||The process by which capital is reproduced at an ever-increasing scale through continued reinvestment of surplus value. In Marx\'s words: \'Employing surplus value as capital, reconverting it into capital, is called the accumulation of capital\' (1987, p. 543).
Accumulation is a definitive condition of capitalism. To remain in business, the ordinary capitalist must at least preserve the value of capital advanced (\'simple reproduction\'), but to continue as a capitalist he or she must continually augment the value of invested capital (\'expanded reproduction\', or accumulation). Capital accumulation becomes a central driving force in capitalist society, influencing broader political, social, demographic and cultural change. More than anything else, Marx attributed the dynamism of capitalist society to the imperative of accumulation (see also Marxian economics).
The imperative of accumulation presupposes capitalist relations of production; on the one side, a class of capitalists who own the means of production, and on the other side, a class of workers who are \'freed\' from ownership of the means of production and who are also free to perform labour for the capitalist. The survival of the individual capitalist is dependent on the ability to sell commodities profitably in the market, and this has the effect of institutionalizing technological change as a means of competition between individual capitals. The imperative for accumulation at the individual level thereby translates into the social imperative for economic growth and technological change. In his \'general law of capitalist accumulation\', Marx argued that the imperative of accumulation
implied a second imperative, the relative immiseration of the working class that produces the expanding wealth â€” a fundamental social relation of capitalism. (Marx, 1987, ch. 25)The social relations of capitalism are themselves the result of an historical process whereby workers are separated from the land and from the means of production, largely agricultural. This process, known as primitive accumulation, forces workers to sell their labour power for a monetary wage, and is best exemplified by the history of the enclosures in England and the subsequent privatization of land ownership.
The geography of capitalist accumulation (Harvey, 1977) is central to the fortunes of the capitalist mode of production (Harvey, 1982) and results in specific patterns of uneven development at different spatial scales (Smith, 1990). Equally, accumulation is uneven according to time. The process of accumulation is punctuated by recessions and crises of differing intensities, and these in turn become moments in which the established patterns of economic expansion and the whole social organization of the economy are put in question (Arrighi, 1994).Â (NS)
References Arrighi, G. 1994: The long twentieth century: money, power, and the origins of our times. London: Verso.Â Gramsci, A. 1971: Selections from the prison notebooks, ed. and trans. by Q. Hoare and G. Nowell Smith. London: Lawrence and Wishart; New York: International Publishers, 277-316.Â Harvey, D. 1977: The geography of capitalist accumulation: a reconstruction of the Marxian theory. In R. Peet, ed., Radical geography. Chicago: Maaroufa, 263-92.Â Harvey, D. 1982: The limits to capital. Oxford: Blackwell.Â Marx, K. 1987: Capital, volume I. New York: International Publishers.Â Smith, N. 1990: Uneven Development: nature, capital and the production of space, 2nd edn. Oxford: Blackwell.
Suggested Reading Marx (1987), esp. Part VII, \'The accumulation of capital\' and Part VIII, \'The so-called primitive accumulation\'.