lunedì 25 maggio 2015

Alex Callinicos and Joseph Choonara: HOW NOT TO WRITE ABOUT THE RATE OF PROFIT: A REPLY TO DAVID HARVEY - 21 May 2015

Alex Callinicos and Joseph Choonara

It is hard to think of any living writer who has made a greater contribution to Marxist political economy than David Harvey. We can see this in his broad attempt to widen Marxist social theory to take space properly into account, forming a new “historical-geographical materialism”; in his work, The Limits to Capital, one of the most important products of the 1960s and 1970s generation’s engagement with Marx’s Capital; in his hugely influential critical return to the classical Marxist theory of imperialism in The New Imperialism; and, finally, in his online lectures and book commentaries on Capital.

So it is a real pity that he has chosen to write so negatively—and, to be frank, so poorly—about the tendency of the rate of profit to fall (TRPF) in different versions of a paper that is due to be published but that is already making the rounds online (Harvey, 2015a). Harvey is intervening in a debate that has been going on among Marxist political economists for some time but that appears to be hotting up. There seem to be two reasons for this. First, the publication of the manuscripts of the third volume of Capital in the Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe (MEGA2) has given rise to the entirely spurious argument that Marx abandoned the theory of the TRPF after writing the main text in 1864-5 (it is typical of Harvey’s scattergun approach than he welcomes this argument while declaring his ignorance of German prevents him from taking a stand on the scholarship: Harvey, 2015a: 5). 

Second, and much more importantly, we have a (continuing) crisis to explain. Marxist political economists are divided over whether the profound, systemic crisis of capitalism that exploded in 2007-8 has to be understood starting from the TRPF or, typically, through some combination of underconsumptionism and the kinds of theories of the financialisation of capitalism that have become current in recent years. One reason why this debate is so important is that even the more intelligent bourgeois economists acknowledge that the recovery from the Great Recession has revealed that something has gone badly wrong with capitalism. (...)

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