Re: [OPE-L] Falling Rate of Profit as Science Fiction?

From: Jerry Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Sat Mar 04 2006 - 09:12:32 EST

Hi Mike L and everyone else,

I asked, "Is the concept of a falling rate of profit a subject for
science fiction?  and Mike replied with a question of his own
"Yes, what else?".

To which I will reply (initially) with another question:
_not contemporary capitalism then_?

*Expanded question with commentary*:

Is there an empirical 'test'  with which we can determine
whether narratives concerning a decline in the general
rate of profit are science fiction or not?  I.e. how can
particular narratives concerning a falling rate of profit be
verified or falsified empirically?  (Or can they be? If there
are no criteria be which a theorem can be verified or
falsified, what does that tell us about the theorem?).  Note
here the importance of  making an empirical connection
(or, expressing it differently, a narrative of  contemporary
capitalism which corresponds to its history) since if one
were _only_ (read: merely) able to establish a theorem as a
logically consistent proposition, then the theorem would not
necessarily have any relation whatsoever to the real social
subject -- capitalism.  Instead,  a logically consistent theorem
disconnected from real world capitalism could be said to be
the stuff of science fiction!

To continue:   we all know Marxists who have for many
years (indeed, in some cases, decades) been predicting
another capitalist crisis _and_ asserting that the "underlying
cause" of that crisis will be the law of the tendency for the
general rate of profit to decline.  Indeed, I am on a yahoo
group (whose name and moderator I won't mention) whose
members mostly predict an immanent financial and economic
meltdown.  This group has been in existence for about 5
years and the predicted catastrophe hasn't happened yet.
This raises several additional questions:

o  is there a point in time when if no financial and economic
   collapse happens as predicted that one says that there is
   something wrong with the underlying analysis?  (and, again,
   if one can't develop a test for falsifiability, then how do we
   know that it isn't just a form of science fiction?  ... remembering,
   of course,  that science fiction is generally rooted at least in an
   indirect way to contemporary understandings of science).

o suppose that a crisis happens as predicted and there is a
   decline in profitability.  Can it be established (rather
    than merely asserted) that the crisis is a manifestation of
    the tendency for the general rate of profit to decline?  How
    is it possible to identify this cause as the "underlying cause"
    for an individual (but general) crisis _rather than_ other
    possible causes (e.g. disproportionality,  underconsumption,
    labor power shortage, conjuncturally specific cause, etc.)?

o  can it be established _empirically_ that the law of the tendency
    for the general rate of profit to decline  is the "underlying
    cause" of a crisis rather than a merely formal, abstract possibility
    for the cause of crisis?

o  recalling that there are multiple "counteracting factors" to the
    "law",  doesn't one have to account for these factors in an
    empirical analysis of crisis?  Is this possible econometrically
    without making heroic assumptions about the importance of
    the factors themselves? Are there "too many unknowns"?

Therefore, whether there is or is not a crisis, how can it be determined
that the cause of the crisis or failure to experience a crisis is
related in any verifiable or falsifiable way to the TRPF?  If this
question isn't answered, how do we know whether the Story of
the Falling Rate of Profit isn't a revolutionary  fairy tale, 19th Century
urban legend,  or early work of science fiction?

In solidarity, Jerry

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