Capital’s allegories: The transition to capitalism and the national question

Gavin Walker, Department of History, McGill University

Friday.  27.Jan.2016.

3:00-5:00pm.  SS2125.

100 St. George Street

Tea. Coffee. Cookies

ABSTRACT:The transition to capitalism remains one of the most contested issues in historical analysis, in a wide variety of geographical sites and local contexts. Was the transition to capitalist modernity an inevitability of the downfall of feudal property relations in western Europe? Was it rather spurred on by the development of a global mercantilism and expansion of trade? What is the relation between this advent of modernity and the legal personhood of the nation-state as well as economic ‘freedom’ in the form of private property and commodified labour-power? And why, in the end, has the debate on the transition to capitalism always been political in nature? In working through the history of these debates in relation to my recently published book The Sublime Perversion of Capital (Duke, 2016), this paper attempts to think a future for the analysis of the transition in relation to the concept of allegory in the theory of historical time. In so doing, we will also try to see what is at stake in this past for a history of the present.

Intersections: Lectures, etc. Department of Geography and Planning, University of Toronto


Department of East Asian Studies, Faculty of Arts and Science, University of Toronto

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