I would like to thank the editors of the International Socialist Reviewfor the opportunity to participate in the exchange between Jonah Birch and Paul Heideman (ISR 90, July–August 2013) and Neil Davidson (ISR 91, Winter 2013-14) on so-called “Political Marxism.” Neil Davidson is a revolutionary who has made significant contributions to revolutionary socialist analysis, and with whom I share a commitment to the politics of socialism from below—to the self-emancipation of the working class.1There are clearly sharp disagreements on historical and theoretical questions that need to be discussed. Such comradely debate is necessary to the renewal of historical materialism, an instrument for understanding and transforming the contemporary world.
In his critique of what I prefer to call Capital-centric Marxism, Davidson raises four points.2 First, he points to what he calls the “political indeterminacy” of Political Marxism. Next, Davidson challenges Robert Brenner and Ellen Meiksins Wood’s reading of Marx, in particular Capital and the Grundrisse. Third, Davidson asserts that defenders of Capital-centric Marxism have an unrealistic conception of human nature as intrinsically resistant to capitalism. Finally, he challenges our insistence that the relative separation of the political and economic is a defining characteristic of capitalism as a mode of production, arguing this leads us to confusion about capitalist imperialism and the experience of the Soviet Union, China, and other so-called “socialist societies.”
The relationship of theory and politics Davidson points to what he calls the “political indeterminacy” of Capital-centric Marxism, arguing, quite correctly, that “not all proponents are revolutionaries.”3 This should not be surprising. There is no one-to-one correspondence between one’s stance on theoretical questions and one’s political positions. For example, most proponents of “underconsumptionist” theories of capitalist crisis, which emphasize purported insufficiencies in demand, tend to support social-democratic or Keynesian “demand-management” policies. They are, quite simply, reformists.4 However, one of the most sophisticated defenders of underconsumptionism was Rosa Luxemburg,5a leading revolutionary who produced the first, coherent Marxist analysis of the roots of reformism in the emergence of a layer of full-time officials in the pre-World War I socialist and labor movements.6
“Productive Forces Marxism” displays the same political indeterminacy as Capital-centric Marxism. The defenders of a historical materialism that privileges humanity’s struggle to lessen the burden of labor through the use of tools as the moving force of history range across a broad array of political positions on the left. On one hand are revolutionaries such as Davidson and the late Chris Harman.7 On the other, are the leading figures of the “orthodox Marxist” center of the Second International, Plekhanov and Kautsky.8Kautsky, of course, was the first to formulate the strategy of “combining” extra-parliamentary organizations of popular struggle (workers’ councils) with capitalist state institutions9 that is associated today with Ralph Miliband.10 Other advocates of productive forces Marxism—the “Analytic Marxists”11— occupy the same “almost exclusively scholastic universe in which ferocious declarations of adherence to what they take to be the Marxist method are completely detached from any socialist practice, resulting in a kind of academic sectarianism” as much as some advocates of Political Marxism.12
Reading Marx More substantially, Davidson challenges the Capital-centric Marxist reading of Marx, in particular his mature writings in the Grundrisseand Capital.13 Brenner and Wood have long argued that Marx’s understanding of capitalism and history did not emerge fully blown in 1846 or 1848.14 Instead, Marx’s ideas evolved through his historical and theoretical investigations and his engagement with the workers’ movement of the mid-nineteenth century. Marx initially attempted to integrate the work of Adam Smith and other Enlightenment thinkers into his emerging revolutionary theory. In such writings as The German Ideology and The Communist Manifesto, Marx viewed capitalism as a developed form of what Smith had called “commercial society.” Not surprisingly, Marx’s account of the origins of capitalism in his early work corresponded to what Wood and Brenner have called the “commercialization model”—the transition to capitalism, which exists in “embryo” in trading cities, is the result of the growth of the productivity of labor and the ensuing generalization of trade in feudal Europe. It is our contention that Marx’s views changed fundamentally when he drafted the Grundrisse, as he came to view capitalism as a distinct set of social property relations with unique rules of reproduction/laws of motion. The transition to capitalism ceased to be the result of the development of the productive forces and/or spread of trade, but of the emergence of specific social relations of production as the result of class struggles in Europe in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.
