Kapitalist (ir)rationality?

Doug Henwood dhenwood at panix.com
Mon Sep 26 08:12:56 MDT 1994

Though the US and Britain have a lot in common - loose regulations, a
large financial sector, a meaner welfare sector than Continental Europe -
US economic performance has been decidedly better than Britain's. Is this
the result of the Pentagon? Later US development? The vitality of
immigration? A less hidebound class structure? Great natural endowments?
Or is there more lurking beneath these obvious candidates?


Doug Henwood [dhenwood at panix.com]
Left Business Observer
212-874-4020 (voice)
212-874-3137 (fax)

On Mon, 26 Sep 1994, Paul W. Cockshott wrote:

> 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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