Re: [OPE-L] highest, last, latest, or no longer existing stage of capitalism?

From: Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM
Date: Thu Jan 27 2005 - 10:01:27 EST

Hi Jurriaan:

> Delineating stages of capitalist development assumes that we can identify
> turning points or breaking points at which quantitative changes created
> qualitative changes in the operation of the social system. But that can be
>  done in various ways, depending on the variables we are looking at.
> Probably  the most useful way of looking at it is, in terms of the
> formation and  development of a world market.

Perhaps, but what are we looking  for on world markets?  Both
regulationists and social structure of accumulation (SSA) theorists
look -- perhaps to a different extent (the former larger, the latter
lesser?)   -- at trends in world markets and the international division
of labor. Yet, they are looking for and emphasizing different aspects
of relations in international capitalism.

But, is a particular SSA or an individual regime of accumulation and
mode of regulation a "stage" in the sense that Lenin referred to?  The
Bolsheviks (Lenin included) referred to imperialism sometimes as a
"epoch."   What's the difference between "stage" and "epoch"? Well,
I think the latter suggests a *longer-term* phenomenon within which,
perhaps, there can be different "stages".

When Trotsky (and Mandel) referred to the "epoch" of imperialism
I think they meant the latter (even if L&T thought that "the socialist
transformation of society was imminent" in some parts of the world
capitalist economy).   This can be seen, I think, by reference to their
writings on long waves.

Regulationists and SSA theorists have also examined long waves and
attempted to integrate that phenomena with an analysis of changes in
regimes of accumulation and SSA by suggesting that turning points in
long waves help bring about those changes. (But, they don't have the
_same_ perspective:  see e.g. David M. Kotz's critique:  "The regulation
theory and the social structure of accumulation approach" in Kotz,
McDonough, and Reich ed. _Social Structures of Accumulation: The
political economy of growth and crisis_).

Whether one calls it a "stage, a "conjuncture", a "regime of accumulation"
or a "social structure of accumulation" one still has to put it within a
longer-term context.  Whether that context whether the current "epoch"
is the "epoch" of imperialism or something else is worth examining.
Whether that context is correlated to a strong, loose, or non-existent
degree with long waves should also be examined.

> But leaving aside ideological fictions about the impending doom of
> capitalism or the impending world socialist revolution, the historical
> truth  is that imperialism was a characteristic of capitalism already in
> the  mercantile era, i.e. in the 1600s and 1700s. That is obvious if you
> study  e.g. Dutch history, Portuguese history, Spanish history and British
> history.  All that has happened is that its forms have changed over time.

Well, I guess that returns one to long standing debates on whether
what was meant by imperialism in early capitalism is what Lenin meant
by imperialism.  These debates arise, in part, because the usage of this
term by many historians differs from the more specialized meaning of the
term by many Marxists.  Perhaps, for this reason,  in retrospect Lenin
might have been better off  selecting a different term to describe the
historical period he was referring to in his popular outline? (NB: a
similar issue arises with the usage of the term "militarism". In his
writings and speeches K. Leibknecht associated "militarism"  with the
historical period of his day.  Yet, "militarism", in a broader less
historically specific sense, had its origins in pre-capitalist society.)

> Suppose though that you can identify stages in capitalist development,
> what  then? What do you know then? Does it enable you to predict the
> future?


Or  does it only justify or help orient a political policy?  Or is
> it a way of  sustaining Marx's theorem about the finitude and historical
> transience of  capitalism as a mode of production?

No to the last question.

Identifying "stages" (or whatever preferred term you want to use) allows
us to be able to better comprehend the current period, put it in historical
context, and fight against capital.  For instance, an analysis of
"Neo-Liberalism"  -- or whatever you prefer to call it -- can give us
insight into the strategic direction and divisions of our class enemy on the
international level.  In  any class conflict, a key element in the
formulation of strategy and tactics is to know the 'game plan' of your
enemy for with that knowledge it allows you to better map strategic
responses and answer the question "what is to be done?".

in solidarity, Jerry

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