While not wanting to engage with Davidson in a battle of “dueling quotations,” it is important to point out that most of his citations from the Grundrisse and Capital do not necessarily support his assertion that Marx maintained the perspectives he develops in the German Ideology, the Manifesto and, especially, the 1859 Preface to the Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. The quotation from Capital, Volume III, where “Marx gives what is perhaps the fullest statement of the position in his entire output” clearly privileges “the specific economic form in which unpaid surplus labor is pumped out of the direct producers”—social-property relations—as determiningall other relations of rulers and ruled in class societies, including their relationship to nature through the use of tools. Equally important, Marx constantly uses the term “corresponds” rather than “determines” in the Grundrisse and Capital when he discusses the relationship of the productive forces to productive relations.15
More important than parsing quotations from Marx is examining how he constructs his argument about the relationship of social property relations (social relations of production) to the labor-process (forces of production) under capitalism. In part 4 of Capital, Volume I, Marx discusses the characteristic form of capitalist exploitation—the production of relative surplus-value through the introduction of labor-saving tools and methods. He concretizes this analysis of relative surplus-value with an historical examination of the development of the capitalist labor-process. Marx begins by noting that capital takes hold of the already existing productive forces, in the forms of household production, simple cooperation and manufacture, it inherits from precapitalist forms of social labor. He then presents a detailed, painstaking historical description of how capitalist social relations—in which both nonproducers, capitalists, and direct producers, wage-laborers, must reproduce themselves through market competition—leads to the progressive transformation of the labor process through mechanization and the development of modern industry.16
Similarly, in Marx’s discussion of capitalism’s unique tendency toward crisis, the falling rate of profit, in Capital, Volume III, it is capitalist social property relations that determine the development of the productive forces. Capitalist social relations, in particular real capitalist competition, compels each capitalist to cut their individual costs through mechanization, despite the fact that the rising organic composition of capital leads to a secular, generalized decline in profitability for all capitals.17 Put simply, in those segments of his most mature, scientific work, Capital, where Marx analyzes the relationship of productive relations and productive forces under capitalism, it is the social property relations of capitalism that determine the development of the forces of production.
What, then, should we make of Marx’s comments in the 1859 Preface to the Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, which Plekhanov described as “the prolegomena of any future sociology that would come forward as a science”?18 There are a number of good reasons for Marxists to reject the canonical version of historical materialism contained in the 1859 Preface. First, there are important questions about its scientific status. The intellectual historian, Arthur Prinz carefully reviewed the strictures Prussian and other German state censors placed on the publication of critical and radical materials.19 Prinz concludes that the 1859 Preface, in particular its emphasis on the transhistorical development of the productive forces at the expense of the role of class struggle, may have been written to elude censorship rather than to elaborate Marx’s understanding of history. Second, this variant of historical materialism has been unable to identify the selection mechanism that guarantees that the new class relations that emerge historically are more amenable to the development of the productivity of labor through the use of tools.20
Human nature Davidson also objects to what he believes are Capital-centric Marxists’ particular understanding of human nature. He argues that our arguments that noncapitalist peasants, in particular, had to be compelled to specialize output, introduce labor-saving tools and methods, and accumulate rests on a notion of human nature “that sees it as being uninterested in economic development.” For Davidson, “human beings may not have a propensity for capitalism, but they can develop such a propensity under certain conditions and without compulsion.”21 I, for one, believe that Marxism, of any variety, must embrace a notion of “human nature.” The human species’ unique biological characteristics—the ability to stand upright, opposable thumbs, and a large and complex brain—give us our unique social characteristics—language, the necessity of forging social bonds to ensure our survival, and the ability to use tools to alter nature according to a conscious plan.22 As Terry Eagleton put it, “Because of the nature of our material bodies, we are needy, laboring, sociable, sexual, communicative, self-expressive animals who need one another to survive, but who come to find a fulfillment in companionship over and above its social usefulness.”23
These material realities lead to certain universal human aspirations. Humans, collectively, seek the greatest freedom, equality, and material security. These desires produce a human morality that rejects insecurity, exploitation, and oppression—leading to the universalization of struggle as part of the human condition. Clearly, the human yearning for security leads us, as a species, to seek to reduce the burdens of labor through the use of tools; which generates the weak tendency toward the development of the productive forces that Capital-centric Marxists have long recognized.24 However, it is our contention that the social relations between people—social property relations—determines the relationship of humans to nature through the use of tools—the productive forces. In other words, social property relations shape how humans in any given society attempt to secure the greatest freedom, equality, and material security.
