Some Questions about Political Capitalism
Responding to Riley and Brenner’s ‘Seven Theses on American Politics’ in NLR 138, Tim Barker probes the analysis of global manufacturing overcapacity and declining profit rates on which their diagnosis of a new regime of ‘political capitalism’ is based. Does Bidenomics entail just another round of politically engineered upwards redistribution?
A Dissipating Glut?
Can Biden’s green fiscal stimulus kickstart a sustained dynamic of capital accumulation? Replying to critics of Riley and Brenner’s ‘Seven Theses’, Aaron Benanav defends and extends Brenner’s account of the long downturn, charting the epochal implications of shifts in demand, from agriculture to industry to services.
Capitalism As Usual?
Responding to Evgeny Morozov’s robust ‘Critique of Techno-Feudal Reason’, Cecilia Rikap outlines the novel forms of intellectual monopoly exercised by tech giants like Microsoft, Google, Amazon, reshaping the international capitalist landscape as they subordinate innovation and knowledge production to their sway.
The End of Financial Hegemony?
The 2022 upsurge in inflation read as the birth pangs of a new macroeconomic regime, involving the relative demotion of finance and unravelling of over-accumulated fictitious capital. But finance is a master blackmailer, Durand warns, and may slow the devaluation of financial assets to a crawl.
Reply to Riley
Responding to Dylan Riley’s critique, Harvey extricates Marx’s double-edged law of profit—a falling rate and rising mass—from discussion of capitalist counter-measures. Competitive innovation, Eastern massification and the pay-offs for capital of speculative infrastructure spending.
Rate and Mass
If capital is value in motion, what is the fundamental contradiction that propels it? A reading of the Grundrisse as Marx’s break with Hegel and Ricardo, pitting the falling rate of profit against the growing mass of capital and its global upshots—from surplus sinks to credit cycles.
Theory of Needs
Marxism is premised on the possibility of a political economy structured to meet human needs, rather than generate private profit. Could a New Deal capitalism in principle be capable of satisfying them? Is it even possible to disentangle ‘real’ needs from socially constructed ones? Translation of two texts from a 1942 seminar on the question of need.
A Proudhon For Postmoderns?
The politics of inequality in Thomas Piketty’s monumental Capital and Ideology. Enthusiasms and blind spots of ‘participatory socialism’, consensus and counter-movement, read as a 21st-century iteration of the tradition that descends from Proudhon and Polanyi, against the background hum of r > g.
Value in Motion
How to re-engineer the compound-growth spiral of the capital- accumulation process? A global blueprint for challenging the profit motive, pitting process against the atomism of the neoclassical tradition, in the search for a workable use-value alternative.
Automation and the Future of Work—1
First in a two-part global reappraisal of the linkages between technological advance and capitalist labour-market dysfunction. What light does automation discourse shed on dynamics within the productive economy? Rise of the robots versus industrial overcapacity to explain the worsening crisis of under-employment.
The CPC and the Ancien Régime
Roots of the PRC’s legitimating ideology in the longue durée of Chinese history, as source of the Party’s confidence that it need not imitate Western models in the coming century. Peter Nolan sets out the view from Zhongnanhai on the desirable relation between market and state—a potential alternative to the current world order?
Ronald Coase in Beijing
On the eve of the financial crisis, Giovanni Arrighi’s Adam Smith in Beijing posited the advent of a world-equalizing market state in China. Christopher Connery now takes a sardonic look at the country’s ‘institutional economics’ through the eyes of an idiosyncratic English Hayekian.
If speech can—in the famous argument of J. L. Austin—not only be true or false, but also do things, what about economic models? And what about when models go wrong, or actually undermine their own assumptions? Black–Scholes, gamma traps and gaming—a typology of the perverse effects of some key financial tools.
Ecologies of Scale
Eco-economist Herman Daly presents a practical programme for an egalitarian, steady-state economy. From Smith and Mill to Georgescu and Schumacher, Daly and Benjamin Kunkel debate problems of development, quantitative and qualitative, and biophysical equilibrium. If the world economy is conceived as a sub-system of a larger eco-system, what are the limits to growth?
A New Economics
John Grahl on Anwar Shaikh, Capitalism: Competition, Conflict, Crises. An ambitious recasting of economic thought, from classical political economy to the mathematized present, in a synthesis aiming at realistic capture of the vicissitudes of contemporary capitalism.
