Brenner on competition

William S. Lear rael at
Wed Sep 16 06:52:37 PDT 1998

[Sorry Doug, for sending this first to you --- not yet dextrous enough with substituting for the reply-to field in digest mode.] On Mon, September 14, 1998 at 13:43:55 (-0400) Doug Henwood writes:
>michael perelman wrote:
>>There is a natural tendency toward crises -- someone humously dated the
>>beginning of the existing crisis at 5000 years ago. The early military
>>keynesian practices thwarted the crises, or at least contained them as minor
>>recessions. The pressures have built up over the decades and now may possibly
>>be ready to break out into something more serious. If the authorities hold it
>>in check this year, the problem will fester and be harded to confront later.
>>Such is the nature of capitalism.
>Maybe I'm just fetishizing words too much, but I don't like describing the
>normal condition of something as a "crisis." A crisis is when a system is
>at risk of not reproducing itself; capitalism has shown great ability to
>recover from, even thrive on, its self-inflicted wounds. The periods that
>Brenner and others describe as a slowdown or a long downturn are such only
>relative to the golden age (whose luster they often question too), which
>came after two world wars with a depression between. The last 20 years have
>seen growth rates in line with capitalism's Victorian age, and Asia's
>growth, before their crisis hit, was the fastest the world had ever seen.
>You can't describe the U.S. since the 1982 trough as stagnant or anything
>like it; it's been dynamic, often scarily so. I'm even getting cautious
>about overreading today's crisis.

I have to agree strongly with Doug. I've been a bit distressed at the crisisification of every blip in the stock market. I think that the left greatly underestimates the human creativity harnessed to support capitalism, along with the depth of other (non-market) social relations, and the resulting resilience of the system. I don't mean this as any sort of Schumpeterian salute to the system --- the system is immoral and unfair, but it is an immoral and unfair system with extremely effective mechanisms (laws, propaganda, etc.) for channeling behavior of all concerned in ways that support it.

I just finished reading the Manifesto very carefully, writing about two pages of notes and commentary for each page. It amazes me how much current discussion about capitalism seems to lift ideas from this source uncritically.


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