In the case of precapitalist peasant households, their aspiration to material security mitigated against their voluntary adaptation of capitalist social-property relations.25 Capitalist production in agriculture, based on the introduction of labor-saving tools and methods, requires both a certain level of product specialization and a scale of production. The level of specialization required for the introduction of labor-saving tools and methods requires the sacrifice of much of the peasants’ traditional production of their own subsistence—both foodstuffs and handicrafts like cloth, shoes, furniture, cooking implements, and the like. Abandoning “safety-first” agriculture, where household and village needs are satisfied first and only physical surpluses are marketed, was extremely risky for most peasants. In the absence either of well-developed markets in food and other consumer goods or some sort of social-welfare provisions, specializing output left the peasantry vulnerable to starvation and privation. Put simply, the peasants’ aspirations to material security under precapitalist social property relations made the adaptation of capitalist methods, in particular product specialization, irrational.
A simple thought experiment will also allow us to see why, even if a minority of peasants attempted to, they would be unable to secure the scale of production necessary to sustain capitalist social relations and labor processes. Peasants as a class were not dependent upon successful market competition for their economic survival. A significant minority of farmers could choose to place themselves under market discipline, specializing production in response to market signal and introducing labor-saving tools and methods. However, their more recalcitrant neighbors would be under no economic compulsion to do so—they would not face any of the usual market penalties (loss of market share, unsold product, and the possible loss of landed property) for their failure. Those who continued to act as noncapitalist peasants could ignore market signals and still keep their land. As a result, the land and labor power of the “subsistence oriented” majority would not become available to the “market oriented” minority. The ability of the enterprising farmers, on the one hand, to consolidate landholdings large enough to use new fertilizers, crop rotation methods, or implements, to hire their poorer neighbors; and, on the other, to raise the productivity of agriculture sufficiently to allow an ever-growing portion of the population to work in industry, would be severely limited.
The separation of the economic and political Davidson makes a number of substantial criticisms of the Capital-centric Marxist insistence that the separation of the economic and political—the establishment of a “public” political authority separate from the “private” sphere of exploitation and accumulation—is a necessary feature of capitalism. Unfortunately, he also engages in some, all too typical, caricatures of our argument. His substantial criticisms involve two claims. First, the notion that capitalism requires the separation of the state and accumulation makes Political Marxism incapable of understanding modern, capitalist imperialism. In particular, we are unable to explain either the establishment of colonial empires in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries or the two interimperialist wars of 1914–1918 and 1939–1945. Second, Davidson argues that our insistence that capitalism is the first mode of production in human history regulated by a purely economic dynamic—market competition—renders us incapable of understanding the dynamics of the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, China, Cuba, and Vietnam. As he put it, “Political Marxism is incompatible with the theory of state capitalism.”26 His less substantive criticisms flow from a distortion of our position, in which the separation of the political and the economic means that capitalism can reproduce itself without violence and coercion.
