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Capitalism and Its Outside: Profit, Expansion, and the Necessary Excess

Friday, May 10, and Saturday, May 11, 2024

University of Chicago


Capitalism, endowed with remarkable elasticity and propagandistic power, is a mode of production whose drive aims to devour the planet, subsuming all other forms of life under its logic. It tolerates no antagonistic other alongside itself. However, it is also the first economic form that is unable to stand alone, without a non-capitalist outside as its necessary lifeline: surplus populations, speculative non-market spheres, unpaid labor, the precariat, economies of waste, carceral extraction, money markets, and technoeconomic platforms are only a few illustrative realms.

As Rosa Luxemburg argued more than a century ago, the uneven relation between capitalist and non-capitalist formations is not merely a prerequisite for capital’s genesis but an essential condition for its ongoing accumulation and maturation. Capital draws life from the erosion of its very sine qua non. As it rides varying vectors and velocities, one fraction of capital might undermine the endurance of another, if not interrupt its own conditions of possibility altogether (Gidwani, 2008; Wark, 2019). Capitalism, thus, finds itself in chronic exertion against entropy.

From the viewpoint of such contradictions and excesses, as matters of inner determination (Mészáros, 2012; Saito, 2022) and systematic necessity, how has capitalism’s outside been reconfigured, and what has it come to extrude in the world today? How does it bear upon twenty-first-century capitalist logic, social relations of production, and attendant ideological workings? Given especially shifts in the labor market, ecological rifts on massive scale, phenomena like “cloud capital” (Varoufakis, 2023) and “bullshit jobs” (Graeber, 2018), how can the various manifestations and pressures of capital’s necessary excesses be theorized? Has capitalism perfected its modus operandi, managing so well its own fallout, that it has begun to morph beyond itself? Are we amid fundamental shifts in capitalist regimes of value and their profit-driven logic? Or is this yet another stage of an ever-aging capitalism?

Registration will open in mid-March, and a full schedule and list of speakers will be announced in early April.


Jodi Dean is an American political theorist and professor in the Political Science department at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. She held the Donald R. Harter ’39 Professorship of the Humanities and Social Sciences from 2013 to 2018. She is the author and editor of thirteen books. Her most recent book is titled Comrade: An Essay on Political Belonging (Verso, 2019).

Organized by Hadeel Badarni and Arwa Awan.

This event is free and open to the public, and registration is recommended. Please email us at  if you require any accommodations to enable your full participation.