Marx for the 21st Century

Course content

In 2018, the Financial Times published an op-ed titled “Why Marx is more relevant than ever”, written by the renowned economic historian Adam Tooze, perhaps the world’s leading expert on the history of the 2008 financial crash. A couple of years earlier, the CEO of the Danish commercial bank Saxo Bank had claimed that ”The only economic model that can explain what is happening today is Marxism”.

Since the outbreak of the 2008 financial crisis, the ideas of Karl Marx – and especially his analyses of capitalism – have felt present and topical like almost none other in the history of political thought. In this course, we will look at how Marx’s thought can be applied to analyse different problems and topics of the 21st century, from migration crises to globalisation and climate change.

In the first part of the course, we will study primary texts by Marx and students will be given a thorough introduction to Marx’s analysis of capitalism. We will begin by discussing the relevant biographical, socio-political, and intellectual contexts for understanding the development of Marx’s thought and then move on to focus on his most famous work: Capital. Here, we will focus on the more general aspects and abstracts concepts from Marx’s analysis of capitalist commodity production, but we will also see how he grounds his analysis of capitalism in a materialist conception of history.

In the second part, we will continue to dive deeper into Marx’s oeuvre while simultaneously relating it to contemporary problems, as we investigate themes in Marx’s analysis relevant to understanding capitalism in the 21st century. To facilitate this, the second part will be divided into six themes:

  1. Logistics and global production
  2. Social reproduction
  3. Climate and ecology
  4. Surplus population and migration
  5. Information technology and digital economy
  6. Space and urbanity


For each theme, we will read one or more primary texts by Marx dealing with the topic at hand, and then we will see how modern scholars apply key insights from Marx in their analyses. Through group discussions and the written assignments, we will also work with these problems ourselves.


Bachelor: 7,5 ECTS

Kandidat: 7,5 ECTS

Learning outcome


Through active participation in this course, students will get a thorough knowledge of Karl Marx’s work and thought, especially his analysis of capitalism. They will also be introduced to contemporary applications of this thought on problems of modern capitalism.


  • Reading and analysing complex primary sources from the history of political thought
  • Identifying key concepts and arguments
  • Applying concepts and arguments from the history of political thought to contemporary social and political issues
  • Interpreting and discussing theory-immanent problems



  • Text analysis
  • Political theory and intellectual history

Critical social theory

Classes are conducted as seminars consisting of both lectures and mixed activities (discussions, group work, presentations, etc.). For each class, there will be one or more primary and at least one secondary text. There will be two written assignments during term, which are also consitutive parts of the final exam (porteføljeeksamen). Substantial feedback will be provided.

Ca. 1,200 pages total selected from (preliminary):

Bhattacharya, Tithi, red. Social Reproduction Theory. Remapping Class, Recentering Oppression. London: Pluto Press, 2017.

Benanav, Aaron and John Clegg. ”Crisis and Immiseration: Critical Theory Today”. In The SAGE Handbook of Frankfurt School Critical Theory, vol. 3, edited by Beverley Best, Werner Bonefeld and Chris O’Kane, 1629-1648. Los Angeles, CA: SAGE Publications, 2018.

Chua, Charmaine et al. ”Introduction: Turbulent Circulation: Building a Critical Engagement with Logistics”. In Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 36, No. 4 (August 2018): 617-629.

Danyluk, Martin. ”Capital’s Logistical Fix: Accumulation, Globalization, and the Survival of Capitalism”. In Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 36, No. 4 (August 2018): 630-647.

Farris, Sara R. ”From the Jewish Question to the Muslim Question”. Constellations 21, No. 2 (2014): 296-307.

Farris, Sara R. In the Name of Women’s Rights. The Rise of Femonationalism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017.

Foster, John Bellamy and Brett Clark. The Robbery of Nature. Capitalism and the Ecological Rift. New York, NY: Monthly Review Press, 2020.

Fuchs, Christian. Rereading Marx in the Age of Digital Capitalism. London: Pluto Press, 2019.

Harvey, David. ”The Geography of Class Power”. In Spaces of Capital. Towards a Critical Geography, 369-393. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2001.

Harvey, David. ”The Urban Process Under Capitalism: A Framework for Analysis”. In International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 2, No. 1 (marts 1978): 101-131.

Malm, Andreas. Fossil Capital. London: Verso Books, 2015.

Malm, Andreas. Corona, Climate, Chronic Emergency. War Communism in the Twenty-First Century. London: Verso Books, 2020.

Marx, Karl. ”On the Jewish Question”. In Early Writings, translated by Rodney Livingstone and Gregor Benton, 211-242. London: Penguin Books, 1992.

Marx, Karl. ”A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. Introduction”. In Early Writings, translated by Rodney Livingstone and Gregor Benton, 243-258. London: Penguin Books, 1992.

Marx, Karl. ”Excerpts from James Mills’s Elements of Political Economy”. In Early Writings, translated by Rodney Livingstone and Gregor Benton, 259-279. London: Penguin Books, 1992.

Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels. The German Ideology. I Marx-Engels Collected Works 5, 19-539. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1976.

Marx, Karl. The Poverty of Philosophy. I Marx-Engels Collected Works 6, 105-212. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1976.

Marx, Karl. Capital. A Critique of Political Economy. Volume One, translated by Ben Fowkes. London: Penguin Books, 1990.

Marx, Karl. Capital. A Critique of Political Economy. Volume Two, translated by David Fernbach. London: Penguin Books, 1992.

Marx, Karl. Grundrisse. Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy (Rough Draft), translated by Martin Nicolaus. London: Penguin Books, 1993.

Marx, Karl. Marx’s Economic Manuscripts of 1864-1865, translated by Ben Fowkes, edited by Fred Moseley. Leiden: Brill, 2015.

Roberts, William Clare. ”What was Primitive Accumulation?”. European Journal of Political Theory 19, No. 4 (2020): 532-552.

Vogel, Lise. Marxism and the Oppression of Women. Toward a Unitary Theory. Leiden: Brill, 2013.

Experience with reading primary texts are an advantage.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment

Criteria for exam assesment

  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • English
  • 28