Capital, Exploitation and Economic Crisis

Capital, Exploitation and Economic Crisis

John Weeks

Language: English

Pages: 208

ISBN: 1138799629

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

In 2008 the capitalist world was swept by the severest crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Mainstream economics neither anticipated nor could account for this disastrous financial crisis, which required massive state intervention throughout the capitalist world. Karl Marx did anticipate this type of financial collapse, arguing that it was derivative from the ‘fetishism of commodities’ inherent in the capitalist mode of production. This book substantiates the foregoing claim by a journey from Marx’s analysis of commodities to the capitalist crisis of the twenty-first century.

The book demonstrates that Marx's framework (1) demonstrates that capitalism is but one historical form of class society among many; (2) explains the transition from pre-capitalist to capitalist society; (3) reveals the concrete operation of a capitalist economy; and (4) shows why others would explain the capitalist economy in alternative theoretical frameworks. The central element in his framework from which all else derives is ‘the theory of value’. This book is not an exercise in the history of thought. It is an attempt to analyze the nature of contemporary capitalist society. While Marx’s analysis of capitalism has implications for political action, these need not lead one to embrace revolution in place of reform, though it can and has provided the analytical foundation for both. Marx’s analysis of capitalism is a coherent whole, and meaningful insights cannot be obtained by extracting elements from it.

Weeks starts out by looking at the nature of capitalism and an analysis circulation, money and credit unfold from the theory of value. The nature and inherent necessity of competition are demonstrated in chapter eight. A consequence of competition, expressed in the movement of capital, is technical change, the contradictory impact of which is explained in chapter nine. This is brought together with the other elements of value theory (money, credit and competition) in chapter ten, where economic crises are treated in detail. The final chapter applies the theory of crisis to the extreme financial disturbances of the 2000s.

This book should be of interest to students and researchers of economics, politics and sociology.

Capital & Class (volume 39 number 3)


















worker receives the exchange value of labor power, then uses this to regenerate that labor power through the purchase and consumption of commodities. The capitalist obtains the power over the use value of labor power, and by doing so takes ownership of what workers manufacture, construct and cultivate. Separated from the means of producing, workers sell the capacity work and by doing so surrender the fruits of their labor. The apparently simple concept of labor power reveals the source of

capitalist producers are formally integrated into a system of social production. Price, the denomination of value in units of the money commodity, is the form in which value manifests itself, but price need not equal value, except momentarily. Each capitalist producer marshals the means of production and labor power by advancing money. The price each capitalist receives for her/his commodity is the signal of the extent to which her/his productive capital was used according to the norm for that

considered in detail the relationship between the rate of surplus value and the composition of capital, but did so by use of the distinction between the value composition and the organic composition, which renders the analysis dynamic.17 The tendency and value formation The tendency of the rate of profit to fall manifests itself in an actual fall in the aggregate rate of profit as a result of the process of value formation. The actual fall results from quantitative difference between the values

implied by the most advanced forces of production that are in use. The process of accumulation is a process of dynamic uneven development, during which technical change repeatedly lays the basis for new sets of values. This uneven development generates its compensating force, the economic crisis. During the crisis, socially obsolete means of production are physically discarded and socially devalued. The new values latent in the new productive forces emerge to rule exchange. As a consequence, the

spectacularly wrong embracement of the propaganda of financial capital required one to discard common sense, as well as Marx’s theory of value. That Marxists might take seriously the possibility that capitalist crises were a thing of the past is a tribute to the powers of obfuscation generated by the production and circulation of commodities.1 Capital can, indeed, insure and protect itself against many disasters, but those arising from its own international contradictions are not among them.

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