Michael Roberts Blog
blogging from a marxist economist
« Gaining momentum?
HMNY – the profit-investment nexus: Keynes or Marx? The main themes of this year’s Historical Materialism conference in New York last week were the Russian Revolution and the prospects for revolutionary change one hundred years later.
But my main interest, as always, was on the relevance of Marxist economic theory in explaining the current state of global capitalism – if you like, understanding the objective conditions for the struggle to replace capitalism with a socialist society.
On that theme, in a plenary session, Professor Anwar Shaikh at the New School for Social Research (one of the most eminent heterodox economists around) and I looked at the state of the current economic situation for modern capitalism. Anwar concentrated on the main points from his massive book, Capitalism, published last year – the culmination of 15 years of research by him. This is a major work of political economy in which Anwar uses what he calls the classical approach of Adam Smith, David Ricardo and Karl Marx (and sometimes Keynes) under one umbrella (not specifically Marxist apparently). His book is essential reading (and I have reviewed it here) and also see the series of lectures that he has done to accompany it.
His main points at the plenary were to emphasise that capitalism is not a system that started off as competitive and then developed into monopoly capitalism, but it is one of turbulent ’real competition’. There has never been perfect competition as mainstream economics implies from which we can look at ‘imperfections’ like monopoly.
Anwar went on to say that crises under capitalism are the result of falling profitability over time in a long downwave (see graph comparing my measures with Shaikh). The neoliberal period from the early 1980s was a result of the rejection of Keynesian economics and the return of neoclassical theory and the replacement of fiscal management of the economy, which was not working, with monetarism from the likes of Milton Friedman. But even neo-liberal policies could not avoid the Great Recession. And since then, there has not been a full recovery for capitalism. Massive monetary