Theorizing Capital's Limits: Anselm Jappe, the Microelectronics Revolution, and the Critique of Labor

Jason Dawsey


Jason Dawsey, Lecturer, Department of History,
University of Tennessee-Knoxville (
Abstract--“Theorizing Capital’s Limits: Anselm Jappe,
the Microelectronics Revolution, and the Critique of Labor”
For the 2016 Historical Materialism conference, I am proposing a paper titled “Theorizing Capital’s Limits” Anselm Jappe, the Microelectronics Revolution, and the Critique of Labor.” This paper will attempt to relate the understudied work of Anselm Jappe to the broader Marxian debates about capital’s limits.
Jappe, still best known for his study of the Situationist Guy Debord, has emerged as one of the leading exponents of Wertkritik (the Critique of Value). As such, he has reflected on the history and development of the Critique of Value at much greater length and sophistication than its more familiar practitioners—the late Robert Kurz, Roswitha Scholz, and Norbert Trenkle. Jappe’s theoretical work, while maintaining a historically self-reflective perspective, advances and extends the arguments about crisis and capital’s limits proposed earlier by Kurz, Scholz, Trenkle, and others. My paper offers a critical analysis of Jappe’s conception of the limitations of capital as a heteronomous societal form. Crucial to this analysis will be a commentary on the importance accorded to the revolution in microelectronics in this argument. Looking at his Die Abenteuer der Ware (The Adventures of the Commodity), as well as several shorter pieces, I look at how Jappe’s variant of Marxian critique deals with the issue of technology in its depiction of capital’s limits and the degree to which technological revolution might hold promising, emancipatory tendencies.
It is my hope that this paper will provoke greater study of the writings of Jappe and his comrades in Krisis/Exit. In so doing, it also contributes to the further reconstitution of the Marxian critique of capitalism.

Limits to capital - Crisis theory - Technology