Contradictions: Finance, Greed, and Labor Unequally Paid: Volume 28


Table of contents

(13 chapters)
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List of Contributors

Pages vii-viii
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Analyzing how the post-Soviet transition interacts with the crisis of market finance exhibits a new “greed-based economic system” in the making. Asset grabbing is at its core and hinders capital accumulation. All the various privatization schemes have triggered off asset grabbing, asset stripping, and asset tunneling. A global contagion of such behavior has spread the power and cohesion of managers/shareholders (oligarchs) worldwide. Financial asset grabbing is less straightforward, though much widespread, and operates in financial markets through new financial products, securitization, firms buying their own shares, hedge funds, stock price manipulation, short selling, and the distribution of stock options.Shadow banking, and more generally a global informal economy, results from grabbing strategies in financial markets that breach the formal rules of capitalism. In alleviating and circumventing the rules, the oligarchy paves the way for economic malpractices and crime, calling capitalist laws into question.In such context, systemic greed underlies unconstrained maximization of relative wealth, for which asset grabbing is a rational means, in a winner-take-all economy. At the present stage of our research, a greed-based economy cannot yet be theoretically defined as a transition either to a new phase of capitalism or to another different system.

The central hypothesis to be tested is the relevance of gold in the determination of the value of the US dollar as an international reserve currency after 1971. In the first section, the market value of the US dollar is analysed by looking at new forms of value (financial derivative products), the dollar as a safe haven, the choice of a standard of value and the role of special drawing rights in reforming the international monetary system. Based on dimensional analysis, the second section analyses the definition and meaning of a numéraire for international currency and the justification for a variable standard of value based on a commodity (gold). Then follows the theoretical foundation for the empirical and econometric analysis used later. The third section is devoted to the specification of an econometric model and a graphical analysis of the data. It is clear that an inverse relation exists between the value of the US dollar and the price of gold. The fourth section shows the estimations of the different specifications of the model including linear regression and cointegration analysis. The most important econometric result is that the null hypothesis is rejected in favour of a significant link between the price of gold and the value of the US dollar. There is also a positive relationship between gold price and inflation. An inverse statistically significant relation between gold price and monetary policy is shown by applying a dynamic model of cointegration with lags.

This essay demonstrates that US economist Charles Post’s attempted rebuttal of the ‘labour aristocracy’ thesis is both theoretically and empirically flawed. Defending the proposition that colonialism, capital export imperialism and the formation of oligopolies with global reach have, over the past century and more, worked to sustain the living standards of a privileged upper stratum of the international working class, it rejects Post’s assertion that the existence of such cannot be proven. The essay concludes with a working definition of this ‘labour aristocracy’, setting the concept within the field of global political economy and reclaiming its relevance to the Marxist tradition.

This article aims to discuss the effects of unpaid reproductive labour on labour productivity and production. We make use of a Marxist approach, recognising in its method and categories the necessary and adequate tools in order to disclose reality. Capitalism is regarded as patriarchal, and patriarchy as a set of social relations that dominate women and women’s labour-power for the benefit of men and capital. We argue that unpaid reproductive labour involves both class and gender struggles, which affect in a contradictory manner the capitalist accumulation process. Such assertion is reached by using an analytical instrument (based on linear algebra) developed in order to observe the impact that an insufficient fulfilment of the workers’ necessities has on labour productivity and production.

This paper offers a framework for understanding the financial system using Marx’s theory of value. It examines how to interpret the Marxist concepts of the rate of profit and fictitious capital when analysing the financial sector, showing how accounting terms such as ‘return on equity’ and ‘leverage’ can also be understood in this context. The analysis argues that the capitalist system’s rate of profit should be conceptualised in a way that includes finance, but that one should not mix up the accumulation of financial assets with the accumulation of advanced capital. While the costs of finance are negative for the system’s average rate of profit, the paper concludes by noting how this is not inconsistent with financial operations being very profitable for imperialist powers that can use the financial system to appropriate surplus value from elsewhere in the global economy.

Popular understandings of the financial crisis tend to focus on the rents extracted by elite personnel in the financial sector. Professional discussions, however, have addressed the faulty assumptions underlying theory and practice – in particular, the assumption that returns to financial assets follow the Gaussian distribution, in the face of much empirical evidence that these have power law distributions with far higher kurtosis. It turns out that the power law tails of returns to financial assets are also a feature of the distribution of company rates of profit, a discovery that stems from proposals to ‘dissolve’ the traditional transformation problem by abandoning the condition of a uniform rate of profit and instead considering its distribution.Marx himself was aware of the importance of considering the distributional properties of economic variables, based on his reading of Quetelet. In fact, heavy-tailed distributions characterise a wide range of variables in capitalist economies, the best-known probably being the Paretian tail component in distributions of income and wealth. Nor is this simply an empirical fact – such distributions emerge readily from a range of agent-based simulations.Capitalist economies are, in a particular technical sense, complex self-organising systems perpetually on the brink of crisis. This modern understanding is prefigured in Marx’s discussion of how the compulsive character of social relations emerges from the atomistic exercise of human free will in commercial society. The developing literature of probabilistic Marxism successfully applies these insights to the wider fields of econophysics and complexity, demonstrating the continuing relevance of Marx’s thought.

Theories of the business cycle can be classified into two main groups, exogenous and endogenous, according to the way they explain economic fluctuations – either as responses of the economy to factors that are external (exogenous shocks) or as upturns and downturns of the economic system internally generated (by endogenous factors). In endogenous theories, investment is generally a key variable to explain the dynamic status of the economy. This essay examines the role of investment in endogenous theories. Two contrasting views on how changes in investment and profitability push the economy towards expansion or contraction are represented by the insights of Kalecki, Keynes, Matthews and Minsky versus those of Marx and Mitchell. Hyman Minsky claimed that investment ‘calls the tune’ to indicate that investment is the only variable not determined by other variables, so that future profits, investment and the dynamic status of the economy are determined by current investment and investment in the near past. However, this hypothesis does not appear to be supported by available empirical data for 251 quarters of the US economy. Statistical evidence rather supports the hypothesis of causality in the direction of profits determining investment and, in this way, leading the economy towards boom or bust.

This article tries to introduce product innovation into Marxist theory of capital accumulation. Although in Grundrisse Marx has already foreseen the importance of product innovation in overcoming the limits to capital originated from the production of relative surplus value, mainstream Marxist theories of capital accumulation have up till now made few endeavours to envisage this problem. It is argued in this chapter that to introduce product innovation into Marxist theory of accumulation depends on a reconstruction of the fundamental contradictions in capital accumulation, that is the contradiction between production of surplus value and realisation of surplus value, combined with the contradiction between exchange value and use value as the driving force in its development. The production of relative surplus value based on process innovation and consequent productivity enhancement, given any specific use value, will lead to overproduction, that is the intensification of those fundamental contradictions in accumulation, which nevertheless could be mitigated by introducing product innovation. In evaluating critically the contribution by Mandel in his long waves theory, we further argue, following the lead of neo-Schumpeterians, that there is a possibility for radical product innovations to be at least semi-endogenously induced in capital accumulation, and thus paving the way for a long boom of capitalism.

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Research in Political Economy
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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