The Marxist theory of economic crises in capitalism – part two
December 29, 2015
In the first part of this double post, I dealt with whether Marx had a coherent theory of crises or not. I reckoned that Marx’s theory was based on his law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall and that this law was realistic and coherent. I also argued that Marx did not dispense with this law in his later works that some have claimed and it remains the best and most compelling theory of regular and recurrent economic crises in capitalism. In this second part, I shall provide some empirical evidence from modern capitalist economies to support this view. This completes what is really just a short essay on Marxist economic crisis theory – as I see it – with much left out.
Does Marx’s law fit the facts?
Some Marxist critics of Marx’s law of profitability reckon that the law cannot be empirically proven or refuted because official statistics cannot be used to show Marx’s law in operation. But there are plenty of studies by Marxist economists that show otherwise. The key tests of the validity of the law in modern capitalist economies would be to show whether 1) the rate of profit falls over time as the organic composition of capital rises; 2) the rate of profit rises when the organic composition falls or when the rate of surplus value rises faster than the organic composition of capital; 3) the rate of profit rises, if there is sharp fall in the organic composition of capital as in a slump. These would be the empirical tests and there is plenty of empirical evidence for the US and world economy to show that the answer is yes to all these questions. (más…)
The Marxist theory of economic crises in capitalism – part one
December 27, 2015
Last May, at the Marx ist Muss conference in Berlin, I debated with Professor Michael Heinrich on whether Marx had a coherent theory of crises under capitalism that could be tested empirically. Heinrich’s view, best expressed in an article he had written for Monthly Review Press in 2014, was that Marx did not have a coherent theory of crisis and, anyway, it cannot be tested as we only have official capitalist statistics. For something to read during this ‘Xmas week’, here is a revised version of my speech in that debate. The first part deals with the question of whether Marx had a coherent theory of crises or not.
Why do we care about the theory of crises?
Those active in the struggles of labour against capital internationally may wonder why some like me spend so much time turning over the ideas of Marx and others on why capitalism has regular and recurrent slumps and financial crashes. We know they do, so let’s just get on with ending capitalism through struggle and put aside the minutae of theory.
Well, there is good reason to understand the theory, because good theory leads to better practice. Yes, we know that capitalism has regular and often deep economic crises. These cause huge damage to people’s livelihoods and stop human social organisation moving towards a world of abundance and out of scarcity and toil. And crises are indications of the contradictory and wasteful nature of the capitalist mode of production.
Before capitalism, crises were products of scarcity, famine and natural disasters. Now they are products of a profit-making money economy; they are man-made and yet appear to be out of the control of man; a fetishism. Above all, crises show that capitalism is a failing system despite the great strides in the productivity of labour that this mode of production has generated in the last 200 years or so. It will have to be replaced if humankind is to progress or even survive as a species. So it matters.
Did Marx have a coherent theory of crisis?
What is it? It is a matter of intense debate among Marxists. There are various interpretations. Crises of capitalist production are due ‘underconsumption’, a lack of spending by workers who do not have enough to spend; or due to ‘disproportion’, the anarchy of capitalist production means that production in various sectors can get out of line with others and production can just outstrip demand; or it’s the lack of profitability in an economic system that depends on profit being made for private owners in order for investment and production to take place. In my view, the latter argument is the one that is both the best interpretation of Marx’s theory and also the one that is logical and fits the facts. (más…)
Ruy Mauro Marini e a dialética da dependência, documentário produzido pela Editora Expressão Popular e pela Escola Nacional Florestan Fernandes. Ruy Mauro Marini (1932-1997), representante da sociologia crítica latino-americana, dedicou sua vida à tarefa de explicar a causa da dependência e da desigualdade social e de propor os meios para sua superação à partir da perspectiva da classe trabalhadora. Seus estudos sobre o capitalismo latino-americano resultaram na reinterpretação de nossa história, profundamente atrelada à integração na dinâmica do capitalismo internacional. Com o golpe civil-militar de 1964, Ruy – então professor da Universidade de Brasília – é preso e torturado pela Marinha e Exército, sendo obrigado a um longo exílio, que teria fim somente com a anistia, em 1979. Num primeiro momento, ele segue para o México, onde inicia seus estudos sobre a realidade latono-americana. Com a repressão aos movimentos do trabalhadores, Ruy é expulso deste país e parte para seu segundo exílio, no Chile. Lá, diante da intensa participação política, com o Governo Popular de Salvador Allende, Ruy torna-se dirigente do MIR (Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria). É no Chile que elabora, junto a intelectuais de esquerda, a teoria marxista da dependência. Clique aqui para assistir ao documentário completo.
Owen Jones*: “Quieren acabar con el sentimiento solidario de clase trabajadora”
Atresmedia. Transcripción de la entrevista de Jordi Évole en Salvados emitida el 22 de noviembre de 2015
Existe una tendencia en contra de la clase obrera y de las clases bajas para demonizar a la gente. Hace tiempo que en Gran Bretaña se nos dice que todos somos clase media, que la antigua clase trabajadora ha dejado de existir y que los que quedan de la clase obrera son todos unos vagos, perezosos, delincuentes, antisociales… La palabra chav resume esa idea: la degeneración de lo que queda de la clase trabajadora. Es una palabra peyorativa usada para demonizar a las personas y, a menudo, para culpar a la gente de sus condiciones sociales.
Te encuentras con mucha gente que siendo clase trabajadora se siente clase media. Empleados de una cadena de comida rápida que probablemente cobraban el salario mínimo decían “El Gobierno no está cuidando a gente de clase media como nosotros” y utilizaban la expresión “clase media” donde yo usaría “clase trabajadora”. O sea, debido a la demonización de la identidad de la clase trabajadora, algunas personas en lugar de decir “Sí, estoy orgulloso de ser clase trabajadora” dicen: “No, yo quiero ser clase media” porque eso parece sofisticado y auténtico y no se ve como algo negativo. Este es el problema.