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New Left Review 54, November-December 2008


Should the story of contemporary capitalism be told as essentially an American tale? Counterposing a more Braudelian understanding of the global economy to Brenner’s approach, Michel Aglietta sees a new mode of regulation, and distribution of growth, emerging out of the Asian crisis of the nineties.

SYMPOSIUM ON ‘THE ECONOMICS OF GLOBAL TURBULENCE’

Thirty years ago, the field of late medieval and early modern economic history was the scene of a famous discussion in the pages of Past and Present, set off by a path-breaking essay by Robert Brenner, ‘Agrarian Class Structure and Economic Development in Pre-Industrial Europe’. The international controversy aroused by his arguments became a landmark, since referred to simply as ‘The Brenner Debate’, and published under that name. Ten years ago, NLR devoted a special number of the journal to Brenner’s equally remarkable entry into the field of modern economic history, ‘Uneven Development and the Long Downturn: the Advanced Capitalist Economies from Boom to Stagnation, 1950–1998’—no less of a historiographic landmark. In this issue we publish a symposium on the book which emerged out of this essay, The Economics of Global Turbulence (2006). Three distinguished scholars, from the Anglosphere, the Eurozone and the Far East, give their critical assessment of Brenner’s work below. Nicholas Crafts is widely regarded as the leading economic historian in Britain today. Michel Aglietta is the founder of the Regulation School in France, whose intellectual influence has been worldwide. Kozo Yamamura is perhaps the outstanding authority on the post-war economic development of Japan, a historian who has also ranged widely across the comparative institutional landscape of the advanced industrial states. The issues raised by their symposium include the reality or otherwise of a long downturn; the relative productivity records of the major industrial economies; the concrete ways in which rates of profit are formed; the historical impact of technological change; the differences between American, German and Japanese models of capitalism; the implications of China’s dynamism as a manufacturing power; and the prospects for the global economy as a whole, as it confronts its most severe crisis since the 1930s. In a setting where few economists are historically minded and few historians are economically trained, it is rare to find an exchange of this quality. In a subsequent issue Robert Brenner will respond to his critics.

MICHEL AGLIETTA

INTO A NEW GROWTH REGIME

Robert Brenner has produced an in-depth inquiry into the economic history of us capitalism over the last half-century. Yet this is not a history of the world economy. The book is much too focused on America to amount to a global view, though it deals in passing with Germany and Japan. Brenner does not follow Goldman Sachs in highlighting Brazil, Russia, India and China (bric) as the group of new powers that will lead world growth in the first half of this century. He is sure that the us is the hegemon and will remain so. In his view, therefore, the world economy will still depend crucially on future conditions of profitability and investment in the us, as it has done in the past.

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