Marxist Value Theory Conference, 20th-21st April 2023

The Poetics of Value: an online conference on art and value in capitalism, with keynote addresses from Dave Beech and Marina Vishmidt, and a poetry reading by Alli Warren

In the mid-twentieth century, with the dominance of the Frankfurt School, Marxism assumed the role of cultural criticism, setting aside the focus on value that Marx maintained throughout Capital and the Grundrisse. Towards the end of the century, especially in Germany, numerous scholars began to insist on the importance of value as the crucial form-determining relation of capitalism.

Against the quantitative theories of orthodox Marxism that tracked value as a determinant of price, these new studies of value focused on the determination of social relations. The relations that constitute gender, race, and class are the "computation"—as Gayatri Spivak says—of subjectivity according to the requirements of value's self-accumulation. Seb Franklin calls these "value's world-making protocols," in a useful formulation that reveals value as the computation of living labor: value is the form that determines social relations through their capacity to reproduce value itself. Meanwhile, reading value-theory alongside black studies, it is important to maintain that many relations occur in capitalism that are not productive of value and cannot be fully captured by its obligation of productivity.

While celebrating those moments of uncapturable non-productivity, of a return of human labor to its own use, value-form analysis encourages a specific study of the processes of production, circulation, accumulation, and the social relations produced by them in capitalism, without which critiques of this political-subjective economy become vague and caricatured.

Over the last two decades the study of value has become an increasingly important mode of understanding capitalism, and in particular the production of art within the economy. Recent studies by Dave Beech, Marina Vishmidt, Leigh Claire La Berge, Denise Ferreira da Silva, Fred Moten, Joshua Clover, Jasper Bernes, and Amy De’Ath, among others, have opened new possibilities for thinking the production of art and its relation to value.

At this conference, we bring together theorists working at the intersection of art, literary studies and value theory, alongside junior researchers, poets, artists, and Marxist activists.

The conference will take place over two days online, on Thursday 20th and Friday 21st of April 2023, from midday to 6pm (Central European Time) on both days. Submissions are open for abstracts until 29th January 2023. Please submit abstracts of no more than 250 words to, for presentations of no more than 20 minutes. Also send a short bio.

The conference is free to attend. It will be hosted online from Sweden, and all talks will be in English, but people are of course welcome to join from anywhere.

The keynote speakers are Dave Beech and Marina Vishmidt, and Alli Warren will deliver a poetry reading.

Topics for talks include: contemporary Marxist activism informed by value theory; the problems and limitations of value form analysis; black studies and the value-form; the rise of value theory in the twentieth century; the accuracy of the labor theory of value in relation to contemporary working conditions; “decommodified labor” in the art world; poetry’s place in the economy; the specifics of literature and art as economic exceptionalisms. Etc.

(Cover image: 'Refuel Station' by Tetsuya Ishida, 1996)