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Marx’s fictitious capital: a misrepresented category revisited

Cambridge Journal of Economics, Volume 46, Issue 3, May 2022, Pages 545–560

Alex Wilhans Antonio Palludeto, Pedro Rossi


In this paper, we provide an interpretation of Marx’s category of fictitious capital by analysing its main attributes and pointing out its role in understanding the capitalist dynamics from a value-form approach. We criticise the widespread notion that fictitious capital is a category related to the degree of detachment between its capital value and the value of the real capital that it might eventually represent. We argue that fictitious capital should be defined by three key attributes: the future flow of income, the secondary market and its ‘real nonexistence’. Fictitious capital is therefore presented as the genetic development of interest-bearing capital, a process in which any expected money income is converted into a capital value in the present and transformed into a commodity. In this perspective, the importance of fictitious capital for the understanding of contemporary capitalism is analysed, particularly with respect to the process of the distribution of social labour.


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