Critique of Crisis Theory

Some quick initial notes on Sam Williams blog: critiqueofcrisistheory.

About page indicates roughly same “suixante-huitard” generation/cohort as me but with some sort of US trot background and immersed in pseudoleft since (though seems organizationally independent and critical). Nevertheless, indicates clear intent to seriously study Marx’s crisis theory and seriously compare and contrast with various “Marxist” theories. Will need to checkout thoroughly.

Has usual definition of “Marxist”:

However, if we get into a discussion of who among the writers we will be examining, some obscure and some very famous—or to some infamous—were really Marxists and who were traitors or imposters, there will be no end to it! So for purposes solely of this blog, all people  who considered themselves to be Marxists, or are widely considered to have been Marxists, will be defined as Marxists. I will examine their economic ideas on their merits, and their views and contributions to crisis theory and related areas such as long cycles, or long waves, and breakdown theories, regardless of my own opinions or those of others about their general role in the workers’ struggle for liberation, and whether or not they were in fact “real Marxists.”

I prefer to use the term “marxian” in that sense (has connotations of “martian”). Nevertheless, his usage is now the usual understanding and it is certainly necessary to discuss their economic ideas on their merits instead of getting distracted by pointless arguments about who are “real Marxists”.

Considerable enthusiasm in the 49 comments. So there is a potential audience already linking up out there.

ebook of blog pages was intended for 2014. Not seen yet. Links to versions printed to pdf files by readers in the comments now broken.

Three books on Marxist political economy includes review of Anwar Sheikh (2016) with links to other reviews. Looks worth careful study later.

The Problem: Marx Didn’t Leave Us a Completed Crisis Theory  Quick scan confirms that he does indeed understand the problem and basic reasons why Marx did not complete it, so reasonably certain worth studying whole blog very thoroughly (and following links to others interested).

Search confirms no mention of Maksakovsky so should be notified.

Sidebar lists posts on theories of crisis.

Disproportionality Theory part 1. Gives competent and useful account of how values (production prices) are formed as long terms averages (over the period of a business cycle) through the endless disequilibriums of the “anarchy of production. This can account for particular crises. Does not explain any relation to a regular cycle.

Disproportionality part 2. Reasonably competent and useful explanation of simple reproduction but misunderstands fixed capital renewals being a “material basis” for regular cycles and gets completely distracted about money. Looks likely to end up back to the usual bourgeois explanations of crises as “financial” rather than due to regular necessary disproportions between two departments. Does not attempt any actual explanation of regular crisis or adequately further develop the good insights in part 1.

Disproportionality part 3.  Gets lost at sea. Explanation of expanded reproduction no likelier to be read and understood than Karl Marx’s efforts while suffering from insomnia. Does not know that volume 3 was written before volume 2. Gets completely distracted with “breakdown” with no serious attempt at explaining crises. The only comment is a pingback from a subsequent article which I will take as part 4, although he clearly moves straight on to money and there are a very large number of other related articles that I have not yet read.

Why Capitalism Requires Expanded Reproduction (part 4?). Correctly notes that:

Also abstracted from Marx’s model of simple reproduction—and of his model of expanded reproduction—is technological change and the rising organic composition of capital, and consequently the tendency of the rate of profit to fall.

But gets lost again. More “breakdown” and shift of attention to money.

Clearly has not heard of Maksakovsky’s “The Capitalist Cycle”.

Will need to go carefully through whole blog and prepare clear explanations specific to this author and his audience.

But it is quite conceivable he would simply “get it” after downloading the free copy from link on front page here.

Let’s see if pingbacks from this are enough!



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