Forwarded from Jurriaan (reply to Xxxx)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Fri Mar 9 12:05:03 MST 2001


Xxxx,

I haven't read Goldstein's thesis, so cannot comment on it, but thanks for
the reference.

The article by Shaikh you mention I did read, and it is important, insofar
as it clarifies what may be the relationship between the overall rate and
mass of profit through a long wave of growth, which Mandel doesn't really
pay attention to in his long-wave theory. Shaikh suggests - in the
tradition of Mattick and Grossmann - that through the economic boom, the
profit rate gradually falls, while the total mass of profit increases, up
to some critical point which marks the end of the boom.

As regards the US "social structure of accumulation" school I mentioned, it
originated from an article by David M. Gordon, "Up and down the long roller
coaster", in B. Steinberg et al., US capitalism in crisis. New York: URPE,
1978, pp. 22-35. Basically Gordon argues that, because of competition and
class conflict, and because of all the things that can go wrong in the
reproduction process of capital, capitalist accumulation requires a set of
social institutions which provide stability.

Gordon argues "a full set of integrated institutions is necessary for
individual capitalist accumulation to continue... we can call this the
"social structure of accumulation"... capitalist economies have experienced
a series of 'universal crises'. We can therefore assume that they have
passed through a number of these social structures of accumulation. These
representative structures can be called stages of capitalist accumulation.
We can say, finally, that the history of long waves has correspondingly
involved a history of successive stages of accumulation" (p. 27).

This approach, which was also influenced by Althusser and the Japanese Uno
school, is similar to the French regulation approach pioneered by Aglietta,
except that the SSA theorists tend to see the institutional structures more
as an outcome of (intra-)class conflict, whereas the Regulationists explain
the emergence of the institutions more in functionalist terms.

The political corrolary of these theories is usually a kind of enlightened
social reformism or policy science. Intellectually proponents also have a
lot in common with the discipline of Institutional Economics. All these
schools have their origin in the unfinished nature of Marx's work - Marx
never completed a theory of the state, civil society and the world market,
and he did not theorise profound changes occurring within capitalism
(except such things as the transition of cottage industry and manufactories
to mechanised manufacturing).

You might say what has all this to do with complexity theory ? Well quite a
bit, as the search for a coherent understanding of the social totality
involves analysis of the interaction between complex systems. Ernest
Mandel's article "Partially independent variables and internal logic in
classical Marxist analysis" (in Ulf Himmelstrand et al, Interfaces in
Economic and social analysis, pp. 33-50) also tries to sketch out an
approach for this - how to combine the systemic logic of capitalism,
implied by the laws of motion specified by Marx, with historically
contingent and extra-economic factors. In this way Mandel tries to reply to
the charge that he is "eclectic" in his approach. But I am not sure his
argument fully succeeds. If for example you read his article "Historical
and institutional determinants of long-term variation of real wages" (in P.
Scholliers ed, Real wages in 19th and 20th century Europe. Berg, 1989) then
it seems to me he simply leaves out important factors, such as the role of
the state in regulating wages. He searches for "middle range" theories and
variables, which mediate between the abstract theory and the empirical
data, but I think it is not always very convincing or systematic.

Regards

Jurriaan


Louis Proyect
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