'Gas-out' apr 7-9

JKSCHW at aol.com JKSCHW at aol.com
Sun Mar 12 12:55:41 PST 2000

In a message dated 00-03-12 15:37:57 EST, you write:

<< What he was most interested to demonstrate is that the onset of stagnation,

crisis or general overproduction could not be explained however by the

monopoly nature of present capitalism but ultimately only by reference to

capital-labor relations *in the system as a whole* the analysis of which

required heroic abstraction from inter firm relations. Not tracing crisis

to horizontal inter firm relations as Baran and Sweezy and now Brenner

have it but by vertical relations as Mattick had it. >>

I think you do Brenner wrong to attribute to him a Sweezyite move simply because he is interested in intercapitalist competition. After all, Marx was also interested in intercapitalist competition: the competition among capitals for cost savings is what drives the rising organic composition of capiatl that underlies the supposed tendency of the tae of profit to fall.

Brenner, although not saddled with value theory, has a similar interest.

(Bob, if you are lurking, tell me if I have this right.)

At bottom Brenner's theory of crisis is that the basic form of the recent (post 73) crisis is a crisis of overproduction: capitalists invested heavily in capital goods, which then represented sunk costs, from which they could not recover their investment or at any rate rceive their hoped for rate of return when cheaper alternatives became available. These cheaper alternatives were in part due to new technologies and in poart due to imperialsim,a s the market dove capitalists to go overseas to reduce labor costs. In effect, Brenner's mechanism is virtually identical to that Marx describes in the FROP theory, without, however, the problematic value-theoretic commitments or the dubious claims about the long term tendency of ROP to fall in the nature of capitallism, as opposed to at a particular juncture.

I don't think this theory makes the horizontal relations more basic than the vertical ones. The vertical ones, the need to maximize the rate of exploitation, are what pushes the story. The old technologies in which the now less profitable investments were made to initially promulgated to reduce labor costs; the new technologies that superceded them and push to flee higher first world labor costs were both driven by this imperative. So I see Brenner's story as integrating the verticale (capital-labor) and horizontal (capital-capital) dimensions in a perfectly sound and even "orthodox" manner.

What is unorthodox is the jettisoning of value theory, but the power of Brenner's story seems to me to show again that value theory is a dinosaur.


More information about the lbo-talk mailing list