Exchange with Michael Heinrich on Marx's Crisis Theory
The following essays are in response to Michael Heinrich’s essay, “Crisis Theory, the Law of the Tendency of the Profit Rate to Fall, and Marx’s Studies in the 1870s,” published in Monthly Review, Vol. 64, No. 11 (April 2013).
Michael Heinrich’s article is really a continuation of the argument by Monthly Review that Marx’s law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall (LTRPF) is not the main cause of economic crises.… Heinrich makes the following points: 1) Marx’s law is indeterminate; 2) it is empirically unproven and even unjustifiable on any measure of verification; 3) Engels edited Marx’s works badly, distorting his views about the law in Capital Vol. 3; 4) Marx himself, in writings during the 1870s, began to have doubts about the law as the cause of crises and started to abandon it in favour of some theory that took into account credit, interest rates and the problem of realisation (similar to Keynesian theory); 5) Marx died before he could present these revisions of his crisis theory, so there is no coherent Marxist theory of crisis.… | more |
It was Marx’s ultimate purpose, as stated in the preface to the first edition of Das Kapital, “to lay bare the economic law of motion of modern society.” It is clear that Marx regarded as his central achievement in this regard the “Law of the Falling Tendency of the Rate of Profit.” In vol.3, (p.303) he declares that: “The barrier of the capitalist mode of production becomes apparent… | more |
Heinrich’s article is mainly about the falling rate of profit and crisis theory, but another important point has to do with Marx’s logical method in Capital, and in particular with the levels of abstraction of capital in general and competition. Heinrich argues that Marx encountered difficulties in the Manuscript of 1861-63 concerning this logical structure, and as a result of these difficulties, Marx abandoned this logical structure in the final versions of Capital.… | more |
For Marx, is a rising rate of surplus value (s/v) a part of the law itself (as it is presented in chapter 13 of vol. III of Capital) or is it a counteracting factor (dealt with in chapter 14)? There is an easy way to check: we just have to read chapter 13. Marx starts his presentation with a constant rate of surplus value and shows that a rising organic composition of capital leads to a falling rate of profit (pp. 317-18, all pages from the Penguin edition of Capital). Then very quickly he includes a rising rate of surplus value in his considerations (see pp. 319, 322, 326, 327, 333, 337). At pages 333 and 337 Marx even realizes the possibility of a profit rate rising with a rising rate of surplus value, but excludes such a possibility as an “isolated case” or not realistic without going into details. It is clear that he maintains the “law itself” not only with a constant rate of surplus value but also with a rising rate of surplus value!… | more |