Re: / Andrew T on Marx, Luxemburg and Grossman

From: Paul Cockshott (wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK)
Date: Mon Nov 01 2004 - 05:29:02 EST

Presumably the message from Kaleckian theory to the working class is
simply this: "help the ruling class overcome any 'Protestant'
inhibitions against luxury, consumption and decadence, for the
stability of your employment depends on their use of credit lines to
finance their overconsumption."

  We can safely assume that capitalists will consume enough to realize
all of surplus value. To be sure, this puts a burden on them. Imelda
Marcos had to shop a lot and find room in her closet for new pairs of
shoes. Who cares?

I think it is certainly true that a sufficient level of unproductive
expenditure will offset any tendency for the rate profit to rise,
simply because sufficient unproductive expenditure puts an end
to accumulation.

What one has to consider is whether this is a likely situation
to occur, and under what circumstances.

I think that something rather like it occurred in late Victorian
Britain, and was related there to the bourgeoisie adopting the 
mode of life of the landed aristocracy - buying large country estates
employing armies of servants etc. However this stage seems to have
come to an end during the 20th century when accumulation resumed
at a somewhat faster rate.

There seem to have been a couple of factors that were influential
in this: 
1. The influence of government policy aimed at preventing 
   mass unemployment - this was crucial after 1945
2. Possible influence of international competition stimulating
   the need for more industrial investment. My calculations
   showed that from the start of the 20th century the rate
   of accumulation out of surplus value rose. Any identification
   of causes here is inevitably speculative but I tended to think
   that it was competition with Germany and America that may
   have been relevant.

However the effect of government policy on accumulation post 45
is only comprehensible as a consequence of the recession after 29.
This in turn indicates that the luxury consumption of the rich
was already an unstable basis for absorbing surplus value.
I don't know if anyone has figures to show that luxury consumption
fell at the end of the 20s?
Of course one has to take into account the fact that several new
industries were opening up to stimulate industrial accumulation
in the 20s.

If you turn to the US today, what is the percentage of surplus
value that is accumulated and what is the percentage that is 
spent unproductively - have any of you US resident OPE-List people
worked this out?


Andrew T thinks that has proven to be a greater source of problems
for the capitalist system as a whole than periodic drops in
profitability from rises in the OCC I have no idea; he certainly does
not show that various phenomena can be traced to the problem that he
isolates. So his theory does not have the consilience (to mis use
Whewell's word) that Grossman's theory had.

I am at a disadvantage in not having seen Andrew's paper, but 
it looks to me as if he is merely drawing peoples attention to 
some old results from the 30's that are perhaps not as well known
as they should be.

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