—their historical and contemporary theorization, and their literary figuration. The fourth chapter, meanwhile, considers, in dialogue with theorists and novelists, the synchronous combination of capital’s multiple moments. My conceptualization of the three moments of capital, and the problem of their interrelation, functions as a key for the mapping of contemporary theory and contemporary world literature—while also acting, in itself, as a new “world theory,” a new way of capturing the unity and difference of capitalist modernity.

Marx’s reflections on primitive accumulation, in the concluding chapters of Capital, volume 1, trace several concurrent histories: the forcible separation of the worker from the means of production, a process of expropriation achieved, in Europe, through acts of enclosure and other “terroristic laws”; the theft, by Europe’s imperial powers, of the natural resources of the New World and other colonized spaces; and the enslavement of Africans by those same European powers, another instance of radical deracination that founded the plantation economies of the Americas, which—because of the raw commodities and general wealth those economies produced—accelerated the advent of the industrial proletariat, and industrial capitalist, within Europe. The capital generated by colonial plunder and chattel slavery combined with the “free and rightless” proletariat born of domestic histories of enclosure. This alchemy of the two primary sites or instances of primitive accumulation, Marx observed, made possible the genesis of industrial capitalism.

Though highlighting the combination of colonial and domestic instances of primitive accumulation, Marx’s focus, in Capital’s final pages, is on the metropole—the history of enclosure and creation of the proletariat within England. This subtle myopia prefigured later interpretive elisions: the pervasive historiographic premise, for example, that the “transition” to the capitalist mode of production was initially and paradigmatically a European event; and the related assumption, propagated in the first instance by liberal political economists but faintly echoed by Marx himself, that primitive accumulation is a specific and finite stage in the history of capitalism. Both of these truisms have been subjected to trenchant scholarly critiques. Eric Williams’s Capitalism and Slavery (1944), for example, chronicled how the combination of chattel slavery and plantation agriculture in the Americas made possible the explosive growth of industrial civilization and political emancipation of the bourgeoisie within Europe. Williams’s intervention, which elaborated Marx’s reflections on the relationship of slavery to capitalism, furthered the broader anticolonial reassessment of the origins of modernity at large. Writing, like Williams, in the middle of the twentieth century, C. L. R. James, Frantz Fanon, and Aimé Césaire illuminated the centrality of the periphery, the ways in which the essential political and economic forms of capitalist modernity—modes of accumulation, apparatuses of powers, and narratives of racial difference—were innovated in the space of the colony, or through colonial processes.

This anticolonial anatomization of capitalism’s history, and the legacy of that history in the present, entered into implicit or explicit dialogue with Marxist theorists of imperialism, who had sought, in the decades around the turn of the century, to grasp capital’s expansionary imperative. Rosa Luxemburg, notably, advanced the crucial insight that the moment of primitive accumulation is not simply originary but constantly reprised. To avoid crises of accumulation, capital must relentlessly find and assimilate “non-capitalist strata”—land, resources, markets, and people outside of its domain. The idea that primitive accumulation is ongoing—not merely the precondition of the capitalist mode of production but a basic feature of its mature and even late form—is today largely taken for granted by historians and theorists of capital. It has informed, for example, the analysis of neoliberal mechanisms of enclosure. And it is also a core premise of the critique of settler-coloniality, which bears witness to the cultural and political persistence—within settler nations such as the United States and Brazil and indeed within the global context of colonial modernity—of racialized depredation, exclusion, and dominance.

The critical theorization of primitive accumulation, I argue in Chapter 1, seeks to excavate what Étienne Balibar has termed the real history of capital—to counter the mythologies authored by classical political economists and the “bourgeois historians” (Marx’s term), and the amnesia of the commodity form itself. This central ambit compels and sanctions two intersecting routes of inquiry. On the one hand, empirical and theoretical treatments of primitive accumulation reveal the history of the present. Venturing into the “hidden abodes” of extraction, Marx and Luxemburg (et al.) bring into evidence the terror of capital’s birth, and the necessarily ceaseless repetition of that foundational synthesis of state violence and “simple robbery” (as Hannah Arendt put it).8 On the other hand, the critique of primitive accumulation directs our attention to the presence of history, the reverberation, throughout the social and political spheres, of deeper histories of dispossession—the “slow violence,” for example, of slavery, indenture, and ecological destruction. In recent years, scholars such as Nikhil Pal Singh, Glen Coulthard, and Silvia Federici—joining the work of Luxemburg and other earlier Marxist thinkers to critical race and feminist theory—have explored the protracted effects of acute instances of extraction and expropriation, the structural entrenchment and cultural assimilation of putatively “primitive” accumulation. The history of primitive accumulation endures both because the act of dispossession is constantly reprised, and because past instances of destruction and theft continue to shape social and political life in the present.

