[OPE-L:6970] [OPE-L:462] Robert Brenner

Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Sun, 21 Feb 1999 23:14:18 -0500 (EST)

I was wondering whether anyone has worked through Robert Brenner's "The
Economics of Global Turbulence" in New Left Review 229/1998.

Andrew has already suggested some important lines of critique on another list.

The NLR editors tout the book as a continuation of Marx's project, but he
seems to turn Marx on his head at every important point:

Where Marx argued that the rising productivity of labor under capitalism
would express itself as a falling rate of profit, Brenner argues that the
FROP theory implicitly depends on an implausible "Malthusian" fear of a
fall in the productivity of *indirect* labor.

Where Marx argued that fraticidal competition breaks out as a consequence
of the FROP, Brenner explains the FROP as a consequence of the outbreak of
fraticidal competition on a global scale.

Where Marx argued that competition could not determine the actual rate of
profit, Brenner argues that its magnitude is indeed a function of the
intensity of international competition, ceteris paribus.

Moreover, while Brenner claims to criticize Schumpeter for underestimating
the destructiveness of unplanned competition, he actually attributes the
protraction, as well as the mildness, of the down turn since the 70s in
large part to the insufficient destruction of inefficient capital due to
the artificial stimulus provided to the economy by Keynesian economics--an
argument quite in line with Schumpeter and the liquidationism of the
Austrians generally.
Michael Perelman had been suggesting such an argument long before Brenner.

In Brenner's account, it's ambivalent whether Keynesianism is consequence
or cause of a protracted, yet mild, dowturn. It's also quite unclear what
sort of dynamism Brenner thinks the system would have in the absence of
Keynesian stimulus. Perhaps the American economy's putative dynamism,
including the recent hike in posted productivity growth, that has followed
upon Clinton's fiscal conservatism is a vindication of his seemingly
anti-Keynesian argument, yet Brenner also seems to suggest that the
reduction in effective demand from the fiscal conservatism of the US, the
buyer of last resort, has plunged the world into crisis.