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Feb 11 2022

Karl Marx and the Worker in Exile

Germanic Studies Colloquium

February 11, 2022

12:00 PM - 1:00 PM

flyer for event

Ari Linden, University of Kansas


Vagrants, beggars, and wanderers abound in Karl Marx’s Capital, Volume 1, most frequently in the final section on “So-Called Primitive Accumulation.” It was during this primal scene of capitalism, for Marx, that the “immediate producers” of pre-bourgeois society were forcefully and violently separated from their means of production and uprooted from the earth. The wage laborer-to-be had thus been “set free” in a twofold sense. On the one hand, they were liberated from feudal or otherwise pre-capitalist relations; on the other hand, they were stripped of their more “natural” relationship to the land and soil and of the protections assured to them under this erstwhile existence. Marx captures this dialectical moment in the legal term “vogelfrei,” which he employs to describe the modern proletariat and which had originally referred to recently emancipated peasants. Over time, however, the term came to refer to outlaws, or those who had been effectively exiled from society. The implications of this episode provide the resources to conceive of Marx as a thinker of modern exile, a condition, I argue, that offers a critical framework for approaching the twin fantasies of liberalism and reactionary romanticism.


School of Literatures, Cultural Studies and Linguistics

Date posted

Jan 7, 2022

Date updated

Jan 28, 2022