The Political Marxist insistence that the capitalist state is a sphere of “public” and “impersonal authority” institutionally separated from class production based on exploitation flows from Marx’s analysis of capitalism in Capital. For Marx, capitalism is the first mode of production in human history that does not require “extra-economic” (nonmarket) coercion to guarantee the production and appropriation of surplus labor, or the distribution of labor and means of production between branches of production. Under feudalism, for example, political and ideological coercion is required to extract surplus from the peasantry in the forms of rents in labor, kind or money; and peasant communities determined the broad outlines of the distribution of labor and tools among different crops, animals, and handicrafts. Under capitalism, both producers and nonproducers must reproduce themselves through the marketplace for the first time in human history. The operation of the law of value—the overarching compulsion on all producers to continually economize labor-time in production through the introduction of tools and machinery; and the mechanism that distributes labor and means of production among branches of industry on the basis of relative labor-productivity—requires the separation of the political and economic. Put another way, the specificity of the capitalist state is not the relationship of its leading personnel to the capitalist class, as Miliband implied in his classic The State in Capitalist Society.27Rather its specificity is that the state appears as a public, impersonal power separate from the process of accumulation and exploitation, which attempts to guarantee the conditions for the reproduction of capitalist social-property relations.
The separation of the economic and the political to the capitalist mode of production is what has allowed Wood to make “important theoretical contributions, above all, in relation to the nature of democracy under capitalism.”28 The absence of extra-economic coercion makespossible citizenship and suffrage for the direct producers, while simultaneously ensuring that working-class citizenship and voting rights do not “significantly modify class inequality.”29 To reconcile capitalism and democratic forms, capitalists radically transformed the meaning and scope of democracy from its original meaning in ancient Athens—substantial popular power over social production relations.30 Capital first developed notions of “representative democracy” where popular power was alienated to the “men of property and intelligence” who would represent the “people,” and later the idea of liberal democracy:
The effect was to shift the focus of “democracy” away from the active exercise of popular power to the passive enjoyment of constitutional and procedural safeguards and rights, and away from the collective power of subordinate classes to the privacy and isolation of the individual citizen. More and more, the concept of “democracy” came to be identified with liberalism.31
Violence and other forms of nonmarket coercion are not necessary to the quotidian exploitation of wage labor and the dynamics of capitalist accumulation. Put another way, the presence of armed men (and today women) in the workplace is not necessary to the routine production and appropriation of surplus value under capitalism. The mere threat of unemployment is sufficient to insure that workers labor in excess of the time necessary to reproduce the equivalent of their wages. However, this does not exclude the possibilityof either legally coerced wage labor or limited capitalist state intervention in economic life in certain historical conjunctures.32 More importantly, this does not mean that capitalism is a “pacific” mode of production where violence is not necessary to the maintenance of what Marx called the “general conditions of production.” Clearly, both state and private (private police in the nineteenth and twentieth century United States, paramilitaries in much of Latin America in the twentieth and twenty-first century) violence is necessary to defend capitalist dominance from working class and popular challenges from below. Similarly, as Wood has pointed out on a number of occasions, state violence is necessary to quash any and all resistance to the effects of modern capitalist imperialism, in particular in the global South.33
Clearly, this conception of the capitalist state and its relationship to capitalist accumulation raises serious questions about the classical Marxist theories of imperialism, in particular those of Lenin and Bukharin.34 These theories were formulated in a period when capitalism was far from universal, a period when “major colonial powers were engaged in inter-imperialist rivalries to divide and re-divide the territories of a largely non-capitalist world.”35 Thus Wood has questioned Lenin and Bukharin’s claims that capitalist imperialism necessarily required either colonization or direct military-political conflict amongst capitalist powers. This is a criticism very similar to that of one of the founders of the International Socialist tradition, Michael Kidron. His “Imperialism—Highest Stage But One” challenged Lenin’s claims that capitalist imperialism was characterized by the universal fusion of banking and industrial capital into finance capital, the division of the world into colonies and spheres of influence, and the export of capital from the global North to the global South. 36Kidron sought to preserve the notion of monopoly capital, a notion that has also come under considerable theoretical and empirical criticism since the late 1970s.37
Clearly, there are crucial questions that need further historical and theoretical investigation concerning capitalist imperialism. First, we need to clarify why colonialism played such a role in the classical phase of imperialism. Specifically, we need to assess the relationship of the establishment of colonial state administrations to the formation of capitalist social property relations in parts of the global South. Second, we need to theoretically derive interstate competition from the dynamics of real capitalist competition—which always involves one capital gaining market share and profitability at the expense of other capitals38—without falling into the theoretically problematic notion that capitalism has “two dynamics,” one economic and the other territorial.39 However, we need to approach these questions free of the problematic claims of the classical Marxist analyses of imperialism.
