The Marxist theory of economic crises in capitalism – part one

There are counter-tendencies but they do not overcome the tendency, the law as such, indefinitely. Why? Well, first, there is a limit to the rate of surplus value (24 hours) and there is no limit to the expansion of the organic composition of capital. Second, there is a ‘social limit’ to a rise in the rate of surplus value, namely labour (workers’ struggles) and society (social legislation and custom) set a minimum ‘social’ living standard and hours of work etc. This is the essence of class struggle under capitalism.

Michael Roberts Blog

Last May, at the Marx ist Muss conference in Berlin, I debated with Professor Michael Heinrich on whether Marx had a coherent theory of crises under capitalism that could be tested empirically.  Heinrich’s view, best expressed in an article he had written for Monthly Review Press in 2014, was that Marx did not have a coherent theory of crisis and, anyway, it cannot be tested as we only have official capitalist statistics.  For something to read during this ‘Xmas week’, here is a revised version of my speech in that debate.  The first part deals with the question of whether Marx had a coherent theory of crises or not.

Why do we care about the theory of crises? 

Those active in the struggles of labour against capital internationally may wonder why some like me spend so much time turning over the ideas of Marx and others on why…

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