[Marxism] James Petras
abuhartal at hotmail.com
Wed Jul 19 22:03:04 MDT 2006
An optimistic analysis. Perhaps Marxism is nothing at all as he suggests.
But more to the Collapse Of Capitalism school than Petras recognizes. Profit
numbers are inflated
by accounting tricks. The rate at which the rate of exploitation
can be raised will soon find its limit (each further rise in productivity
s/v ever less--this is the basic mathematics of the theory of surplus
Moreover, profitability bolstered through debt clearly has limits:
houses can only be refinanced so many times, budget
deficits cannot continue to grow as a percentage of GDP.
Most importantly, bolstering profitability through mergers & acquisitions
indicates a still
depressed marginal efficiency of capital. As the accumulation of capital is
also a concentration processs and thus plays larger profits into fewer
hands, the accumulating capitals will not for some time be aware of the
decline in profits. And because the centralization process can raise the
rate of profit even in the absence of capital concentration, simply by the
reorganization and different utilization of the existing capital, a relative
stagnation of capital does not at once express itself in lower profits. On
the other hand, the hastened concentration and centralization of capital can
also be seen as measures forced upon capital to maintain its profitability.
Insofar as these measures compensate for a lack of sufficient new
investments, they hold down the rising organic composition of capital, thus
bolstering the rate of profit at the expense of accumulation. But while the
profit rate may be maintained, general economic activity stagnates, for it
cannot advance without the production of additional capital. Sooner or
later, the stagnation leads to a crisis, which can be overcome throught the
resumption of the accumulation process.
Once the inflow of capital declines absolutely or simply no longer rises,
general economic activity will in fact stagnate.
This prosperity will prove as fictitious as Weimar's and the American
roaring twenties. This does not mean that there will be collapse but ever
more catastrophic wars and new forms of authoritarian statism. Liberal
democracy, coupled with a free market economy, will not prove itself the end
In other words, much worse is in store than what Petras cheerily predicts:
"As is likely to happen with a turn in the business cycle, the economy slows
or even goes into recession and profit margins decrease, capitalism will
simply turn the screw even tighter on working class and salaried workers
wages, impose more of the costs of recovery on their backs, pressure the
Democrats and Republicans for greater Federal handouts, tax rebates and cuts
in pursuit of recovery."
Yes this too will obtain; it has already obtained. But it will not be
Marxism is a theory of catastrophe and epochal possibility, or it is nothing
And it may well prove to be nothing at all if Petras is correct.
For if capitalism is sitting on such a rising mass of profits--as Petras
insists--it will surely be able to buy itself peace.
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