Doug Henwood dhenwood at
Thu Dec 3 13:09:56 PST 1998

DICKENS, EDWIN (973)-408-3024 wrote:

>Doug, so willing to say the crisis was over,

You're forgetting just how qualified that declaration was, and how many caveats followed it.

>now says that, if Brazil
>devalues, "it'll be time to dust off the diaster scenarios again." It's a
>lousy commentary on our debates on the causes of crises that we can change
>our opinions about whether or not a crisis exists just because a
>government decides to devalue. Maybe we should seek the points on which
>we agree. Can't Marxists, and radical economists in general, agree that a
>crisis is a crisis of overproduction, i.e., crises are rooted in
>industrial production? Aren't our debates over the linkages between the
>overproduction and the institution of private property in the means of
>production that Marx saw at the root of capitalist crises? How can a
>depreciation determine whether of not the capitalist system is in a crisis
>of overproduction? It's just a symptom, no?

Tom, I've been hearing about crises of overproduction ever since I started paying attention to this sort of thing about 20 years ago. The theoretical roots of this analysis of crisis go back 150 years. How is this crisis different from all the other crises? Is this really really the one, and all the earlier ones just false positives? And even if it is a crisis of overproduction, how do we know how that will work itself out? Massive deflation, moderate deflation? 5 years of 15% unemployment? 10 years of 7%? Will all the sting of this crisis be felt in Southeast Asia and Latin America, or will it sting the U.S. and Western Europe too? If so, how much? Are state policies completely impotent in the face of "objective forces"?

A "symptom" is more than a symptom if it affects how people react. Or is the truly Marxist position to believe that cause and effect flow just one way, from the real/productive to the psychosocial/financial?


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