The dual attention to the history of the present and presence of history is likewise a feature of the contemporary novel of primitive accumulation, and indeed of postcolonial fiction broadly conceived. Postcolonial literature both redresses the erasure of colonial history and makes vivid its endurance, the haunting of the present by unacknowledged imperial pasts. The novels I consider in Chapter 1 undertake this project of historical recovery, revealing the residue, in the present, of longer histories of primitive accumulation. Marlon James’s The Book of Night Women (2009), Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies (2008), Hernan Diaz’s In the Distance (2017), Fiston Mwanza Mujila’s Tram 83 (2014), and Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion (1987) chart the genealogic routes between the colonial past and present—the advent and contemporary reproduction of colonial modes of depredation and unfreedom, and the subjective experience of history as repetition. Together, I suggest, these formally diverse novels model the critical efficacy of narratives that occupy or address multiple spatial and temporal frames—unique histories of primitive accumulation, and their global location and lasting resonance. These novels also indicate various traditions and possibilities of critique and resistance—from counterviolence, to vernacular expressions of anticapitalist cosmopolitanism, to the enunciation of indigenous cultures of ecological reciprocity—which might expose, and perhaps even arrest or transcend, the relentless movement of primitive accumulation.

Marx’s reflections on primitive accumulation chronicle the inception of two conjoined figures, the capitalist and the wage laborer. Where did the foundational capital possessed by the capitalist come from? And how was the worker dispossessed of the means of subsistence and thus compelled to sell their labor for a wage, in order to purchase the commodities necessary for survival? A greater part of Capital, though, is devoted to another question: How is capital, and the relationship between the capitalist and the wage laborer, reproduced? What economic laws govern the expansionary reproduction of surplus value? And what political rationalities maintain the essential relationship of capital and labor?

“Expanded reproduction” refers, for Marx, to an economic movement wherein the surplus value derived from any given advancement of capital is not simply consumed (or hoarded) by the capitalist but reinvested in the key factors of production—the fixed capital of machinery or the variable capital of labor power. Like the other moments of capital, though, expanded reproduction is distinguished by a particular culture of governance, and not just a particular mode of accumulation. In the moment of primitive accumulation, Marx contended, the birth of capital is made possible by violence—by the barrel of a gun, as by the “bloody legislation” of enclosure and other state-sanctioned acts of expropriation. But the expansionary reproduction of capital, Marx noted, is ensured rather by the “silent compulsion” of economic relations—forms of soft power that guarantee a basic, if always vulnerable and incomplete, level of popular consent, the willful submission of the “free” worker to a relationship and system that is founded on their exploitation. The abiding problem of this “silent compulsion,” I argue in Chapter 2, has given rise to several cognate critical vocabularies—from Weberian conceptualizations of “spirit,” to Foucauldian treatments of “governmentality,” to Marxist theorizations of “ideology.”

Weber’s fundamental insight, in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905), is that capitalist society flourishes where and when individuals invest a certain ethical and moral faith in the system. Without those ethical and moral commitments, the process of expansionary reproduction would fail to take hold, and the relationship between the capitalist and the worker would break down. Bringing Weber’s vocabulary to bear on the neoliberal present, the French sociologists Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello define “spirit,” in simple terms, as “the ideology that justifies engagement in capitalism.”9 While Weber focused on the exceptional yet paradigmatic attributes of the Calvinist entrepreneur, Boltanski and Chiapello center the figure of the manager, and the broader vocabulary of managerialism: self-organization, flexibility, creativity, and intrinsic motivation. The insidious nature of this rhetoric, Boltanski and Chiapello submit, makes managers of us all.

Contemporary cultures of self-governance and self-management are captured as well by the concept of governmentality. Governmentality, for Foucault, signifies the “conduct of conduct”—the assimilation and enactment, by the individual, of particular logics of governance, logics that uphold capital and the state but operate by way of invisible diffusion, rather than emanate directly from the mouth of the sovereign. In his lectures at the Collège de France in the later 1970s, Foucault developed a theory of a specifically neoliberal governmentality. In the neoliberal context, Foucault observed, the market determines the state (an inversion of the classical liberal dynamic); and the subject of economic order, homo oeconomicus, is no longer a pretext or precondition of government, but something that must be produced by specific governmental practices. Wendy Brown, reckoning with the decades of neoliberal devastation that Foucault could only anticipate, suggests that the very distinction between the market and its outside no longer obtains. The habitat of homo oeconomicus is boundless, as market rationality presides over all realms of human social and political life; we are always and exclusively market actors. Correlatively, homo politicus, and the space of the demos, are at risk of imminent extinction or disappearance.

The imposition of neoliberal policies, though, has engendered acute and deepening crises of capitalist ideology, which have amplified what Raymond Williams termed “emergent” ideologies and occasioned the tentative formation of what Antonio Gramsci described as a new “historical bloc.”10 The theories of ideology composed by Williams and Gramsci, as by Stuart Hall and others—which are genealogically related to Marx’s own work, most notably The German Ideology (1932 [1846])—possess an attention not only to the dominance of the ideas of the ruling class, but to the possibility of their denaturalization and displacement. The contest between dominant and emergent ideas plays out in myriad forums—schools, universities, media institutions, and other ideological state apparatuses; at Occupy Wall Street encampments and Black Lives Matter demonstrations. And it is dramatized in the narrative worlds of various cultural forms, including and especially, I contend, the modern novel. The novel is, at turns or at once, a site of naturalization and denaturalization. In the dialogic encounters it stages—within individual texts, and in the act of intertextual comparison—competing ways of representing the world are clarified, and subtle but materially significant moves are made in the broader and perpetual war of ideological position.

