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1 Sydney Ideas Key Thinkers Lecture Series Karl Marx Overheads used by John Buchanan 12 August 2009.

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Presentation on theme: "1 Sydney Ideas Key Thinkers Lecture Series Karl Marx Overheads used by John Buchanan 12 August 2009."— Presentation transcript:

1 1 Sydney Ideas Key Thinkers Lecture Series Karl Marx Overheads used by John Buchanan 12 August 2009

2 2 Introduction The pleasure of ideas and thinking Arts revival Consumer-driven approach Question: Why is Marx still relevant and exciting?

3 3 The Challenge: Where do you begin? Marx as historical figure Marx as political influence Academic Marxism Industry The two Marxs Revolutionary / activist Researcher / analyst

4 4 Bases for evaluation Disciplines: history, law and economics Outlook of an applied labour market researcher Former environment, student and union activist Understanding social reality ie contributions to analysis/systematic thinking Case studies from the world of work

5 5 Structure of Presentation Essentials of his life and politics The essentials of his analytical legacy Social philosophy Historical materialism Political economy Assessing his analytical legacy analytical outlook (ie predisposition) analytical leads (ie history and political economy) analytical mode (ie epistemology) analytical limits (ie closures) Conclusion

6 6 Essentials of his life Remarkable career Remarkable support (friend + wife) Remarkably common weaknesses

7 7 Analytical Essentials (I) : Social Philosophy Connoisseur of paradox + contradiction => grasping dialectal dynamics Key human traits - need to consume - ability to produce Key features of human existence - scarcity - surplus Distinctiveness of human potential - capable of so much more - projective consciousness

8 8 Marxs Essentials (II): Historical Materialism Projective Consciousness Cooperates in setting of scarcity and surplus Forces of production - materials - technology - labour Mode of production - Asiatic - Ancient - Feudal - Capitalist Politics Ideology + + Law Culture Superstructure Relations of Production ie property relations Social formation

9 9 Example: Brenner on role of the peasantry – causality contingent Analytical Essentials (II): Historical Materialism

10 10 Marxs great project Distinctiveness of capitalism: world of commodities Three distinct dynamics of capitalism: –trade cycle [Capital Vol I] –growth dynamics [Capital Vol II] –falling rate of profit [Capital Vol III] Analytical Essentials (III): Political Economy

11 11 Markets long predate capitalism –but primarily for use values –C M C Under capitalism markets predominate –Overwhelming for exchange value –M C M Distinctiveness of Capitalism: outwardly a world of commodity exchange

12 12 Profits Employment Unemployment WagesProfits New Technology Investment Employment Wages [Capital Vol I] Trade Cycle: understanding booms/busts

13 13 Understanding how output, income and expenditure rise (Capital Vol II) Two Sector example: capital goods and consumption goods (ie Departments I+II) Key issue: flow of capital, labour and surplus investment, wages and profits : provided capital and labour replenished + profits ploughed back in necessary ratios =>steady state growth possible Growth theory:

14 14 But challenges are real : differential rates of productivity growth between sectors : consumption patterns dont automatically adjust : surplus can be misallocated =>Potential for crisis of structural adjustment Growth theory:

15 15 Capitalists investments to profit by employment - BUT: if surplus does not rise, profits fall Wages must not rise faster than growth in productivity => Crisis in profitability is always potentially there Falling rate of profit: The Key Driver [Capital Vol III]

16 16 This is a tendency, not a certainty. Counter trends include: –New inventions cheaper goods + demand (Marx) –Mergers & acquisitions concentrations of capital and scale economies (Marx) –Wages fall below subsistence level (Earned income tax Credits) –Foreign trade: export capital, import raw materials and consumer goods (Globalisation) => Crises can be avoided Falling rate of profit: The Key Driver [Capital Vol III]

17 17 1. Concentration of means of production abolish private property 2. Labour constantly reorganised: co-operation, re-divisions of labour + united with science abolish private labour 3. Creation of a world market Capitalism grows but in a contradictory way via crises and cycles. Whether crises are terminal is an empirical not conceptual question Marxs three cardinal facts of capitalist production

18 18 Assessing the analytical legacy Predisposition Analytical leads Mode of inquiry and presentation Closures

