The enduring relevance of Rosa Luxemburg’s The Accumulation of Capital

  • Andreas Bieler
  • Sümercan Bozkurt
  • Max Crook
  • Peter S Cruttenden
  • Ertan Erol
  • Adam David Morton
  • Cemal Burak Tansel
  • Elif Uzgören


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.


capital accumulation capitalism geography peripheral space Rosa Luxemburg uneven development 



The collective enterprise in co-authoring this article stems from the Marxism Reading Group within the School of Politics and International Relations at the University of Nottingham, started in 2006. The group has retained a continued presence ever since, meeting every Wednesday afternoon in term-time to discuss collectively chosen texts. As a result, some 25 texts have been read to date covering a range of Marxist classics, past and present. The group has been a key collective project shaping spaces of self-development within an ever more market-driven higher education sector. The authors of this article would like to thank Phil Roberts for his involvement and input during the discussion of The Accumulation of Capital as well as Chris Hesketh, an alumnus of the collective, for separate feedback. We are also grateful for comments by three anonymous reviewers and Jozef Bátora, the editor of the Journal of International Relations and Development.


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andreas Bieler
    • 1
  • Sümercan Bozkurt
    • 1
  • Max Crook
    • 1
  • Peter S Cruttenden
    • 1
  • Ertan Erol
    • 1
  • Adam David Morton
    • 1
  • Cemal Burak Tansel
    • 1
  • Elif Uzgören
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Politics and International Relations, University of NottinghamNottinghamUK

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