Clearly, there is not space or time to engage the broad ranging debate amongst anti-Stalinist Marxists about the nature of the Soviet Union and similar societies in the twentieth century—an historical question, and not one that should have ever been the basis for separate political organizations. Clearly, the notion that societies where the working class was politically disorganized and socially atomized were “workers’ states” is theoretically and historically problematic.40 The capitalist class’s productive dominance is reproduced through the “dull compulsions of the market,” allowing them to rule without directly governing (Bonapartism, fascism, military dictatorships). However, the working class cannot rule without governing through democratically organized councils. Even more importantly, the fact that the working classes of Russia and Eastern Europe did not attempt to defend the “gains of October”—nationalized property, economic planning, and a state monopoly on foreign trade—against capitalist restoration in 1989-91 raise serious questions about the notions of a “degenerated” or “deformed workers’ state.”
However, the notion that these societies were some form of capitalism is also debatable.41 To claim that economies where the main means of production are allocated according to conscious planning decisions, however bureaucratic, and not according to differential profit rates and prices of production; where labor power is no longer a commodity and a state monopoly of foreign trade mediates the effects of global capitalist competition on the planned economy are capitalist is theoretically and empirically untenable. This theory, I believe, does violence both to the Marxian theory of capitalist accumulation and the empirical reality of the bureaucratic economies. Put another way, if the continuous development of the productive forces through mechanization is the defining characteristic of capitalism—the roots of both its incredible dynamism and its crisis tendencies—how can a society that imploded as a result of its chronic incapacity to develop the productivity of labor through the introduction of more complex tools and methods be, in any meaningful sense, capitalist? Whatever its limits, the notion that these societies were noncapitalist, class societies remains the best framework for understanding their dynamics and demise.42
Capital-centric Marxism and revolutionary politics While not all Capital-centric Marxists—like all Productive Forces Marxists—are revolutionaries, our theoretical perspective on the origins and dynamics of capitalism has important political implications for those of us who are revolutionary Marxists. Like other Marxists we view capitalism as the necessary precondition for a transition to socialism. However, from our perspective, this is not primarily because capitalism develops the productive forces, but because it creates a class with the capacity and interest in the abolition of capitalism and the construction of a democratic, collectivist social order—the working class. We also recognize that the contradiction between capitalism’s unique capacity to continuously develop the productivity of labor through mechanization and capitalist social relations of production necessarily produces crises of falling profitability—and periods of intensified class conflict.43 It is the necessity of crisis, rooted in capitalism’s unique laws of motion/rules of reproduction, which make reformism a fundamentally utopian political strategy.44
On the other, we firmly reject, theoretically and historically, that there is a terminal crisis of capitalism.45 Capitalist profitability can—and has repeatedly—been restored through massive waves of bankruptcies that devalorize fixed capital and radical attacks on working-class living and working conditions that increase the rate of exploitation. In other words, “without the actions of classes, parties and individuals, without conflict and struggle, social formations would be condemned to the systemic repetition of irresolvable crises.”46 Nor is socialism the only possible route out of the crises of capitalism. The twentieth century has given us examples of non-capitalist and non-socialist social forms—the bureaucratic collectivist nightmares that have masqueraded as “really existing socialism.” Just as there is no necessary direction or single path of development in natural history—there is no necessary direction or single path of development in human history.47 The Capital-centric Marxists take seriously the actual history of the twentieth century—a century of working class defeats that should lead revolutionary socialists to jettison any idea that “history is on our side.” Put another way, Capital-centric Marxism attempts to free historical materialism from all vestiges of the Marxism of the Second International, codified in Kautsky’s 1892 commentary on the German Social-Democracy’s Erfurt Program (1891), The Class Struggle where the role of conscious socialists is to “ease” the inevitable or even likely birth-pangs of a new society.48 Instead, our perspective provides a firm theoretical and historical foundation for restoring the centrality of working class self-organization and self-activity to the revolutionary socialist project.
