Re: [OPE-L] Mavroundeas, Ioannides, Trigg and me

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Sun Aug 27 2006 - 14:58:05 EDT

>As regards the substantive issue, I think E. Mandel made a useful point:
>"The question of determining whether according to Marx, a crisis of
>overproduction is first of all a crisis of overproduction of commodities or
>a crisis of overproduction of capital is really meaningless in the framework
>of Marx's economic analysis. The mass of commodities is but one specific
>form of capital, commodity capital. Under capitalism, which is generalised
>commodity production, no overproduction is possible which is not
>simultaneously overproduction of commodities and overproduction of capital
>(overaccumulation). Likewise, the question to know whether the crisis
>'centres' on the sphere of production or the sphere of circulation is
>largely meaningless.

why meaningless? some crises could result from weak effective demand
for reasons Andrew T emphasizes, and getting the banks in order may
suffice. Perhaps even a redistribution of income if luxury spending
can't continue apace. Some crises could result from disproportionality,
and a redistribution of capital would do the trick. Other crises may result
from a shortage of produced surplus value, and then a devaluation/depreciation
of constant capital, coupled with a rise in the annual rate of
surplus value, would
point the way out of crisis.

>The crisis is a disturbance (interruption) of the
>process of enlarged reproduction; and according to Marx, the process of
>reproduction is precisely a (contradictory) unity of production and
>circulation. For capitalists, both individually (as separate firms) and as
>the sum total of firms it is irrelevant whether more surplus-value has
>actually been produced in the process of production, if that surplus-value
>cannot be totally realised in the process of circulation.

Why irrelevant? Please explain.

>  Contrary to many
>economists, academic and marxist alike, Marx explicitly rejected any
>Say-like illusion that production more or less automatically finds is own
>market. It is correct that in the last analysis, capitalist crises of
>overproduction result from a downslide of the average rate of profit. But
>this does not represent a variant of the 'monocausal' explanation of crises.

I don't understand why Grossman and Mattick are called monocausal when
all they did was not rule out the possibility of a general crisis due
to a shortage
of surplus value. They certainly did not say that crises of underconsumption
or disproportionality were impossible.

>It means that, under capitalism, the fluctuations of the average rate of
>profit are in a sense the seismograph of what happens in the system as a
>whole. So that formula just refers back to the sum-total of partially
>independent variables, whose interplay causes the fluctuations of the
>average rate of profit."

Yes the accumulation process is shot through with all kinds of disturbances.

>That is, no specific, necessary crisis sequence that must inevitably recur
>in reality can be inferred from the reproduction schemes themselves - at
>most these schemes can identify some preconditions for balanced growth, and
>various possibilities of critical disproportions emerging in an economic
>system lacking the means for a completely smooth or perfect mutual
>adjustment of production, circulation and consumption. Equilibrium between
>them exists only in theory, in reality there is only a calibration process
>through various system shocks, ex post adjustments and market fluctuations.
>In fact, H. Grossmann gets close to saying so himself:
>"Marx's reproduction scheme represents the average line of accumulation,
>that is the ideal normal trajectory in which accumulation occurs
>proportionally in both departments. In reality there are deviations from
>this average line -Marx himself repeatedly draws attention to the elastic
>power of capital -but these deviations are only explicable in terms of the
>average line. Luxemburg's mistake is that a model that represents only the
>ideal trajectory in a range of possibilities is taken for an exact
>description of the actual trajectory of capital. The same is true of Bauer.
>He imagines that the magnitudes of his production scheme are the only
>possible form in which the process of production can advance without
>breaks... proportional accumulation is a purely ideal case; a fiction that
>could actually prevail only accidentally. As a rule the actual process of
>accumulation is quite unequal in the various branches"
>"The circumstances through which the crises can be overcome vary enormously.
>Ultimately however, they are all reducible to the fact that they either
>reduce the value of the constant capital or increase the rate of surplus
>value. In both cases the valorisation of capital is enhanced - the rate of
>profit rises. Such circumstances lie both within production and in the
>sphere of circulation, and pertain both to the inner mechanism of capital as
>well as to its external relations to the world market."

Yes the kind of disturbance Grossman analyzes in this book is so overcome, but
HG was aware of other kinds of disturbances.

>Grossman's own main thesis is that "If the capitalist system inevitably
>breaks down due to the relative decline in the mass of profit we can
>understand why Marx ascribed such enormous importance to the tendential fall
>in the rate of profit, which is simply the expression of this breakdown. It
>is also clear what it means to say: 'The real barrier of capitalist
>production is capital itself. It is that capital and its self expansion
>appear as the starting and closing point, the motive and purpose of
>production' (Marx, 1959, p. 250)." (ibid.)
>However as soon as we inquire into why there is a "relative decline in the
>mass of profit" it is clear that there could logically and in reality be a
>number of different causes for this, the nature of which have to be verified
>empirically. It is logically possible e.g. for a "profit-squeeze" situation
>of the Crotty/Sutcliff/Glyn/Itoh type to occur, and this cannot be
>theoretically ruled out.

Yes it cannot be ruled out. But what also cannot be ruled out is the
kind of crisis
HG theorized. This is what Glyn wants to remove even the possibility
of. So doing
opens the door to revisionist practice, but that's another question.


>Whether in fact it does occur (e.g. in a situation
>of near-zero unemployment) is of course difficult to prove conclusively, at
>best we can empirically corroborate that.

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