Kapitalist (ir)rationality?

Paul W. Cockshott cockshpw at wfu.edu
Mon Sep 26 06:23:06 MDT 1994

On Fri, 23 Sep 1994, Doug Henwood wrote:

> Does this mean that 1) the capitalist class has entirely lost the social
> justification (apologetic variety, of course) for its existence; and/or
> 2) Britain is a special case?
> > British figures going back to the last half of the 19th
> > century seem to indicate that the capitalists would prefer
> > to consume their profits rather than invest it in means of
> > production. Perhaps as the bourgois class becomes more and
> > more rentier in character it is just unashamedly parasitic.
> >
> >
I would say that it is pretty clear that they have no further
appologetic justification for their existence.
It should be born in mind that the only period of rapid capital
accumulation during the 140 years for which scholars have
constructed national income tables for the UK was in the 30 years
following world war II, during much of which, capital accumulation
was heavily state directed. It was often carried out directly
by the state, or else by firms in reciept of investment grants
etc from the state.
The effect of this was to counteract the recessionary effects
of a declining rate of profit for a considerable period.
By the early 70's capital accumulation amounted to more than
100% of profits in some years after allowing for the overstating
of profits due to inflation.
The contradiction could only have been resolved by moving to the
next stage of development - state capitalism - and following Keynes
advice that investment had to be socialised.

The Labour movement, which had the power to attempt this, not being
guided by any marxian economic theory, failed to understand what
the system of contradictions was and thus did not grasp the nettle.
This left the way open for Thatcher to come in and try to restore
the old mechanism of capital accumulation.

What she succeeded in doing was restoring profitability but in the
most barbaric and primitive way - by drastic increases in the rate
of surplus value, a huge reduction in the capital stock. The effect
on material production was such that manufacturing only regained its
1974 level in the last year or two.

The application of Hayekian doctrines to the former USSR is of course
having effects a whole order of magnitude worse.


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