19 19 Analytical Predisposition I The power of paradoxes non-linear thinking Understanding dynamism/tendencies and countervailing tendencies

20 20 Analytical Predisposition The great taboo: What is wrong with the private property system? ie. Questioning of established social relations Legacy - opens up space : analytically : politically/policy Example - Swedish union wages policy + Wage Earner Funds

21 21 Analytical Leads The importance of production and social surplus Legacy - offers powerful leads for inquiry Example - rising non-standard employment + accumulation based on inequality

22 years profit rates NONFARM NONFARM NONMFGR MFGR Source: Robert Brenner (UCLA) "The Boom and the "Bubble" (Verso 2002) US net profit rates, (adjusted for indirect business taxes)

23 23 Retained Earnings Dividends Interest (%) Source: Robert Brenner, The Economics of Global Turbulence, New Left Review, No 299, June, (%) Retained earnings, interest and dividends Distribution of US profits in manufacturing

24 24 Macro circuits: households and firms Composition of Demand Distribution of income Tastes Distribution System Households by Type: Size/no. of persons Economically active Welfare/private pension Composition of Employment Manufacturing/services/government Full-time/part-time Temporary/permanent Male/female Manual/non-manual Firms by Sector Manufacturing Services Public Source: Froud etal 1997, From Social Settlement to Household Lottery: Economy and Society, Vol 26, No 3, 1997 pp340-72

25 25 Analytical Mode (epistemology) Pragmatic realism Legacy - conceptual precision: historical + logical - immense appetite for the empirical - validation through practice Example - skill formation problems in Victorian manufacturing

26 26 Marxs method of inquiry 2. Historical analysis 3. Structural analysis 1. Research 4. Presentation 5. Validation

27 The Challenge for Victorian Manufacturing: Deployment Crushing Development of Labour Excess capacity Intense competition Skill impacts Direct indirect Farmers eating their seeds New organisational forms Fuels new revitalised growth path Breakdown in on + off job training Changing role of large workplaces Implications: (i) limited capacity to handle: New skill requirements Established skill requirements (ii) Victorian innovation provide future pointers Scenario A: Upward Spiral Turning the tide Building new capacity Modernising existing capacity Scenario B: Downward Spiral: steady slide of manufacturing

28 28 Method of presentation Drew on all realms of human understanding to grasp the dynamism of capitalism -Combined both science and art Capital as a work that captures all facets of social complexity -Interest in the artistic whole

29 29 Analytical Closures Technicist and reductionist (tendencies) - problem shared with liberals (eg Adam Smith) Legacy - limits analytical and political possibilities in the current situation - neglected dynamics of consumption Examples - labour as a commodity (Biernacki 1995) - consumption and status anxiety (Schor, Frank, de Botton)

30 30 Conclusion Why is Marx still relevant and exciting? Analytical predisposition opens up space Analytical categories powerful leads in inquiry Analytical approach links theory, data and practice Analytical closures: can be transcended

31 31 Conclusion Basically: Marx offers powerful pointers for understanding the past and present to better guide the struggle for a more just future

32 32 References: K.Marx & F.Engels:The Communist Manifesto, originally published 1848 K.Marx: Contribution to a Critique of Political Economy, originally published in 1859 (especially preface and introduction) Commentaries: (a)General overview Francis Wheen, Karl Marx. A Life, Fourth Estate, London, 2000 Jonathan Wolff, Why read Marx today?, Oxford UP, 2002 (b) Historical materialism John McMurtry, Structure of Marx World View, Princeton UP, 1978 (c) Political economy Michael Lebowitz, Karl Marx: The Needs of Capital vs. the Needs of Human Beings in Douglas Dowd (ed), Understanding Capitalism. Critical Analysis from Karl Marx to Amartya Sen, Pluto Press, London, 2002 pp Francis Wheen, Marxs Das Kapital. A Biography, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 2006 (d) Marxian Analysis of the current situation Meghnad Desai, Marxs Revenge. The Resurgence of Capitalism and the Death of Statist Socialism, Verso, London 2002 Robert Brenner, Towards the Precipice, London Review of Books, Volume 25, No 3, Robert Brenner, JeongSeong-jin, Overproduction not Financial Collapse is the Heart of the Crisis: The US, East Asia and the World, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol , February 7, 2009 []

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