When Marx and Engels prophesied the imminent realization of a “world literature,” they imagined the global generalization of a quintessentially bourgeois form—which might, precisely because of its globality, be transmuted into a medium of proletarian internationalism.11 The dialectic of world literature, then, dovetailed, in the nineteenth century, with the dialectic—or “antinomies,” in Fredric Jameson’s phrasing—of realism. Terry Eagleton has famously argued that the nineteenth-century rise of realism—and specifically its heightened emphasis on interiority—was a symptom of, and complicit with, the ascendance of capitalist individualism. That interiority, moreover, was mirrored by the claustrophobic settings of many realist novels, the overlapping domestic spheres of home and nation. But the carefully delimited surrounds of the bourgeois-realist novel, its gardens and manor houses, could never quite erase the world beyond the hedgerow or sitting room walls. There is always a Bertha Mason in the attic, whether or not they make an actual appearance. In The Afterlife of Enclosure (2021), Carolyn Lesjak chronicles how the realist novel of the nineteenth century indexed the histories of dispossession that conditioned its evolution as a paradigmatic cultural form—the profound social and ecological transformations, at once immediate and “slow,” wrought by the enclosure of common lands in Britain. Lesjak’s intervention evokes Georg Lukács’s classic defense of realism’s critical and political efficacy. Reading Honoré de Balzac and Thomas Mann, and reflecting back on the high point of a form then being displaced by various modernisms, Lukács argued that realism possesses a certain revolutionary potentiality. The realist novel, he avowed, is uniquely capable of grasping “social totality,” the objective reality of capitalist social relations—precisely because realism, whether proletarian or bourgeois in its orientation, brings into relief the disjuncture between consciousness and reality, appearance and essence, or, to invoke Althusser’s definition of ideology, “the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence.”12

In a corpus of contemporary fictions, bourgeois in setting and psychology, ideology is not merely a formal feature or effect, but a narrative thematic. The novels I engage in Chapter 2—Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010), Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom (2016), Benjamin Kunkel’s Indecision (2005), and Ben Lerner’s 10:04 (2014)—reckon with the problem of history and totality: the means of its concealment, and the possibility of its revelation. These novels undertake this critical work in provisional and uneven ways. All four texts, though, depict the capitalist present as marked by the declension of various publics, and by the foreclosure of historical possibility. The “end of history” is experienced, by the economically secure and socially privileged characters who people these novels, as a kind of collective depression. Resisting that malaise, the protagonists of Lerner’s 10:04 and Kunkel’s Indecision, in particular, expose the workings of capitalist ideology and begin to recover, or at least register the existence of, the histories and realities—including figments of radical futurity—that that ideology has so successfully obscured.

Today, processes of expanded reproduction unfold in the context of what Robert Brenner has termed “the long downturn”—a period, beginning in the latter part of the 1960s, marked by declining rates of profit and stagnant productivity growth (in the advanced capitalist world especially).13 This protracted decline, which has been punctuated by acute economic shocks, has shed renewed light on both the crisis tendencies that are intrinsic to capitalism and the mechanisms that capital deploys to exploit or defer them. It has once again brought to the political-economic and conceptual fore, that is, the moment of “synthetic dispossession,” which I consider in Chapter 3.

Rosa Luxemburg’s Accumulation of Capital (1913) examined the conjoined crises of overproduction and underconsumption that roiled the Euro-American world in the decades surrounding the turn of the twentieth century. The capitalist state attempted to resolve these crises, Luxemburg discerned, through imperialism—the opening up of new markets, and the initiation of new rounds of primitive accumulation in the colonies. Observing the necessity of “non-capitalist strata” to the imperative of growth, Luxemburg argued that because the world is finite, there are intrinsic limits—spatial and therefor temporal—to both capital and capitalism. When all existing “non-capitalist” strata have been assimilated into the world market, accumulation will cease. The apparent limits of capital, though, are challenged, if never transcended, by finance capital and other instruments of synthetic accumulation. In the latter decades of the twentieth century, the architects of neoliberalism enabled the forces of financialization while working to fabricate new outsides to capital—through the privatization of public resources, services, and spaces, and calculated methods of devaluation and reacquisition.

David Harvey has used the term “accumulation by dispossession” to capture the continuities between crude and synthetic forms of depredation. My own account echoes Harvey’s attention to the historical and formal connections between these two moments of capital—primitive accumulation and synthetic dispossession. I am also keen to insist, though, on their distinction. When we focus on the moment of primitive accumulation, our analysis might privilege, for example, the enactments of state and extra-state violence that accompany the mining of cobalt, copper, and tantalum in the Congo, or the violent histories of expropriation that are enshrined in the juridical apparatus of the settler-colonial state (and that permit therein the continuous extraction of resources). When our attention is instead directed toward the moment of synthetic dispossession, we might rather investigate the distinctive combinations of coercion and consent that governs the spaces and subjects of incipient or chronic precarity—the denizens of the unemployment line; the assembly line of a new, nonunion auto plant, where workers who lost their United Auto Workers (UAW) jobs to outsourcing earn a fraction of their former wage; the “tent cities” on the margins of the capitalist metropolis, occupied by the casualties of eviction and foreclosure.

