Re: [OPE] long waves

From: Patrick Bond <>
Date: Sat Oct 17 2009 - 08:41:30 EDT

I'm not well enough read in this area to comment intelligently, but it
is very important to locate such waves as either conjunctural or
necessary. Writing based on the data up to 1923, Trotsky found this
pattern: "the general direction of the basic curve is determined by the
character of the partial conjunctural curves of which it is composed. In
our schema three periods are sharply demarcated: twenty years of very
gradual capitalist development (segment A-B); forty years of energetic
upswing (segment B-C); and thirty years of protracted crisis and decline
(segment C-D)."

What would one say 86 years later? Maybe that to be convincing as a
'necessary' explanation of uneven development across time and space, the
schema should be enlarged to incorporate a major uptick in accumulation
(late 1940s-1960s) mainly because of massive devalorisation of
overaccumulated capital in the prior period (1929-45 especially
1939-45); but such an 'energetic upswing' can come to a fairly abrupt
halt in the core sites of overaccumulation (1970s) and then suffer
through thirty-five years of *displaced* crisis; i.e., overaccumulation
tensions that were shifted (to the Third World, the Sunbelt, gentrified
zones, etc) and stalled (over time via credit), to the point where
large-scale devalorisation is again on the agenda (2008-09)? Can a
long-wave perspective be broadened to take account of these stylised
facts? Is 'overaccumulation-devalorisation' the best framework for
thinking this dynamic through?


Jurriaan Bendien wrote:
> I'm not really convinced either. What I do know is that there have
> been eras of faster and slower output growth rates and market
> expansion in the history of industrial capitalism, lasting for an
> interval of time often close to one generation (about 25 years or so).
> But the concept of "long waves" or "long cycles" suggests a recurrent
> empirical pattern which can be explained with the same kinds of
> variables, and that was also Ernest Mandel's idea: a hausse in profit
> volumes which is eventually choked off by a falling profit rate. That
> is much more difficult to prove, in particular because the very way in
> which the profitability of enterprise has been regarded has changed
> across time.
> Mainly, the concept of the long waves was a convenient conceptual
> "peg" to discuss the interrelationship of economic principles and
> economic history, and how this was mediated by all sorts of
> socio-political factors. That is more or less also how Leon Trotsky
> intended it, in his famous essay
> . But in
> fact the Communist International theoreticians were unable to predict
> accurately even the shorter-term conjuncture: the postulated post-WW1
> "decline of capitalism" (Eugen Varga) was succeeded a few years later
> by the announcement of the "stabilisation of capitalism" and a few
> years after that, by the "decline after stabilization".
> The odd thing in "long wave" theoretizations is that there is an
> almost complete lack of demographic insight. For a simple example, in
> 1800, the world population totalled circa 970 million, in 1850 there
> were circa 1.3 billion people, in 1900 some 1.5 billion, in 1930 2
> billion, by 1950 2.5 billion, in 1975 4 billion, and since then the
> world population has reached 6.8 billion.
> In Europe, the population doubled from circa 200 million in 1800 to
> 400 million in 1900, reaching 600 million in 1960, 700 million in
> 1985, and stands at about 732 million today.
> In the interval 2000 to 2005, 60% of the 383 million people born were
> born in Asia, while the population of Europe actually somewhat declined.
> This has had enormous implications for the growth of the labour
> market, the expansion of final demand, the infrastructure of societies
> and the distribution of incomes in different parts of the world - but
> in fact this growth rhythm of the population doesn't easily map onto
> the fluctuations in economic growth. You can easily get an indication
> of this for example by plotting the differences between GDP growth and
> GDP per capita across long time-spans.
> Somehow the social coexistence of real people is mostly abstracted
> from in economics.
> Jurriaan
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Received on Sat Oct 17 08:52:14 2009

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