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Submitted by PaulHampton on Fri, 15/03/2013 - 19:04

In reply to by Barry Finger

Hi Barry,

I think there probably is a bit of talking past – but also perhaps some differences of assessment too.

1) I think we agree the Monthly Review approach pioneered by Paul Sweezy is not adequate on crises, because of its underconsumptionism, view on transition from feudalism to capitalism, later material on potential surplus, stagnation and dependency theory etc. I think Heinrich’s approach is a long way from Sweezy or the current Monthly Review approach.

2) Your Critique article makes some very good points against the neo-Ricardian approach. I don’t personally agree with that approach and in his book, Heinrich does criticise Ricardo’s (non-monetary) theory of value. Martin can say whether he is a neo-Ricardian or not, but I haven’t heard him advocate that approach either.

3) I think my opposition to the fundamentalist reading on the TRPF is more than just political disagreement with Yaffe and Harman. I’m not convinced they explained the post-war boom, the 1970s slump, the neoliberal period of growth or the current crisis using the theory. I’m not persuaded by other attempts such as Andrew Kliman or Michael Roberts either, though I thought
McNally’s book was a step forward.

4) I don’t think TRPF, underconsumptionism or disproportionality exhaust the possible Marxist explanations of crisis. All these theories have their flaws – I think Clarke’s book shows that very clearly. The possibility of crisis is implicit in the circuit of capital, so capitalism will always be crisis-prone. But perhaps a general theory of capitalist crises i.e. one that explains every concrete instance, is just not possible.

I think that is what Heinrich is getting at. Perhaps he’s right. If so, the job of Marxists is to understand the causes and forms of particular crises – especially the current one. Clearing the ground of obstacles to doing that seems like a worthwhile endeavour, which is why I’ve welcomed Heinrich’s intervention.

So is elaboration required? Yes, it is. And that’s an ambitious task to set ourselves.


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