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 from the history of political thought. In this course, we will look at how we can apply Marx’s analyses and concepts when approaching different problems and topics of the twenty-first 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 details of Marx’s analysis and critique of capitalist commodity production, but we will also see how he more broadly grounds his analysis of capitalism in a materialist conception of history.

In the second part, we will see how concepts and arguments from Marx’s analysis can be relevant for understanding capitalism and society in the twenty-first century. The second part will be divided into several themes that might include, but are not limited to, topics such as:


  • Logistics and global production
  • Social reproduction and migration
  • Climate and ecology
  • The green transition
  • Automation, information technology, and the digital economy


Each week, we will look at contemporary cases and see how modern scholars apply key insights, arguments, and concepts from Marx – specifically from Capital – in their analyses. Through group discussions and the written assignments, we will also work with these problems ourselves


Full-degree students enrolled at the Department of Political Science, UCPH

MSc in Political Science

MSc in Social Science

MSc in Security Risk Management

Bachelor in Political Science


Full-degree students enrolled at the Faculty of Social Science, UCPH 

Master Programme in Social Data Science

Bachelor and Master Programmes in Anthropology

Maste Programme in Psychology

Bachelor and Master Programmes in Economics

Bachelor and Master Programmes in Sociology

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. In the first part of the course, these will mainly take the form of lectures. In the second half, seminars will be conducted almost exclusively as class discussions and mixed activities (discussions, group work, presentations, etc.). Please be aware that students are expected to actively participate in these activities. There will be two written assignments during the term, which are also constitutive parts of the final exam (porteføljeeksamen). Substantial feedback will be provided.

Ashton, Philip and Brett Christophers. “From the Urbanization of Capital to the Capitalization of the Urban”. In Christian Berndt, Jamie Peck and Norma M. Rantzi, eds., Market/Place. Exploring Spaces of Exchange, 193-211. Newcastle upon Tyne: Agenda Publishing, 2020.

Bhattacharya, Tithi. “How Now to Skip Class: Social Reproduction of Labor and the Global Working Class”. In Tithi Bhattacharya, ed. Social Reproduction Theory. Remapping Class, Recentering Oppression, 68-93. London: Pluto Press, 2017.

Benanav, Aaron. Automation and the Future of Work. London: Verso Books, 2020.

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.

Elbe, Ingo. “Between Marx, Marxism and Marxisms. Ways of Reading Marx’s Theory”. In Viewpoint Magazine (online), 21 October 2013.

Farris, Sara R. “Social Reproduction and Racialized Surplus Value”. In Capitalism: Concept, Idea, Image. Aspects of Marx’s Capital Today, ed. Peter Osborne, Éric Alliez, Eric-John Russell, 121-131. London: CRMEP Books, 2019.

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

Farris, Sara R. “Femonationalism and the ‘Regular’ Army of Labor Called Migrant Women”. History of the Present 2, No. 2 (Fall 2012), 184-199.

Ferguson, Susan. Women and Work. Feminism, Labour, and Social Reproduction. London: Pluto Press, 2020.

Foster, John Bellamy. Marx’s Ecology. Materialism and Nature. New York, NY: Monthly Review Press, 2000.

Fraser, Nancy. “Crisis of Care? On the Social-Reproductive Contradictions of Contemporary Capitalism.” In Tithi Bhattacharya, ed. Social Reproduction Theory. Remapping Class, Recentering Oppression, 21-36. London: Pluto Press, 2017. [Link].

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 (March 1978): 101-131.

Heinrich, Michael. “Marx: Biography as Politics”, translated by Simon Hajdini. In Chicago Review 63, Nos. 3-4 (Spring 2020).

Huber, Matthew T. Lifeblood. Oil, Freedom, and the Forces of Capital. Minneapolis, MIN: University of Minnesota Press, 2013.

Levinson, Marc. The Box. How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger. Second edition. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016.

Malm, Andreas. Fossil Capital. The Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming. London: Verso Books, 2015.

Marx, Karl. “On the Jewish Question”. In Early Writings, translated by Rodney Livingstone and Gregor Benton, 211-242. 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. The Poverty of Philosophy. In 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.

Rajaram, Prem Kumar. “Refugees as Surplus Population: Race, Migration and Capitalist Value Regimes”. In New Political Economy 23, No. 5: 627-639.

Saito, Kohei. Marx’s Ecosocialism. Capital, Nature, and the Unfinished Critique of Political Economy. New York, NY: Monthly Review Press, 2017.

Saito, Kohei. Marx in the Anthropocene. Towards the Idea of Degrowth Communism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2023.

Smith, Jason E. Smart Machines and Service Work. London: Reaktion Books, 2020.

Smith, Jason E. “What Do (Digital) Bosses Do?” In Brooklyn Rail (online), July-August 2022.

Simpson, Michael. “The Annihilation of Time by Space: Pluri-temporal Strategies of Capitalist Circulation”. In Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space 2, No. 1 (2019): 110-128.

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

Experience with political theory is an advantage but not a must.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship

- In the semester where the course takes place: Free written assignment

- In subsequent semesters: Free written assignment

Criteria for exam assessment

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
  • Lectures
  • 28
  • English
  • 28


Course number
7,5 ECTS
Programme level
Full Degree Master

1 semester


Department of Political Science, Study Council
Contracting department
  • Department of Political Science
  • Department of Anthropology
  • Department of Psychology
  • Social Data Science
  • Department of Sociology
  • Department of Economics
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Social Sciences
Course Coordinator
  • Magnus Møller Ziegler   (8-74686e757c7a8170477a68746d35727c356b72)
Saved on the 16-11-2023

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