Crisis of capitalism?

Justin Schwartz jschwart at freenet.columbus.oh.us
Sat Apr 29 21:30:41 MDT 1995


Howie wonders whether capitalism is in crisis. He doubts this because it
looks as if it will be around for a while. But a final crisis is not the
only sort. Marxist crisis theory is undeveloped and contentious, but
wahtever your deep account of the mechanisms of crises, the empirical
evidence is that capitalism has been in some sort of long term
trouble--not fatal, but serious--since the early 1970s. I think most left
economists would agree with the following:

1. The big jolt of the war effort brought capitalism out of the far more
serious crisis of the Great Depression;

2. From 1945 to around 1970 capitalism underwent a golden age, partly
spurred by Cold War military spending, in which rising profits were found
compatible with relatively low unemploymenta nd increasing wages and benefits.

3. Around 1970, for reasons still debated--the recovery of the US's world
competitors, the costs of the Vietnam war, the falling rate of profit,
overproduction, profit squeeze, something, anyway--the golden age ended.
The capitalist class resumed its normal attitude of war on the workers.
Real wages have dropped almost every year since about 1973. Job security,
benefits, have been reduced. Work hours have increased. Doug Henwood can
give you the gory details.

4. There is no end in sight for this current crisis.

5. The current crisis does not itself threaten the economic
reproducibility of capitalism, although it may in the long term put at
risk its political governability.

6. At any rate capitalism will have be pushed politically by organized
workers and will not fall automatically, or if it does, the result will
not by anything we would like.

--Justin




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