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Submitted by Barry Finger on Thu, 14/03/2013 - 23:23

Paul, this is not a question of “orthodoxy” and my misgivings with Heinrich’s take on crisis theory are a matter of logic and method, not religion. I think Heinrich makes many valuable ad worthwhile contributions and your review did the book real justice. For what it’s worth, I think his monetary theory of value is spot on. (I published a piece on the transformation problem in Critique three years ago, with a similar theme and can send a reprint to any interested reader. Unfortunately the URL is hidden under a paywall.)

Moreover, I realize that AWL’s understanding of the relationship between values and prices, and profit rates are derived from the physical structure of production. This originates in the work of Geoff Hodgson, who was an early associate of one of AWL’s predecessor organizations. But Hodgson and Martin built their critical departures on the work of Pierro Sraffa, a school that, fairly or not, has been characterized as neo-Ricardian. The Heinrich critique does not critically engage with the neo-Ricardian influenced marxists, and circumvents (or transcends, if one is to be generous) the entire controversy that this entails. The fact that AWLers reach similar conclusions based on different premises and assumptions does not validate Heinrich’s treatment or the conclusions he draws from it. That has to stand on its own merits. And that's the problem

And it’s on this basis that I question him. I find his dismissal of the falling rate of profit all the more curious since it actually is little different from that which can be found in the decades old writings of Paul Sweezy or Joan Robinson and which in either case was hardly novel when Natalie Moszkowska questioned the theory back in 1929. But that type of criticism (i.e, that there is no reason that the rise in the value composition of capital should exceed that of the increase in the rate of exploitation) along with the specific and entirely different criticism associated with neo-Ricardinanism--the Okishio theorem (that any economically feasible innovation that raises the organic composition of capital, also, of necessity raises the general rate of profit provided the real wage is held constant)—were both subject to some very sharp rebuttals.

Some of those rebuttals, not so coincidentally, appeared in PROKLA, the magazine that Heinrich edits. Georg Stamatis, most notably, summarized his work “Die ‘spezifisch kapitalistischen’ Produktionsmethoden und der tendenzielle Fall der allgemeine Profitrate bei Karl Marx”in PROKLA 25 (available on line). Moreover the entire Sweezy /Robinson approach was dismantled, in my opinion, by Shane Mage, whose PHD thesis – The “Law of the Falling Tendency of the rate of Profit”: It’s Place in the Marxian Theoretical System and Relevance to the US Economy—is also downloadable from an open source site.

I hope I’m reading Paul wrongly, but it seems that his eagerness to see the falling rate of profit “demolished” rests on the fact that he holds David Yaffe and Chris Harmon’s politics, and their claims to “orthodoxy”, in disdain. I do too. But isn’t that besides the point?

Again, the problem with Heinrich, as I tried to point out is that he formulates a framework for understanding crises which is most compatible with the very theory he distances himself from. It is also a framework that is incompatible with any other approach, considering the only approaches he is specific about are "underconsumptionism" or "disproportionality". Doesn’t that require some elaboration?

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