Brock scholar’s public lecture to break down capitalist decay

Brock’s Department of Sociology invites the community to a public lecture by Professor Murray Smith later this week.

Smith, who retired from the department in December, will present “Valorization, Financialization and Crisis: A Marxist Analysis of 21st Century Capitalist Decay” on Friday, Feb. 3 from 2 to 4 p.m. in PL 600F.

The event occurs in conjunction with a class session of SOCI 4P37, “Exploring alternatives to capitalism,” taught by Associate Professor Jonah Butovsky.

“The talk will reflect Murray’s contribution to understanding the crisis tendencies of the capitalist economy,” says Butovsky. “This research shows that apart from the tragic impact of capitalist exploitation, the capitalist system itself is unsustainable and in its ‘twilight’ phase.”

Smith spent three decades researching Marxist political economy and has written several books on the subject. His most recent book, Twilight Capitalism: Karl Marx and the Decay of the Profit System, was co-authored with Butovsky and Critical Sociology Master of Arts (MA) alumnus Josh Watterton (MA ’19) and is being read by SOCI 4P37 students this term.

A portrait of Murray Smith with a bookshelf in the background.

Murray Smith joined Brock’s Department of Sociology in 1993 and retired at the end of 2022.

But current students aren’t the only ones looking forward to Friday’s lecture, as alumni are also planning to return to campus for the occasion.

Tim Hayslip (MA ’21) says that Smith’s teaching and mentorship has had a lasting impact on his own journey as a scholar.

“I’m excited to attend Murray’s lecture because his teaching profoundly impacted how I see the world — before I met Murray, I had always seen the left as pollyannaish, but Murray helped me understand why the left’s attempts to make a better world haven’t been more successful,” says Hayslip. “On a more personal level, I doubt I would have finished my MA without his supervision, and I’m proud to call him my friend.”

Among many other campus and department activities, Smith founded the Brock Socialist Club (BSC) in the late 1990s to help students understand what Butovsky describes as “pressing social, political and economic problems” through socialist analysis.

“Murray brought a number of prominent socialist scholars, providing a great opportunity for the Brock community to learn from people like Bryan Palmer, John Clarke, Robert Brenner and Vivek Chibber,” says Butovsky. “He also brought in representatives from a range of socialist organizations to provide discussion and debate. There were a number of long-standing members of the BSC, but Murray provided intellectual and organizational continuity for about 25 years.”

He adds that Friday’s lecture is the latest reflection of Smith’s commitment to using “the power of ideas to generate action to change the world.”

“Murray wasn’t content to have his work sit on library shelves; he wanted to encourage connections between his ideas and the broader world through public talks, educational events and the mentorship of the next generations of critical scholars,” says Butovsky. “He has always placed the project of the critique and ultimately the transformation away from capitalism above the traditional markers of scholarly achievement.”

Chair and Associate Professor Mary-Beth Raddon agrees that Smith’s impact on his students has been far-reaching.

“Murray Smith has introduced a generation of students to socialist ideas,” she says. “The department wishes to bring him back to speak to students in SOCI 4P37 to recognize how influential and student-focused his scholarship has been and extend his efforts to make his scholarship accessible to Brock students once more.”

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