Marx in the Field

Marx in the Field

Edited by Alessandra Mezzadri

Anthem Frontiers of Global Political Economy and Development

Marx in the Field is a unique edited collection illustrating the relevance of Marxian methods to study contemporary capitalism and the global development process. Essays in the collection bring Marx ‘to the field’ in three ways. They illustrate how Marxian categories can be concretely deployed for field research in the global economy, they analyse how these categories may be adapted during fieldwork and they discuss data collection methods supporting Marxian analysis, including during COVID-19 times.

Paperback, 256 Pages


May 2023

£25.00, $35.00

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About This Book

Marx in the Field is a unique edited collection illustrating the relevance of the Marxian method to study contemporary capitalism and the global development process. Essays in the collection bring Marx ‘to the field’ in three ways. They illustrate how Marxian categories can be concretely deployed for field research in the global economy, they analyse how these categories may be adapted during fieldwork and they discuss data collection methods supporting Marxian analysis. Crucially, many of the contributions expand the scope of Marxian analysis by combining its insights with those of other intellectual traditions, including radical feminisms, critical realism and postcolonial studies. The book defines the possibilities and challenges of fieldwork guided by Marxian analysis, including those emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The collection takes a global approach to the study of development and of contemporary capitalism. While some essays focus on themes and geographical areas of long-term concern for international development – like informal or rural poverty and work across South Asia, Southern and West Africa, or South America – others focus instead on actors benefitting from the development process - like regional exporters, larger farmers, and traders – or on unequal socio-economic outcomes across richer and emerging economies and regions – including Gulf countries, North America, Southern Europe, or Post-Soviet Central and Eastern Europe. Some essays explore global processes cutting across the world economy, connecting multiple regions, actors and inequalities.

While some of the contributions focus on classic Marxian tropes in the study of contemporary capitalism – like class, labour and working conditions, agrarian change, or global commodity chains and prices – others aim at demonstrating the relevance of the Marxian method beyond its traditional boundaries – for instance, for exploring the interplays between food, nutrition and poverty; the links between social reproduction, gender and homework; the features of migration and refugees regimes, tribal chieftaincy structures or prison labour; or the dynamics structuring global surrogacy. Overall, through the analysis of an extremely varied set of concrete settings and cases, this book illustrates the extraordinary insights we can gain by bringing Marx in the field.


“Application of Marxian methods to analyse concrete realities has a long and illustrious history. In this thought provoking collection of essays, edited by Alessandra Mezzadri, the subject is revisited, exploring the richness of approaches, tools, concepts, categories and the like, in their ‘field’ contexts. It is essential reading in grounded political economy, cutting across disciplinary boundaries, to celebrate the richness and complexity of Marxian methods, and thus a remarkable tribute to the genius of Marx as well.” —Praveen Jha, Professor of Economics, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India

“If any proof were needed that Marx’s concepts and methods can push the limits of political-economy inspired fieldwork, the robust and critical engagement the reader finds in the pages of this unique compendium provides it masterfully. The relations between theory and practice are picked apart in a series of geographically and thematically diverse case studies which represent a spirited challenge to mainstream development studies.” —Deniz Kandiyoti, Emeritus Professor of Development Studies, SOAS, London, UK

“A common question that many students and scholars who encounter Marx for the first time have is whether and how his methods and concepts can be ‘used’ in contemporary research. Marx in the Field directly addresses this challenge, illuminating the ways that a range of scholars have put Marx’s methods and concepts to use in their own research.” —Ben Scully, Senior Lecturer, Department of Sociology, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

“The contributions to Marx in the Field help us understand how the methods and categories of Marx can be practically used in a diversity of contexts in ways that let us much better reveal the underlying social processes that are at work. In light of the changes wrought to the contemporary capitalist world system by the COVID-19 pandemic, this is an especially timely and important book.” —Haroon Akram-Lodhi, Professor of Economics and International Development Studies, Trent University, Peterborough Ontario, Canada 

“At a time when we need to both rejuvenate Marxist analyses through the unexpectedly transforming realities of the field, and revive a Marxist approach to field-based empirical studies, this edited book - the first of its kind - opens a crucial path.” —Dr Alpa Shah, Associate Professor, Reader in Anthropology at LSE

“Covering an exhilarating range of approaches and themes, the volume provides an essential and eminently practical contribution to rethinking the future of political economy as a dynamic field.” —Marcus Taylor, Associate Professor, Department of Global Development Studies, Queen’s University, Kingston Ontario, Canada

Author Information

Alessandra Mezzadri is Senior Lecturer in Development Studies at SOAS. She is the author of The Sweatshop Regime: Labouring Bodies, Exploitation and Garments 'Made in India'.


Anthem Frontiers of Global Political Economy and Development

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations; Acknowledgements; Chapter One Introduction: Marx’s Field as Our Global Present, Alessandra Mezzadri; Chapter Two Into the Field with Marx: Some Observations on Researching Class, Henry Bernstein; Chapter Three Marx’s Merchants’ Capital: Researching Agrarian Markets in Contemporary India, Barbara Harriss-White; Chapter Four The Ties That Divide: Marx’s Fractions of Capital and Class Analysis in/ for the Global South, Muhammad Ali Jan; Chapter Five Marx in the Sweatshop: Exploitation and Social Reproduction in a Garment Factory Called India, Alessandra Mezzadri; Chapter Six Thinking about Capital and Class in the Gulf Arab States, Adam Hanieh; Chapter Seven Marx on the Bourse: Coffee and the Intersecting/Integrated Circuits of Capital, Susan Newman; Chapter Eight Learning Marx by Doing: Class Analysis in an Emerging Zone of Global Horticulture, Benjamin Selwyn; Chapter Nine Understanding Labour Relations and Struggles in India through Marx’s Method, Satoshi Miyamura; Chapter Ten Investigating Class Relations in Rural South Africa: Marx’s ‘Rich Totality of Many Determinations’, Farai Mtero, Brittany Bunce, Ben Cousins, Alex Dubb and Donna Hornby; Chapter Eleven From Marx’s ‘Double Freedom’ to ‘Degrees of Unfreedom’: Methodological Insights from the Study of Uzbekistan’s Agrarian Labour, Lorena Lombardozzi; Chapter Twelve The Labour Process and Health through the Lens of Marx’s Historical Materialism, Tania Toffanin; Chapter Thirteen Marx and the Poor’s Nourishment: Diets in Contemporary Sub-Saharan Africa, Sara Stevano; Chapter Fourteen Marx In Utero: A Workers’ Inquiry of the In/Visible Labours of Reproduction in the Surrogacy Industry, Sigrid Vertommen; Chapter Fifteen Marx, the Chief, the Prisoner and the Refugee, Gavin Capps, Genevieve LeBaron and Paolo Novak in Conversation with Alessandra Mezzadri; Chapter Sixteen Postcolonial Marxism and the ‘Cyber-Field’ in COVID Times: On Labour Becoming ‘Working Class’, Subir Sinha; Notes on Contributors; Index.


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