When the bubbles created by emboldened financial capital burst, the subsequent crisis is used, by policy makers, as a pretext to reaffirm the state’s commitment to austerity and accelerate the selling off of public infrastructure. In the advanced capitalist world, the combination of austerity and the regressive redistribution of wealth increases inequality, exposes ever-more people to insecurity, and occasions crises of consent. When the market ceases to offer even the most modest promise of material comfort, its “silent compulsion” becomes rather less compelling. But the breakdown of capital’s ideological efficacy coincides with the resurgent importance of more violent forms of state power. The decline of the welfare state and growth of the police state are reciprocal processes. As Stuart Hall and the coauthors of Policing the Crisis (1978), writing at the neoliberal end of the 1970s, put it, in the moment of crisis, “the masks of liberal consent and popular consensus slip to reveal the reserves of coercion and force on which the cohesion of the state and its legal authority depends.”14

The explicit mobilization of these “reserves of coercion and force”—the militarization of public and private and police, the expansion of the prison industrial complex, the police occupation of poor Black communities—has prompted new inquiries into the longer history and contemporary expressions of racialized police brutality and carceral regimes. The essential political and economic forms of synthetic dispossession have also engendered a somewhat more abstract theoretical conversation, which centers on the politics of “precarity.” The principal contributors to this conversation are concerned in the first instance not with the longer history of racial capitalism, and the state violence that has always accompanied it, but with the epiphany of bourgeois insecurity—the exposure of previously secure populations to the quotidian realities of contingency and vulnerability. Neoliberalism instills, in the spheres of culture and politics and in the individual subject, the basic tenets of managerial ideology; but it also, Lauren Berlant argues, generalizes the structural realities and quotidian experiences of working-class life. What Berlant and other theorists of precarity identify is a social-political realignment—the becoming-precarious of certain segments of the middle classes, which might compel the newly insecure to recognize the connection between their own vulnerability and that of others (those for whom insecurity is not a novel condition), and to work toward the construction of alternative social formations founded on the ideal and practice of mutual care.

Though its invocation implies the possibility of futurity, the precariat is—relative to cognate terms such as the “proletariat,” or the “multitude”—a tentative collective subject. The magnitude of its world-historical agency, and the precise shape of the society it might bring into being, is uncertain, even for its theoretical authors. It is, perhaps, the paradigmatic figure of the impasse of the present—the aporia that we inhabit, as the old world dies and the new one struggles to be born. The feeling of that impasse, or that indeterminacy, is, I contend in Chapter 3, made vivid by a distinct corpus of contemporary fictions. The novel of synthetic dispossession is marked by the dialogue between two narrative modalities, and two “structures of feeling.” Texts such as Dave Eggers’s A Hologram for the King (2013) and Rafael Chirbes’s On the Edge (2016) occupy the expanding time-space of crisis and index the waning force of capitalist ideology therein. The protagonists of these two texts—white men, in each case—have been made redundant, by financial crises or the changing geography of industrial production. Underemployed, financially unstable, they struggle to hold on to some sense of agency or purpose, within the market, and within history. Novels such as Eugene Lim’s Dear Cyborgs (2017) and Barbara Browning’s The Gift (2017), by contrast, trace not only decline and disappointment, but the creation of cultural and political newness, by the growing ranks of the “precariat,” or by a collective subject that has yet to be named. Abjuring the pull of nostalgia—the longing for a bygone age of security and its associated hierarchies—Dear Cyborgs and The Gift approach the political horizons that come into view in the context of capitalism’s diminished spirit, the intimacies and solidarities that take root within the wreckage of crises that are both located and general.

An important strand of contemporary critique—developed by scholars such as Anna Kornbluh, Leigh Claire La Berge, Annie McClanahan, Elizabeth Holt, Alison Shonkwiler, and Arne De Boever—examines the relationship between crisis (crises of finance in particular) and cultural form, across a range of periods and geographies.15 This critical current is concerned with the intimacy between fictitious capital and fiction itself, the technologies that represent value—money, debt and credit, stocks and bonds—and various modes of literary or cultural representation.16 The affinity between capitalism and the novel, that is, is formal as well as historical. Just as the value of the S&P 500 acts as a metonym for “the economy,” the novel distills into narrative shape—or allegorizes—the complexity of capitalist social relations. The metonymic function of the novel, moreover, is especially pronounced in contemporary financial fiction. Therein, La Berge observes, finance often stands in for capital broadly conceived; it acts, in other words, as a figure for an economic totality that remains obscure.17 My own account registers the paradigmatic status of finance capital within the current capitalist conjuncture. But I also set out to resist the tendency that La Berge identifies—the metonymic reduction of global capital to financial processes and instruments. My comparative approach, in this book, locates the fictions of finance—the mechanisms and mediations of synthetic dispossession—in relation to the political, economic, and literary forms that mark the moments of primitive accumulation and expanded reproduction.

