Seminar Frans-Willem Korsten

Royal Academy of Art, The Hague (NL)

Third and final seminar by Frans-Willem Korsten: 'Marxism and the Anthropological Turn'.

'Marxism and the Anthropological Turn'

When trying to get to the essence of what capitalism was, what it does and can do, Karl Marx was enormously helped, as he himself remarked in the Grundrisse and as Lenin would repeat after him, by Hegel’s logic. It is this looking for the logic in capitalism that has defined, since then, the majority of critical responses to it. It is not surprising that those who build on Marx would either follow the logic of a counter-capitalism, that is to say state-capitalism, or that they would engage in an argumentative process with the forces of capitalism – a process framed by democratically defined rules of engagement. Put differently, with and since Marx, the dominant tendency of capitalism’s opponents – whether in the shape of neo-Marxists, of autonomia and post-autonomia thinkers, or in the different forms that cultural studies has acquired – has been to outsmart capitalism, or to force it into a different mode by means of a logical analysis and a response in terms of reasonability. In contrast with this response, others have chosen an anthropological approach, acknowledging the distinctly messy situations in which people find themselves and in which they will have to work with, or will have to respond to capitalism. What can the role of art be in this context?

Reading list:

Marx, Grundrisse, notebook V, pp. 483-554

David Graeber, chapter 3, 4 and 11 from Debt, New York: Melville Publishing House, 2011. Pp. 43-72; 73-88; 307-360.


Frans-Willem Korsten (NL, 1959) is professor in Literature and Society at the Erasmus University Rotterdam in addition to working at the department of Film- and Literary Studies of Leiden University.

Since 2010, Korsten has been Director of Education of the Leiden Insitute for Cultural Disciplines in 2010. He is a member of the editorial board for Boom-The Hague Publishers, Amsterdam University Press, and the open access Journal of Dutch Literature (AUP.) In the past he has also worked for the Dutch Council for Culture as chairman for the Letters section, and is now a member of the Rotterdam Council for Culture.