Boundary Struggles: Marxism and Surpluses Now (NeMLA 24)

deadline for submissions: 
September 15, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Joshua Gooch, D'Youville University
contact email: 

In classical accounts of Marxism, surpluses seem to be made only by labor power. Perhaps the most important shift in  contemporary Marxist thought has been to uncover how capitalism appropriates surpluses from non-capitalist systems. As Jason W. Moore explains, capitalism lives off what he calls “the Four Cheaps,” labor, food, energy, raw materials. Capitalism’s surpluses don’t just come from exploitation—that is, the use of the wage to extract surplus value from labor. It also comes from appropriation—that is, taking without paying at all.

In Cannibal Capitalism, Nancy Fraser builds on Moore’s insight to offer an account of Marxism that connects social reproduction theory, eco-socialism, Black Marxism, and Marxist political theory. Capitalism, Fraser writes, lives parasitically off of what she calls its “background” conditions of existence: the biosphere, systems of social reproduction, and political systems. Capitalism’s surpluses are the result of these background conditions as much as the exploitation of labor within production, Fraser insists. Moreover, capitalism’s crises are not due to contradictions internal to capitalism as an economic system but rather the result of what Fraser terms “boundary struggles” (20). Capitalism does not capture its necessary background conditions. They exist in constant struggle and contradiction.

This panel will examine how contemporary popular culture represents the boundary struggles of contemporary capitalism. These struggles might be broadly understood as tensions between, in Fraser’s words, “production and reproduction, society and nature, economy and polity, exploitation and expropriation” (24).

Topics of interest include boundary struggles between

·      Capitalism and social reproduction

·      Capitalism and nature

·      Capitalism and the legitimacy of political systems

·      Capitalism and the use of racialization to appropriate labor and land

Please send 250-word abstracts by September 15th, 2023 using NeMLA's electronic submission portal at

NeMLA 2024 will be held March 7-10, 2024 in Boston, MA.