The critique of the current crisis, and of capitalist crises in the abstract, is sharpened when it attends to capital’s essential heterogeneity and unevenness. That unevenness was analyzed, in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, by Leon Trotsky. His account of the revolution’s trajectory, and the crises that made it possible, included an intensive treatment of the concept of “uneven and combined development.” In pre-capitalist societies, Trotsky concluded in History of the Russian Revolution (1932), the introduction of capitalist rationality rarely prefaces its immediate and total ascendance. In the colonies, and in other peripheral or semi-peripheral spaces, emergent capitalist forms combine with non-capitalist ways of organizing social and economic life. The Russian Revolution, Trotsky asserted, demonstrated that the advent of communism in unevenly developed capitalist societies would necessarily be brought about by an alliance between the peasantry and the immature proletariat, which would preempt the rise of the bourgeoisie and seize the levers of political and economic power.

Though focused on Russia, Trotsky presented the theory of “uneven and combined development” as a universal law of capital, one that could be brought to bear on specific national case studies, and on the broader world-system. Writing at the same time as Trotsky, Marxist thinkers such as Antonio Gramsci and José Carlos Mariátegui analyzed the unevenness of capital within Italy and Peru, respectively, while situating those national geographies in relation to global patterns of uneven development. In the middle and later decades of the twentieth century, meanwhile, a coterie of anticolonial and postcolonial thinkers—among them C. L. R. James, Aimé Césaire, Frantz Fanon, Walter Rodney, and Stuart Hall—documented the specifically colonial nature of capital’s geographic asymmetry. This anticolonial tradition, I argue in Chapter 4, is a crucial resource for the project of theorizing the unity and difference of global capital. Redressing the parochialisms of much Euro-American Marxist thought, the anticolonial apprehension of capitalist modernity as colonial modernity discerns the dialectical interrelation of different forms and sites of political and economic power within a global frame. And this critical effectiveness is magnified, I contend, when the multiple moments of capital are afforded analytic prominence.

Of special utility to my theoretical framework is the concept of “articulation.” For Althusser, “articulation” signified an interrelation wherein the component parts maintain their distinctive form. His invocation of the concept—and the related idea, borrowed from Marx, of “complex unity”—highlighted the contingent combination of capital’s constitutive contradictions. This understanding of “articulation” was later elaborated by Stuart Hall. In “Race, Articulation, and Societies Structured in Dominance” (1980), Hall considered the interplay between the combination of different modes of production and the intersection of different modes of social differentiation. Summoning Trotsky’s theory of uneven and combined development, Hall observed that the capitalist sector in apartheid South Africa relied upon putatively non-capitalistic economic practices and relations; the persistence of subsistence agricultural production, and the existence of a nonproletarianized population, allowed capital to remunerate waged workers below the cost of their reproduction. Concomitantly, the degradation of Black labor helped guarantee the ideological enlistment of the white working class. Racism, that is, functions, ideologically, as a primary means through which the “white fractions” of the working class imagine and “live” their relationship to nonwhite workers and capital itself.18

The concept of “articulation” models a critical approach that is attentive to difference as well as sameness, and that perceives how the whole is structured in unevenness and contradiction. Addressing the combination and convergence of different moments of capital compels, too, a treatment of the complex interrelation of differentially raced, gendered, and classed subjects—within national spaces and within the capitalist world-system. The cultural and structural substance of that interrelation was anatomized by Fanon. In a suggestive passage in The Wretched of the Earth (1961), Fanon contrasted the prevailing modes of capitalist governance in the metropole and in the colony. In the metropole, the exploitation of labor was enabled by the “structure of moral reflexes . . . [and] aesthetic expressions of respect for the established order,” which create around the worker an “atmosphere of submission.” In the colony, “the policeman and the soldier, by their immediate presence and their frequent and direct action maintain contact with the native and advise him by means of rifle butts and napalm not to budge.”19 Put slightly differently, the primitive accumulation of capital in the colonies was conditioned by the “language of pure force” (also Fanon’s phrase), while the reproduction of capital in the metropole was made possible by ingrained moral sentiments. Fanon’s account, though, implied the interrelation of and not simply the distinction between colony and metropole. Primitive accumulation in the colonies fueled processes of expanded reproduction within the metropole, including the social democratic construction of the ideological state apparatuses. And the racialized negation of the colonized subject helped facilitate the interpellation of the white worker back home; that interpellation was further secured by the social exclusion and super-exploitation of racial others within the metropole itself.20 In the putative aftermath of the colonial period, these interrelations mutated in pace with the exigencies of accumulation, as synthetic methods of dispossession—advancing what Henri Lefebvre termed the “colonization of everyday life”—joined with neocolonial processes of extractive industry, and enduring relations of expanded reproduction, to renew the ideal and reality of economic growth.21

In the late-neoliberal present these patterns of interconnection persist. Expanded reproduction continues to be enabled by outright theft. And the power of capitalist ideology continues to be made possible in part by the enactment of crude state violence, in the Global South, and in spaces of marginality and exclusion within the Global North. That the “reserves of coercion and force” are applied with such severity on the other side of the tracks ensures the potency of the “structure of moral reflexes” on this side. But the integrity of that structure, the efficacy of capitalist ideology, is today threatened by the heightening of inequality and generalization of insecurity. And as the spirit of capital continues to fade, new political possibilities—new routes of solidarity, for example, between the dispossessed migrant, alienated or exploited wage laborer, and newly proletarianized middle class—might come into view.

