Brenner again

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Wed Oct 21 13:18:33 PDT 1998

Josh Mason:
> Actually there's
>a well-established argument that a certain degree of monopoly is essential
>for profitability, investment, and innovation--a line of reasoning that
>might lead to the conclusion that the way to renewed profitability is
>increased concentration on a global scale, through mechanisms like the
>Daimler-Chrysler merger, the fire-sale of East Asian industrial capacity to
>Western firms, etc. Oddly, Brenner doesn't engage this line of argument at
>all, maybe because he's working at a level of aggregation where industries
>let alone firms basically don't appear.

How can one so glibly write about "the fire-sale" of East Asian industrial capacity? It is exactly such vulture-like attacks that undermines the capitalist system ultimately, since they will increase the exploitation of millions of people who have enjoyed a rising standard of living for the past couple of decades at least? You seem to have the same bloodless attitude as Doug, who views such events as having the health-restoring character of a high-colonic or something.

>More importantly, his argument seems to be fatally undermined by its
>surreptitious dependence on the position he claims to refute. As far as I
>can tell, excess capacity is synonymous with insufficient demand, so why
>couldn't a crisis of the sort Brenner describes be solved through Keynesian
>demand-enhancing strategies?

Well, the problem is that there is no evidence that such measures work. They certainly did not work in the depression, when 1937 slump occurred in the midst of lavish pump-priming.

>Isn't it much more convincing--and more respectful of the real
>historical context--to suggest that governments didn't pursue
>demand-enhancing policies because of the fear that those policies would
>further strengthen the working class?

This puts the cart before the horse. The political goal of the US ruling class was to destroy the union movement, so as to be able to reduce wages under increased competition from overseas. You seem to think that a more prosperous working-class would not jeopardize capitalist profits. How silly.

>I think a lot of the essay's weaknesses stem from Brenner's rather shocking
>disinterest in any theorist besides himself--

I am inclined to trust Brenner's general thrust, since it seems quite similar to Harry Shutt's, whose "The Trouble with Capitalism" I strongly endorse.

Louis Proyect


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