Crisis? What crisis?

wpc at cs.strath.ac.uk wpc at cs.strath.ac.uk
Tue Feb 14 02:37:15 MST 1995


>   Let's face it, "we" have been discussing the crisis of capitalism for over
>a hundred years.  At least three of the four features of present-day
>capitalism that Will Brown mentions above could just as likely be redefined
>as stabilizing elements for capitalism, rather than indications of impending
>chaos or downfall. At most, they are challenges to be overcome.
>   Many of the things that marxists have pointed out to indicate "crisis",
>such as unemployment, are also basic features of how the whole machine runs.
>This is news to no one, but the belief that such things lead necessarilly to
>crisis or revolution is not a belief that has panned out with any historical
>certainty.

We should distinguish between growth pains and
crises inherent in the limitations of the system.

The revolutionary crises of the last century and
most of those in this century fall under the heading
of growth pains - ones associated with the
establishment of the mode of production.

It will be some time before we can talk about
crises due to the internal limits of the system
becoming dominant. Not until the mass of the
world's population is drawn into the system of
wage labour, and all external reserves of labour
power are exhausted will that be the case.
Capitalism is still in historical terms a relatively
immature system.

The debates on crisis over the last 100 years have
been relatively premature, influenced by the
particular situation of European economies where
most of the theorists were. So long as conditions
in most of the rest of the world did not yet allow
the free expansion of capitalist production -
whether due to the resistance of pre-capitalist
modes or the existence of the socialist block,
Europe could attain a premature maturity.

This expressed itself at the end of the post war
boom in a rising wage share as a portion of national
income, strong trades unions, a rising organic
composition of capital and declining rates of
profit. I think that there is a plausible argument
that these are the characterisitics of a closed
capitalist system - abated since them by the
accelerated opening to capitalism of China,
and other parts of Asia.


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