Doug on Mattick Jr.

Jim heartfield jim at
Tue Dec 29 03:07:57 PST 1998

In message <v0401171eb2add562d1e9@[]>, Doug Henwood <dhenwood at> writes

> My reaction to e) is that it's so vague as to be useless. So
>capitalism has crisis tendencies at some time and some place. Well, yes it
>does, but why do they break out where they do and when?

Crises are not occurrences in theory, but in fact. It would be wrong to think that you could theoretically explain all crises. Rather, each must be examined in its own particularity. To expect otherwise is to expect too much of the theory. Theory can only logically reconstruct the capitalist economy in its main determinants. But these will always be mediated through unexpected contingencies.

In particular, one would have to look very closely at the subjective factors in play in the current difficulties.

>Abstracting from nations and states is madness. Capital would be nowhere
>without its states, and capitalism plays itself out across space. That's
>why I brought up David Harvey in our earlier exchange, Rakesh - capitalism
>plays itself out globally but in countless local manifestations. How can
>you theorize capitalism without theorizing space and place?

This is all the wrong way round. The only reason that Harvey can theorize space, or Lenin could nations was on the basis of the prior theorisation of capital accumulation. It is all a question of what level of analysis you are working on. If one were to take states as primordial, as most IR theorists and many historians do, you would quickly get into a muddle. To say 'states' is to subordinate a massively differential distribution of power under a superficial equality. All too quickly you would end up attributing such differences to 'national character' or some other such mumbo jumbo.

I've always thought that the history of the US, for example, could best be understood as the export of surplus capital and surplus labour from European nations that were unable to bring those two together in the conditions prevailing in their own societies. But that would not side- step the necessity for an empirical research into American history.

In message <v04011701b2adf11798c9@[]>, Doug Henwood <dhenwood at> writes
>Rakesh Bhandari wrote:
> Mattick Sr was able to predict the end of Keynesian
>>stabilization in the late 50s.
>So did Hayek and Friedman, didn't they?

But Hayek and Friedman's theories could not account for the success of the post-war boom. They predicted that state interference in the labour market and welfare spending would lead to crisis in 1945. (Hayek wrote the manifesto of the British Conservative Party denouncing the Labour government as the Gestapo.)

It was Mattick, David Yaffe and Elmar Altvater who explained the conditions of the post-war boom as well as its historical limits. -- Jim heartfield

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