PE Seminar Series | Ain’t nothing going on but the rent: Marx’s theory of ground rent beyond criticism in the form of parody
How do we approach the challenge of forging collaborative research-based knowledge within an academy that increasingly recognises, rewards and boosts individual achievement?
Lead by Professor Adam Morton and Dr Joe Collins, this informal seminar seeks to address this question by outlining how the labour process of combined research can proceed in such a way as to deliver the collective advancement of knowledge beyond short-term payoffs.
We aim to do so by realising a joint research programme on the theme of Marx’s theory of ground rent and its centrality to debates on uneven development, capital accumulation, agrarian reform and resource extraction. We make the case for the import of ground-rent as a socially determined category that both conditions and is conditioned by property rights in land.
This unique social relation provides a material foundation for the exploitation of labour through appropriation of “Nature” in the form of land, water, or mines, which then acts as one source of surplus value through monopoly, differential and absolute rents. Bubbling away in current debates within political economy, development and geographical studies is a return to rent theory. The explicit, though often misunderstood, link between ‘rent-seeking’ and inequality is but one concrete example of this resurrection of rent.
Our argument is that the effervescence of this debate has actually never subsided and that its crystallisation as part of a major rejuvenation of understandings of uneven development is now due.
The seminar will outline how we aim to realise our research programme on this theme, how we intend to organise our reading and plan our writing, and thereby deliver on the goal to recover the social significance of a theory of rent from the unfashionable margins of social science. By so doing we hope to enhance the case for risk-taking within the academy and at the same time move beyond criticism in the form of parody, which still so bedevils the reception of historical materialism.