Towards a Theory of Capitalist Crisis
The history of capitalism shows us that the periodic recurrence of crises is not a function of the working class’s strength or combativity, of ‘mistakes’ in economic management, or even of ‘parasitism’ in society. The tendency towards crisis is indissolubly linked to the existence of capitalism itself. It is a result of the contradiction between the goal of capitalist accumulation (the valorization of capital and the appropriation of surplus-value by capital) and the means by which this goal is pursued (growth in social productivity and the development of the social character of production). Social productivity is increased continuously by mechanization and the division and reorganization of labour, not in order to satisfy the needs of the producers, but in order to increase the proportion of the social product which accrues to capital instead of being passed on to the producers. This process has a contradictory effect on society’s ability to consume and produce. Whilst production (whose growth depends principally on the proportion of the social product which goes to the capitalists and is transformed into means of production) tends to increase, consumption (whose growth depends principally on the proportion of the social product which goes to the workers and which is transformed into means of consumption) tends to contract.
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By the same author:
The Winding Paths of Capital
The author of Long Twentieth Century and Adam Smith in Beijing, interviewed by David Harvey, on dispossession and development, capitalist crises, China’s future. The political education of a teenage factory-manager, via African liberation struggles and autonomia operaia; and influences—Braudel, Gramsci, Smith, Marx—in Arrighi’s work.
In the conclusion to his major two-part essay on the new US imperialism, Giovanni Arrighi situates the contradictions of the current American ‘spatial fix’ for the problems of overaccumulation in the context of a longue durée of systemic cycles. Have Washington’s attempts to secure its world role through the invasion of Iraq instead hastened the rise of China?
In the first part of a major engagement with David Harvey’s New Imperialism, Giovanni Arrighi sets out the interlocking dynamics, spatial and temporal, of capitalist development and imperialism. Should US difficulties in Iraq and the ballooning current-account deficit be read as symptoms of a deeper-lying crisis, a shift from hegemony to dominance presaging the rise of a new East Asian challenger?
The Social and Political Economy of Global Turbulence
In a landmark engagement with Robert Brenner’s account of the long downturn of the world economy since the 70s, Giovanni Arrighi lays out a social and political economy of the roles of labour unrest, national liberation and corporate financialization in the crisis of the post-war order, and the prospects for a militarized US hegemony today.
The African Crisis
What triggered the descent into misery of so many Sub-Saharan societies in the past twenty years? The regional roots of Africa’s disorders, and the structural transformations in the world system led by the USA that have overshadowed them.
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