More Brenner

christian a. gregory driver at
Sun Mar 14 14:52:59 PST 1999

rakesh wrote:

>Brenner has located the problem of falling profitability in pricing
>behavior and exit strategy within the realm of competition, not from the
>progressive increase in the ratio of constant to variable capital within
>the hidden abode of production itself. The latter cannot decrease the
>profit rate no matter how much the capital/labor ratio may rise according
>to Brenner without the dubious "Malthusian" posit of declining capital
>productivity. For Brenner, the only way to derive a falling profit rate is
>through assumptions about the nature of conscious strategy in the realm of
>competition. Brenner is content to explain capitalist reality in terms of
>the conceptions and strategies--the consciousness, if you will--of the
>bourgeois agents trapped in competition. It now need only be shown that a
>profit rate decline cannot be so derived without unstated or abitrary
>assumptions on Brenner's part. More importantly, the whole burden of
>Marx's critique of the illusions of competition was to demonstate that a
>scientific analysis of falling profitability in particular was impossible
>if one was trapped on the surface like this (CapitalIII:330-32.Vintage).


couple things:

1. i'm not sure i get the first part of this paragraph. are you saying that for brenner competition doesn't have to do with the increase in the ratio of constant / variable capital because, for brenner, that would imply a decrease in capital productivity--something that he categorically refuses? (and is "malthusian" his characterization? where does he make it? and what do you think it means?)

2. do you think that's true? it seems to me that brenner's argument works on different terms altogether: namely, that it isn't the constant/variable capital ratio itself that precipitates the crisis because that ratio is expressed internationally through price--which is a kind of distorted refraction of the "hidden abode of production." he says that it's not a supply-side crisis in the sense that it wasn't increasing costs or labor productivity that is at issue (pp. 102-103) in fact, he says that during '65-73, when profitability first fell, labor productivity was up about 10%, capital productivity was stable, and real wages were falling. but international competition so-called was being expressed in currency terms-- he talks about cost *levels* as arbiter of terms of "competition" (pp. 106)--and on that score, the united states was loosing. nixon's "new economic policy" was meant to address that by shifting the burden of adjustment onto japan and germany.

3. in a certain sense, though, i think you're right to say that brenner's picture is of a crisis in part due to what addles the bourgeois imagination. but i think brenner does point out how that "competition" is mediated historically; and i think he means to suggest that capital at this moment moves in step with bourgeois imagination. i think he's conscious of arguing that what had been called a "crisis of keynesianism" was in fact due to the concerted effort of the bourgeoisie to reassert itself in the face of changing conditions of u.s. hegemony. he does so in order to call into question the stated or unstated belief in some of the arguments he cites that organized labor's strength was getting in the way of profitability--if only to remove the historical "justification" for the actions of the transnational elites. no?

best christian

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