In addition to Marxists from the (semi)-periphery such as Gramsci and Mariátegui, and theorists of colonialism and its afterlives such as Fanon and Hall, there are other reservoirs of critique to which we might turn, in our effort to grasp the interrelation of different forms of political and economic power, and different languages of resistance. Informed by the anticolonial and postcolonial reading of capitalist modernity’s colonial fundament, the tradition of world-systems theory maps the contradictions and asymmetries that define the relationship between three structural positions: core, periphery, and semi-periphery. Immanuel Wallerstein, in accord with thinkers such as Walter Rodney, examined the dialectic of development and underdevelopment, the ways in which the wealth of the core derives from the depredation of the periphery. He observed, too, echoing Fanon among others, how the strength of the “state machinery” in the core—including its ideological apparatuses—corresponds to the prevalence of extralegal violence on the periphery.

World-systems theory maps the geographic differences that constitute capitalist modernity at large. It implies at the same time, however, the synchronization of different moments of production. The problem of synchrony and nonsynchrony, or simultaneity and nonsimultaneity, is an abiding concern of Marxist thought. Marx himself gestured toward this dialectic, in the Grundrisse, when he referred to the “annihilation of space by time”—and the imperative of synchronizing the various activities of the productive process—while acknowledging that capital “moves in contradictions which are constantly overcome but just as constantly posited.”22 The drive to surpass spatial and temporal barriers is countered by the fact that the creation of capital requires the production and exploitation of difference—differences of productive modality that have a spatial character, and that might appear as differences of history or time. The historical implication of this tension—between the universalizing drive of capital and the perpetual reproduction of its fundamental contradictions—was explored, in the early twentieth century, by Ernst Bloch. Reflecting on the residue of pre-capitalist social forms in interwar Germany, Bloch invoked “the simultaneity of the non-simultaneous” (a phrase that is sometimes translated as the “contemporaneity of the non-contemporaneous”).23 This idea, which resonated with theories of uneven and combined development, was later engaged by thinkers such as Étienne Balibar, who diagnosed, in Reading Capital (1965), the “coexistence of several modes of production,” in periods of “transition” most especially.24 Althusser’s related conceptualization of the “conjuncture” captured the notion of a structuralist unity that is historically contingent. It sought to reconcile, in other words, the synchrony of capital and the immutable fact of history (or, the two meanings of “moment” that I outline above).

Another way of thinking about the relationship between capital’s historical evolution and dialectical totality has been advanced, more recently, by Giovanni Arrighi. The global history of capital, Arrighi contended in The Long Twentieth Century (1994), can be divided into four “systemic cycles,” which correspond to particular geographic loci: Genoese (fifteenth to early seventeenth century), Dutch (late sixteenth through eighteenth century), British (latter eighteenth to early twentieth century), and US (late nineteenth century through to the present). Adapting Marx’s M-C-M’ formula—for the logic of capital’s valorization—to the movement of history, Arrighi argued that each cycle contains two successive phases: MC, the phase of material expansion, in which money capital “‘sets in motion’ an increasing mass of commodities”; and CM’ (or, simply, MM’), the phase of financial expansion, in which accumulated money capital severs its ties to the process of commodity production and is invested in purely financial speculation.25 Arrighi registered the dialectical unity of productive and financial capital; but his account privileged the diachronic shape of each cycle of accumulation and the diachronic progression from one cycle to another—the linear enlargement of the capitalist world-economy. According to this framework, we currently inhabit the late financial “autumn” of the US systemic cycle. Arrighi’s historical theorization of capitalism remains luminous. And I agree, to join my own conceptual vocabulary to Arrighi’s, that the moment of synthetic dispossession is today archetypal (in the advanced capitalist world, in particular). But the moments of primitive accumulation and expanded reproduction are very much extant. This or any previous capitalist conjuncture is distinguished, I argue, not merely by the dominance of one moment of capital above others, but by the dynamics of their synchronization.

Over the past decade or so, some of the foremost venues for Marxist theory—Verso, for example, and the journal Historical Materialism—have curated discussions of capitalist modernity’s temporal multiplicity and synchronic unity. Notable interventions in this conversation include Massimiliano Tomba’s Marx’s Temporalities (2014) and Stavros Tombazos’s Time in Marx: The Categories of Time in Marx’s Capital (2013). These works propose an important new critical vocabulary for detailing the structures or experiences of time that mark, for example, the spheres of production, circulation, and consumption, or the concurrent combination of specific mechanisms of valorization. “The categories of the capitalist mode of production,” Tomba writes, “do not unfold in diachronic succession, but present themselves as a unitary constellation within which each concept, as a monad, is enclosed.”26 Tomba notes that “the unilinear conception of historical time,” which characterized many twentieth-century Marxist theories of history, “[allows] different social forms to be pigeon-holed as advanced or backward.”27 This tendency, as I have discussed, is a pitfall of stadial historical approaches; but it also colors invocations of the “simultaneity of the non-simultaneous,” which imagine the coincidence of the archaic and the modern. “The juxtaposition of a plurality of historical times,” Tomba writes, “where forms of peasant-slavery exist alongside high-tech production in the superannuation of the dualism between centre and periphery, not only explains nothing, but is obfuscatory. . . . The real problem,” he continues, “is their combination by means of the world-market’s mechanisms of synchronization.”28 Emulating this important observation, but ranging beyond Capital and Marxist thought, I demonstrate how diverse theoretical traditions—from Weberian inquiries into the “spirit” of capitalism to postcolonial critiques of the relationship between capitalist accumulation and racial thinking and practice—heighten our understanding of the synchronous combination of capital’s multiple moments.