Rosa Luxemburg, The Accumulation of Capital (New York: Monthly Review, 1968), Sections 1 and 2.
Rosa Luxemburg, Social Reform or Revolution (New York: Merit Pamphlet, 1970); The Mass Strike: The Political Party and the Trade Unions (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1971). For a critique of the alternative Marxist critique of reformism, the theory of the “labor aristocracy,” see C. Post, “Exploring Working Class Consciousness: A Critique of the Theory of the Labor Aristocracy,” Historical Materialism 18, no. 4 (2010).
Chris Harman, A People’s History of the World: From the Stone Age to the New Millennium (London: Verso Books, 2009).
Georgy V. Plekhanov, “How the Bourgeoisie Remembers Its Own Revolution,” in The Bourgeois Revolution: The Political Birth of Capitalism (New York: New York Labor News Company, 1955). Karl Kautsky, The Economic Doctrines of Karl Marx (New York: Macmillan Company, 1936).
Karl Kautsky, The Dictatorship of the Proletariat (Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press, 1964).
Ralph Miliband, Marxism and Politics (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), chapter VI.
John Roemer, ed. Analytical Marxism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986). For a Capital-centric Marxist critique of Analytical Marxism, see Ellen Meiksins Wood, “Rational Choice Marxism: Is the Game Worth the Candle?” New Left ReviewI/177 (September-October 1989).
Davidson, “Is There Anything to Defend in Political Marxism?”, 49.
My use of the term “Capital-centric Marxism” is not an attempt to fetishize Capital as something separate and apart from the rest of Marx’s work, but to emphasize the evolution of Marx’s thought and Capital’s place as the most developed scientific and historical explication of his views.
Robert P. Brenner, “Bourgeois Revolution and Transition to Capitalism,” in A. L. Beier, D. Cannadine, and J. M. Rosenheimeds., The First Modern Society (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989); Ellen Meiksins Wood, Democracy Against Capitalism: Renewing Historical Materialism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995).
Davidson, “Is There Anything to Defend in Political Marxism?”, 51.
Harry Braverman, in his classic Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the 20th Century (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1974) makes a similar argument.
Plekhanov, “Bernstein und der Materialismus.” Die neue Zeit 16, no. 2, (1898):554 cited by Gaido, “The American Path to Bourgeois Development Revisited” Science & Society 77, no. 2 (2013):228.
Arthur M. Prinz, “Background and Ulterior Motive of Marx’s ‘Preface’ of 1859,” Journal of the History of Ideas 30, no. 3 (July-September 1969): 437-450. I want to thank Neil Davidson for drawing out attention to this seminal essay in his How Revolutionary Were the Bourgeois Revolutions? (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2012), p. 676/n.4.
Vivek Chibber, “What Is Living and What Is Dead in the Marxist Theory of History.” Historical Materialism 19, no. 2 (2011): 60-91.
Davidson, “Is There Anything to Defend?” 58-59.
The following draws from Norman Geras’ classic, Marx and Human Nature: Refutation of a Legend (London: Verso Books, 1983); Nancy Holmstrom’s discussion of a Marxian morality in “Fitting Means & Ends,” Against the Current 126 (January-February 2007) [http://www.solidarity-us.org/site/node/318] and Terry Eagleton’s Why Marx Was Right (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2011), chapter 4.
Eagleton, Why Marx Was Right, 81.
See both Wood, Democracy Against Capitalism and Chibber, “What is Living and Dead.”
Davidson, relying on the work of Musgrave and Whittle, argues that segments of the English peasantry, in particular the better off yeomen farmers, willingly accepted capitalist practices and imperatives to free themselves from labor services and improve their standard of living. Spencer Dimmock in The Origins of Capitalism in England, 1400-1600 (Leiden, NV: Brill, Forthcoming) presents considerable archival and archeological evidence contradicting these claims.
Davidson, “Is There Anything to Defend?”,49.
Ralph Miliband, The State in Capitalist Society (New York: Basic Books, 1969).
Davidson, “Is There Anything to Defend ?,” 49.
Wood, Democracy Against Capitalism, 213.
