was Marx an underconsumptionist?
Charles Brown CharlesB at 
Mon Feb 28 16:08:09 PST 2000 

Previous message: Editorial on AFL and International Working Class 
Next message: was Marx an underconsumptionist? 
Messages sorted by: [ date ] [ thread ] [ subject ] [ author ] 
Search LBO-Talk Archives 
Limit search to: Subject & Body Subject Author 
Sort by:  Date Rank Author Subject Reverse Sort 


>>> Rakesh Bhandari <bhandari at Princeton.EDU> 02/28/00 05:41PM >>> 

Charles, you and I are agreed that Marx is here arguing that the social 
capacity for consumption is not simply people's capacity to consume but this 
capacity as governed and necessarily limited by the requirements of surplus 
value production. But if Charles included the whole passage, as well as 
interpreting it in the context of the argument as a whole in Capital 3, then I 
think it's clear the specific limit to consumption Marx holds to be 
explanatorily fundamental to a crisis of general overproduction (the very 
possibility of which was denied by classical economics) is located in surplus 
value production itself. This does not mean that underconsumption is any less 
real than overproduction (indeed they are flip sides of each other); it is to 
say that the contradiction in production is explanatorily fundamental. 


CB: My interpretation of Marx's use of the term the phrase "The ultimate reason 
for all real crises always remains the poverty and restricted consumption of 
the masses .." in an argument in volume three that is, as you say on the role 
of the FROP, is that he is describing a contradiction, and he pulls us all of 
the way back to the other aspect with "the ultimate reason". 

Also, underconsumption is rooted in PRODUCTION. Why ? It is the fact that 
workers in PRODUCTION are not paid the full value of what they produce that 
there is not effective demand for all that is produced. So, underconsumption is 
directly rooted in production. 


Since the appropriated surplus value to allow for expanded reproduction is 
short--that is, the greatest quantity of surplus value that can possibly be 
extorted from the diminished working class is no longer sufficient to augment 
the value of the accumulated capital-- workers won't be hired and the already 
produced commodity output won't be fully realized. No doubt at all this will be 
due to the poverty and the restricted consumption of the workers and especially 
the unemployed, but it is the general crisis due to an underproduction of 
surplus value that expresses itself as a problem of the realization of surplus 
value and insufficient buying power of the working population. This then helps 
to understand that crises are actually overcome with the social capacity for 
consumption actually declining relative to the accumulated capital! 


CB: Yes, but it is just as legitimate to call the workers' inability to buy 
everything as a fundamental explanation , because it is based upon Marx's most 
fundamental analysis of commodity production in Vol. l. The inability of the 
workers to buy all the commodities they produce follows directly from 
exploitation, i.e. workers only being paid for a fraction of the values they 
produce. So, I think underconsumption is a fundamental explanation based in 
Vol. 1 where the actual theory of surplus value is laid out. In other words, 
underconsumption follows directly from the nature of surplus value. 


Moreover, this is not to say that in the real world due to disproportionalities 
and partial overproductions recurrent realization problems cannot spill over 
(especially in a highly leveraged economy) to a general crisis, though such 
crises should be solvable through a redistribution of capital. For this reason 
Marx consciously and explicitly abstracts from all difficulties with 
realization in order to demonstrate a limit capital meets in surplus value 
production itself. 

As Mattick noted (and I have been draw here from his Economic Crisis and Crisis 
Theory) "If the accumulation process can be depicted in abstraction from the 
circulation process, the process of reproduction can also be traced without 
considering hte realizatin problems it encounters in reality in order to 
explain the meaning of the circuit of capital. One can find this mode of 
procedure reasonable or not; at any rate, Marx believed that although his 
absract model of the capitalist process of circulation did not correspond to 
reality in some ways, it could nevertheless contribute to a better 
understanding of reality." p.94 


CB: See my statement above for an alternative as to what "Marx believed" 


This message has been scanned for malware by SurfControl plc.

Marxism-Thaxis mailing list
To change your options or unsubscribe go to:

Reply via email to