Prof Nancy Fraser gave the annual Frisby Lecture on 12 February 2014. Prof Fraser’s talk entitled “Behind Marx’s ‘Hidden Abode’: Toward an Expanded Conception of Capitalism” argued for the re-conceptualisation of capitalism. Please find the abstract and a video recording of the talk below.
The current sense of crisis–in economy, ecology, politics, and society–is prompting many critical theorists to revisit the problem of capitalism. I salute this return to core issues of social theory after a period of neglect. But received understandings of capitalism are not adequate to 21st century conditions. I propose, accordingly, to re-examine a basic theoretical question: How is capitalism best conceptualized–as an economic system, a form of ethical life, or an institutionalized social order? To answer this question, I will integrate some relatively familiar concepts from Marx with newer insights from feminist, ecological, and political theorizing. Whereas Marx sought the essence of capitalism by looking beneath the sphere of exchange to the “hidden abode” of production, I shall look behind production to abodes that are more hidden still. The result will be an expanded conception of capitalism able better to accommodate the multiplicity of crisis tendencies and social struggles that characterize the 21st century.