The Coming Exception
The artwork has long been understood as a political-economic anomaly, while art practice is sometimes seen as a stand-in for liberated human activity. With value itself seemingly in a state of crisis, might the artwork prefigure a world beyond it? From Ruskin and Whistler to Harun Farocki, Sven Lütticken charts the trajectory of an exception.
The Economic Life of Things
Collection and asset—two ideal-typical logics through which value and price are established and objects ‘enriched’. From luxury goods to heritage villages and the mimetic effects of speculation; as industrial production is transferred to East Asia, the emergence of a new kind of capitalist economy.
A Structuralism of Feeling?
Frédéric Lordon’s work combines an elite business-school training with a radical Regulation Theory background, highly effective polemics against the hardening economic and neo-imperial orders in France and the Eurozone with an ambitious social-philosophical agenda. Alberto Toscano investigates.
Why the Euro Divides Europe
A landmark critique of Smithian notions of money as neutral medium of exchange, naturalized in social theory from Parsons to Habermas. Arguing instead for Weber’s concept of money as weapon in the market struggle, Wolfgang Streeck reveals how the single currency has transformed Europe’s qualitative horizontal diversity into quantitative vertical inequality.
The Openness Paradigm
Hailed by management gurus as a new strategy for hard-pressed companies in the advanced economies, the ‘open business model’ aims to transform post-Fordism’s flexibilized forms of production—with, Nancy Ettlinger argues, bleak prospects for global labour.
How Will Capitalism End?
Its challengers apparently vanquished, the main threat to capitalism may now come from disorders that lurk within the system itself. Wolfgang Streeck diagnoses its crisis symptoms, from persistent stagnation to global anarchy, and asks what lies in store as they multiply.
The Crises of Democratic Capitalism
The roots of today’s Great Recession are usually located in the financial excesses of the 1990s. Wolfgang Streeck traces a much longer arc, from 1945 onwards, of tensions between the logic of markets and the wishes of voters—culminating, he argues, in the international tempest of debt that now threatens to submerge democratic accountability altogether beneath the storm-waves of capital.
Value Theory and the Chinese Worker
In answer, Blackburn explores the paradoxes of fictitious capital, underwritten by super-exploitation of China’s producers. A public-utility credit system, democratic forms of nationalization and mechanisms to socialize investment as steps towards financial dual power.
Colletti on the Credit Crunch
What political opportunities arise from the current financial crisis? In a critical response to Robin Blackburn’s essay in NLR 50, Geoff Mann proposes the insights of Marx’s theory of value as a starting point for thinking beyond capitalist social relations—as Blackburn’s measures, he argues, do not.
Profits of Doom?
Can the economic history of the past three to four decades be accurately depicted as a long downturn? Contesting Robert Brenner’s account of them in his Economics of Global Turbulence, Nicholas Crafts argues that the ‘Great Moderation’ is a better description of a period in which the United States came to enjoy a strong lead in productivity growth.
Into a New Growth Regime
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.
More System, Please!
Commending Brenner’s overall narrative of post-war economic development, Kozo Yamamura holds it to be nevertheless too narrow—needing more attention to modern capital markets, to historical cycles of technological change, and to institutional differences between the leading industrial states.
The Historian as Haruspex
Giovanni Arrighi’s Adam Smith in Beijing proposes a bold new political-economic patterning of China’s rise, America’s decline. Mark Elvin examines the assumptions behind narratives of divergent West and East, and the parameters that will define a reconfigured world order.
The Chinese Road
The PRC’s breakneck transition to capitalism seen through the prism of 19th-century Europe and America, as its cities rehearse the processes analysed by Marx: commodification of land and labour, formation of markets and capitalist elites. What lessons might the West’s past hold for China’s future?
A New Global Financial Architecture?
As the world economy shows growing signs of vulnerability, what mechanisms exist for averting repeats of the Asian or Mexican crises? Banking and regulatory regimes as instruments of standardization, pulling national economies into Anglo-American orbits.
A balance-sheet of Russia’s post-Soviet fortunes, placing the devastating collapse of the 1990s and recent revival under Putin in comparative context. Vladimir Popov warns of the dangers—overvalued currency, oil dependence, crumbling infrastructure—on the road ahead.