[Marxism] Dick Roberts on David Harvey's review of Piketty

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun May 18 17:18:33 MDT 2014

Dick was the SWP's top economist in the 1960s and 70s until he joined 
the throngs fleeing the cult. He was strongly influenced by Ernest 
Mandel. Unlike me, he sort of retired from politics after leaving the 
party (which was generally the case for most ex-members) but this 
comment on FB shows that he hasn't lost the thread:

It's the best review I've seen so far and brings out critical points, 
not least of which is that Piketty hasn't read Marx and doesn't 
understand Marx's analysis . Further Harvey's point is critical that 
Piketty's definition of capital confuses wealth -- the result, as Marx 
explained, of the accumulation of surplus product not invested in 
production -- with capital, which is invested in production. InPiketty 
the two are artificially added together. But it is only, as capital is 
continually invested in in production and successfully 'valorized' in 
whatever markets prove most profitable, so that a portion can be 
reinvested, does the economy expand. It has practically nothing to do 
with the wealth of owners. What is still left out of Harvey's review and 
certainly isn't present in Piketty, is that in the competition to grab 
ever larger portions of markets capital attempts to reduce costs through 
making more goods more cheaply. Although this certainly includes 
outsourcing abroad, and the continuous driving down wages down of wages 
and marginalization of workers at home, it also demands technological 
advance. Without computerization, globalization would not have been or 
could be, today, possible. This as Marx stressed drives down the 
per-product profit rate because less living labor is employed in the 
manufacture of each product as capital is forced to purchase more costly 
equipment. Selling more goods is not only externally driven by 
competition; it's internally driven by the tendency of profit rates to 
fall. In 2008, despite reams of books claiming the contrary, the 
fundamental cause of the crisis was not the greed of bankers and Wall 
Street, nothing new there, Cornelius Vanderbilt invented derivatives in 
the 1870s to sell worthies railroads, the fundamental cause, to repeat, 
was the overproduction of real estate. In the end of every cycle, as 
Marx also emphasized in that notoriously unread second volume, a frenzy 
of debt is extended to keep up the valorization process and to disguise 
the end of the cycle. Thus, as Marx pointed out, every crisis appears to 
be a financial crisis when, in fact, it is a crisis precipitated by 

More information about the Marxism mailing list