Brenner on competition

christian a. gregory driver at
Mon Sep 14 13:27:28 PDT 1998


brenner's emphasis on the "*unplanned and competitive*" (23) nature of capitalism--a point to which he endlessly refers--misses the rhetorical point, as far as i'm concerned. and, i'd argue, his point here *is* rhetorical (tho it is also many other things), at least insofar as he's trying to "correct" the misrepresentations of the so-called "supply side" narratives of the long downturn. on the one hand, brenner is arguing *against* is the "monopoly capital" arguments of baran and sweezy, braverman etc that took postwar keynesian-welfare-military-industrial-complex for "planned" capitalism. fine (sort of). but, on the other hand, brenner confuses these arguments with, for example, those of regulation school (that refer to *monopoly regulation*--a very different kind of [althusserian] beast) *and* with the 60's and 70's representations of fordism that have come down to us from liberal cultural and business talk: for example, via richard heilbroner ("capitalism is drifting into planning"), or marcuse (there is a "smoothly working unfreedom" in economic and civic life), or galbraith (the new industrial state).

i address the regulationist model because it's what i know. *monopoly regulation* has little to do with the actual formation of monopolies and oligarchies (though we can understand why this happens) and more to do, alain lipietz argues, with the way of ante-validating and pseudo-validating labor. in other words, this mode of regulation has to do with the establishment of the credit-money system, the fed, fdic, federal home loan bank act--all of those things that proleptically install the cultural and social norms of consumption that make up the "everyday" fabric of postwar fordism. aglietta, for his part, opposes monopoly to competitive regulation, *but they are both forms, or instititutional tendencies, of capitalist competition.* (lipietz has an even more general definition of the mode of regulation than this, but that's another story.)

now, as mike davis has argued, it's probably better to understand these tendencies as accompanying rather than excluding each other in a given economic framework. fine. but from what i can tell, brenner overdraws his target, in the form of caricature: i don't know about kalecki et al, but i do know that lipietz and jessop, for example, argue that the long downturn is precipitated by not by the strength of labor, but by a monetary crisis that accrues around *prices* (ie money as a representation and store of value) in the transatlantic context--which, from what i've read, is brenner's argument, too.

so, yeah, i agree with doug. the "crisis" narrative ceases to have meaning when it's so generalized--perhaps it's better to refer to latent and open crisis. or perhaps, as i'd prefer, there be some self-reflexivity about crisis as a kind of narrative structure that's supposed to generate some kind of ethical or political positions. some awareness of that rhetoric could help in a situation like this one--at least in clarifying one's aims.

best, christian

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