The project of apprehending the sameness and difference of global capital, and the collective subject that might transform this world into another one, is central not just to theory but to world literature. And in the literary sphere as in the theoretical one, the contributions of anticolonial and postcolonial thought have been decisive. In its nineteenth-century enunciation—by Goethe in the first instance, and by Marx and Engels—“world literature” (Weltliteratur) pointed to the correspondence between global political and economic forces and global cultural forms; the accent was on the universalizing effects of capital, rather than the differences—inequalities—it both produced and exploited, the oneness of the world rather than the fractures and divisions that make it up. Synthesizing Marxist and postcolonial approaches, the contemporary critique of world literature—in the work of scholars such as Rey Chow, Pascale Casanova, Emily Apter, Franco Moretti, Sarah Brouillette, and the Warwick Research Collective, among many others—addresses instead the implication of literary production in global relations of uneven and combined development: the circulation of literary texts through global markets, and the formal strategies performed by literary texts to represent the totality and contradictions of global capital.

Moretti’s influential essay “Conjectures on World Literature” (2000) defined world literature as a planetary system that mirrors the world-system of capital.29 In recent years, critics have explored various aspects of that fundamental interrelation. To cite just two significant examples: Brouillette’s UNESCO and the Fate of the Literary (2019) uses one cultural institution as a lens onto the uneven global determinants, and uneven global consequence, of the production and consumption of contemporary world literature. The Warwick Research Collective’s Combined and Uneven Development: Towards a New Theory of World Literature (2015), meanwhile, examines how the literary forms of the periphery and semi-periphery register the “singularity . . . and internal heterogeneity” of capitalist modernity.30 My own invocation of “world literature” stresses the imperial conditions of possibility for that generality and that difference. Herein, “world literature” signifies a cultural and critical formation that renders the “complex unity” of the global capitalist order brought into being by empire and its afterlives—the entanglement of different spaces of capital, and the synchronic combination of different moments of capital, within the historical and geographic frame of colonial modernity.

In dialogue with contemporary theorists and practitioners of world literature, I consider in the latter part of Chapter 4 how three contemporary novels illustrate the multiple moments of global capital. Pitchaya Sudbanthad’s Bangkok Wakes to Rain (2019) illustrates how the entwined histories of capital and empire continue to shape the precarious present and antediluvian future of one global city. Inhabiting a national frame, Neel Mukherjee’s The Lives of Others (2014) reckons with the Naxalite resistance to modes of primitive accumulation in contemporary India, while self-reflexively incorporating the formal strategies of concealment that keep long and enduring histories of expropriation out of view. Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers (2013), the novel with which I conclude, is more planetary in its scope. Set in the late 1970s, as the advent of neoliberalism coincided with the introduction of post-Fordist relations and cultures of accumulation, The Flamethrowers connects processes of synthetic dispossession in deindustrializing Manhattan to the dialectics of exploitation and revolt in the Italian auto industry and the brutal harvesting of rubber in Brazil. Evincing the three moments of contemporary capital—their articulation within three spatial scales—each of these novels makes audible as well the unique languages of critique that are invented and enunciated therein, by distinct collective subjects. They contribute, that is, to the central objective of my investigations in this book—the illumination of the essential unity and differential composition of global capital.


1. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto (1848), accessed at /marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/.

2. Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto.

3. Though the historiographic literature tends to locate the political origins of neoliberalism in the 1970s, Michel Foucault, in his 1978–79 lectures at the Collège de France, notably highlighted the proto-neoliberal significance of the ordoliberals in postwar Germany, who imagined the market and its rationality as the foundation for the reconstituted German state. The intellectual history of neoliberalism, meanwhile, has even deeper origins. In the 1930s, economists and philosophers such as Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises formulated a critique of Keynesianism that associated the latter with “totalitarian” forms of collectivism such as Nazism and communism. Government planning, these “Austrian School” thinkers avowed, ultimately led to the negation of individual freedom. The realization of that freedom, Hayek, von Mises, and the other attendees of the famous 1947 Mont Pèlerin meeting insisted, required the liberation and generalization of market forces. While the Keynesian consensus prevailed in the immediate postwar period, neoliberal thinking took root in and spread throughout think tanks and other ideological state apparatuses; when the postwar political-economic order was thrown into crisis in the early 1970s, the already insidious ideology of neoliberalism found concrete political expression. For a bracing account of this intellectual history, see Quinn Slobodian, Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018).

4. See Leon Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, trans. Max Eastman (Chicago: Haymarket Books, [1932] 2008).

5. Michael Inwood, A Hegel Dictionary (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 1992), 311.

6. For a discussion of the relationship between the analytic of temporality and the practice of comparison, see Harry Harootunian, “Some Thoughts on Comparability and the Space-Time Problem,” boundary 2 32, no. 2 (2005): 25–32; and Rey Chow, “The Old/New Question of Comparison in Literary Studies,” ELH 71, no. 2 (2004): 289–311.

7. Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978), 132, 133.

8. Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, [1951] 1973), 148.

9. Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello, The New Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Gregory Elliott (London: Verso, 2005), 8.

10. See Raymond Williams, “Ideology,” in Marxism and Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978); and Antonio Gramsci, Prison Notebooks, vol. 1, trans. Joseph A. Buttigieg and Antonio Callari (New York: Columbia University Press, [1929–35] 2011).

11. For two accounts of Marx’s engagement with the question of world literature, see: Aijaz Ahmad, “The Communist Manifesto and ‘World Literature,’Social Scientist 28, no. 7/8 (2000): 3–30; and Martin Puchner, “Readers of the World Unite,” Aeon (September 20, 2017), accessed at world-literature-is-both-a-market-reality-and-a-global-ideal.

12. Louis Althusser, “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses,” in Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays, trans. Ben Brewster (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2001), 150.

13. Robert Brenner, The Economics of Global Turbulence: The Advanced Capitalist Economies from Long Boom to Long Downturn, 1945–2005 (London: Verso, 2006).

14. Stuart Hall, Chas Critcher, Tony Jefferson, John Clarke, and Brian Roberts, Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the State, and Law and Order (London: Macmillan Press, 1978), 217.

15. See Anna Kornbluh, Realizing Capital: Financial and Psychic Economies in Victorian Form (New York: Fordham University Press, 2014); Leigh Claire La Berge, Scandals and Abstraction: Financial Fiction of the Long 1980s (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014); Annie McClanahan, Dead Pledges: Debt, Crisis, and Twenty-First Century Culture (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2016); Elizabeth Holt, Fictitious Capital: Silk, Cotton, and the Rise of the Arabic Novel (New York: Fordham University Press, 2017); Alison Shonkwiler, The Financial Imaginary: Economic Mystification and the Limits of Realism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017); and Arne De Boever, Finance Fictions: Realism and Psychosis in a Time of Economic Crisis (New York: Fordham University Press, 2018).

16. I have privileged here works of criticism that are concerned primarily or in part with the relationship between fiction and fictitious capital. An adjacent and equally vital critical conversation, though, centers on the conjunction of contemporary poetry and contemporary capital. Christopher Nealon’s The Matter of Capital: Poetry and Crisis in the American Century (2011), for example, locates poetic responses to the financial crisis of 2008 within a longer genealogy of American poetry’s mediation of capitalist processes and forms. Joshua Clover’s essay “Autumn of the System: Poetry and Financial Capital” (2011), meanwhile, argues that the movement of financialization—captured by the formula M-M’, a revision of Marx’s classic M-C-M’—occasions or is defined by the “conversion of the temporal to the spatial” (43), or the synchronization of the diachronic. The capitalist present, Clover submits, is characterized in part by the foreclosure or redundancy of narrative; and works of contemporary poetry such as Kevin Davies’s The Golden Age of Paraphernalia (2008) “preserve” time “as an absence, as what it lost,” while, perhaps, illuminating “a place where all moments are present” (45, 43). Joshua Clover, “Autumn of the System: Poetry and Financial Capital,” Journal of Narrative Theory 41, no. 1 (2011): 34–52.

17. La Berge, Scandals and Abstraction, 4.

18. Stuart Hall, “Race, Articulation, and Societies Structured in Dominance,” Sociological Theories: Race and Colonialism (Paris: UNESCO, 1980), 306, 341.

19. Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, trans. Constance Farrington (New York: Grove Press, [1961] 1963), 38.

20. This prose in this paragraph first appeared, in different form, in the following article: Eli Jelly-Schapiro, “Historicizing Repression and Ideology,” Mediations 30, no. 2 (2017).

21. Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, trans. Donald Nicholson Smith (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 1992), 385, 416.

22. Karl Marx, Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy, trans. Martin Nicolaus (New York: Penguin, [1857–58] 1993), 524, 410.

23. See Ernst Bloch, Heritage of Our Times, trans. Neville Plaice and Stephen Plaice (New York: Polity, [1935] 2009).

24. Étienne Balibar, “On the Basic Concepts of Historical Materialism,” in Louis Althusser, ed., Reading Capital, trans. Ben Brewster (London: Verso, 1997), 350.

25. Giovanni Arrighi, The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power, and the Origins of Our Times (London: Verso, 1994), 6. For an intriguing reading/revision of Arrighi’s argument, see Fredric Jameson, “Culture and Finance Capital,” Critical Inquiry 24, no. 1 (1997). Jameson suggests that Arrighi’s theorization of capital’s systemic cycles implies the recurrence not of two phases but three: merchant, industrial, and financial; and the succession of these phases renders as historical narrative the Marxian dialectic of M-C-M’.

26. Massimiliano Tomba, “Historical Temporalities of Capital: An Anti-Historicist Perspective,” Historical Materialism 17, no. 5 (2009): 56.

27. Massimiliano Tomba, Marx’s Temporalities (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2013), xiii.

28. Tomba, Marx’s Temporalities, xiv.

29. Franco Moretti, “Conjectures on World Literature,” New Left Review, no. 1 (January/February 2000).

30. The Warwick Research Collective (WReC), Combined and Uneven Development: Towards a New Theory of World Literature (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2015), 14.