Ellen Meiksins Wood, Peasant-Citizen and Slave: The Foundations of Athenian Democracy (London: Verso Books, 1997).
Wood, Democracy Against Capitalism, 227.
On the notion of coerced wage labor see my “Capitalism, Laws of Motion and Social-Property Relations,” Historical Materialism 21, no. 4 (2013). For a discussion of the limits of capitalist state intervention in the economy that is compatible with Capital-centric Marxist accounts of the separation of the political and the economic see, J. Hirsch, “The State Apparatus and Social Reproduction: Elements of a Theory of the Bourgeois State,” in J. Holloway and S. Picciotto, eds., State and Capital: A Marxist Debate (London: Edward Arnold, 1978).
See, for example, Empire of Capital (London: Verso Books, 2003), chapter 7.
See Howard Botwinick, Persistent Inequalities: Wage Disparity Under Capitalist Competition (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993)—new edition forthcoming as part of the Historical Materialism book series; and my summary of more recent material in “Exploring Working Class Consciousness,” 25–28.
Contrary to Giovanni Arrighi, The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power and the Origins of Our Times (London: Verso, 1994), 227, that Davidson cites in this argument about two types of competition (64), capitalist competition is a “battle” waged with the “heavy artillery of fixed capital.” See A. Shaikh, “Marxian Competition Versus Perfect Competition: Further Comments On the So-called Choice of Technique,” Cambridge Journal of Economics, 4 (1980) [https://docs.google.com/file/d/0BxvNb6ewL7kONTNFR0l4YWRtTTA/edit]
David Harvey, The New Imperialism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003, chapter 2.
This was the position I defended for my first twenty-five years of political and intellectual activity.
Tony Cliff, State Capitalism in Russia (London: Pluto Press, 1975); P. Binns, T. Cliff, and C. Harman, Russia: From Workers’ State to State Capitalism (London: Bookmarks, 1987).
Ernest Haberkern and Arthur Lipow, eds., Neither Capitalism Nor Socialism: Theories of Bureaucratic Collectivism (Berkeley, CA: Center for Socialist History, 2008): John Fatham and Moshe Machover, The Century of the Unexpected: A New Analysis of the Soviet Type Societies (London: Big Flame, 1979). For my analysis of the limits of bureaucratic collectivist theories, see C. Post “Ernest Mandel and the Marxist Theory of Bureaucracy,” in Gilbert Achcar, ed., The Marxism of Ernest Mandel (London: Verso, 1999), 141–142. [http://www.internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article848]
While various thinkers in our tradition disagree on the precise mechanisms of capitalist crisis, and on whether or not there was a capitalist recovery c. 1982–2007, all see capitalist crisis as a necessary feature of this mode of production. Compare Robert Brenner, The Economics of Global Turbulence, (London: Verso, 2006), David McNally, Global Slump: The Economics and Politics of Crisis and Resistance (Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2011), and Anwar Shaikh, “Explaining the Global Economic Crisis: A Critique of Brenner,” Historical Materialism 5 (1999): 103–144, and “The First Great Depression of the 21st Century,” in L. Panitch, G. Albo and V. Chibber, eds., Socialist Register 2011: The Crisis This Time (London: Merlin Press, 2010).
Robert Brenner, “The Paradox of Social Democracy: The American Case,” in M. Davis, F. Pfeil and M. Sprinker, eds., The Year Left 1985 (London: Verso Books, 1985).
Clearly, the continued reproduction of capitalist social-property relations will undermine the natural-biological basis for the survival of the human species. However, an ecological crisis would mark the end of humanity, not simply capitalism.
Daniel Ben-Said, Marx for Our Times: Adventures and Misadventures of a Critique (London: Verso Books, 2002), 269-270.
Steven Jay Gould, Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History (New York: W.W. Norton, 1990) and Full House: The Spread Of Excellence From Plato To Darwin (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1997). For a similar reading of Gould, see Ansar Fayyazuddin, “An Appreciation of Stephen Jay Gould,” Against the Current (New Series) 99, (2002) [http://www.solidarity-us.org/site/node/1054].