Marx and Whitehead: A process reading of capitalism

Anne Fairchild Pomeroy, Fordham University


Bertell Ollman has argued that Marx's theory of alienation and his use of the dialectical method reveal the deep dependence of Marx's project upon a philosophy of internal relations. Marx and Whitehead: A Process Reading of Capitalism, is the extension and development of this claim. The philosophy of internal relations which implicitly underlies and provides the foundations for Marx's analysis and critique of capitalism is, I claim, a process philosophy, whose most complete and nuanced articulation is to be found in the work of Alfred North Whitehead. By explicitly recognizing such a foundation, we are able establish an absolute continuity between Marx's early and later writings; the early, “humanistic” writings present the philosophical foundations for the later political-economic critique. By identifying this coherence and by exploring its processive underpinnings, the critique of capitalism, as it is expressed by the labor theory of value and the critique of wage labor, is enhanced and intensified. By recognizing the processive claims underlying Marx's notion of production, we ultimately see that the critique of capitalism is a critique of the form of social relations in which the wage representative of necessary labor time merely reproduces human life in an ontological fashion reminiscent of inorganic forms of process which primarily reiterate their valuative patterns, and in which the creative novelty of surplus labor time is also objectified in inorganic commodity form. Therefore, wage labor is real alienation from our ontological essence—our creative-productive activity, and so it is also alienation from the natural world, our products, and one another. Within the practice of capitalism, the processive universe is genuinely commodified. Novel creative and valuative activity is transformed into commodity or money value. Since creativity is the very engine of process, capitalism is, quite literally, anti-processive, quite literally anti-humanistic, quite literally an economy of death. It is a lived form of misplaced concreteness. The most basic contradiction in capitalism is self-contradiction. Finally, a processive theory of human consciousness is examined in order to articulate the emergence of dialectical consciousness as radical and transformative consciousness from within the structure of capitalism itself.

Subject Area

Philosophy|Economic theory

Recommended Citation

Pomeroy, Anne Fairchild, "Marx and Whitehead: A process reading of capitalism" (1999). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9926888.