Rosalind C. Morris

boundary 2, August 2016


Ursprüngliche Akkumulation, Marx’s term for the logically paradoxical phenomenon of an accumulation that is both the effect and the origin of capitalist accumulation, has been the topic of nearly endless debate since the publication of Das Kapital. Many analyses of this concept have centered on its place in largely stage-ist accounts of national and/or epochal histories. This article revisits these debates and argues for a translation of the term as not “primitive accumulation” but “originary accumulation,” since it is neither a stage nor a finite process but a recursive phenomenon necessarily repeated within the life-history of not only every economic system but also every subject. Moreover, the article suggests that the concept needs to be understood in terms of both what is surpassed and what is foreclosed. Personal indebting in the era of global finance is a mode of ursprüngliche Akkumulation, precisely to the extent that it subjects individuals in a manner that forecloses the possibility of an alternative economic order.

View the paper here: Ursprungliche Akkumulation: The Secret of an Originary Mistranslation