Sraffa and Althusser Reconsidered; Neoliberalism Advancing in South Africa, England, and Greece: Volume 29
Table of contents(17 chapters)
List of Contributors
This chapter argues that the Marxian theory of exploitation underlies the concepts of surplus and deficit industries that appear in Sraffa’s (1960) Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities. This is seen from archival research of the unpublished papers of Piero Sraffa housed at the Wren Library, Trinity College, University of Cambridge. There it is shown that the origin of these concepts lies in the Marxian theory of exploitation that Sraffa developed regarding the notion of the ‘pool of profits’ the Italian economist utilized over a 14-year period from 1942 to 1956. The chapter engages in an extensive textual study of the archival evidence and then presents a simple analytical model of these relations.
Comments on Scott Carter
Sraffian's concept or metaphor of a “pool profits” is theoretically pointless and empirically irrelevant. The appropriate calculation is the variation of the equilibrium price vector along the factor price frontier.
Professor Solow’s original comment from 2007 is addressed seven years later. Here the foundational character of Sraffa’s archival material is stressed and no longer is the search for what Sraffa “really said” or much more nefariously what he “really meant” (especially as regards the relation to Marx) the endeavour pursued. This means rendering unto Sraffa what is his and using the foundations he provides from archival material to re-conceive Marxian income distribution theory and policy as a “positive” aspect of economic science.
This chapter aims at making clear growth and distribution of China’s economy 1987–2000 with fixed capital on the input-output table basis. Since fixed capital data are not sufficiently available, one has to estimate fixed capital coefficients. In the outset, this chapter outlines the Sraffa–Fujimori method, which simulates the maximum growth path and estimates the marginal fixed capital coefficients on that path. In the second place, the marginal fixed capital coefficients of China’s economy are estimated. In the third place, the wage-profit curves of China’s economy will be drawn, and we discuss some further features obtained by our observations.
A long period of capitalist crisis has amplified uneven and combined development in most aspects of political economy and political ecology in most parts of the world, with a resulting increase in the eco-social metabolism of profit-seeking firms and their state supporters. This is especially with the revival of extraction-oriented corporations, especially fossil fuel firms, which remain the world’s most profitable. What opportunities arise for as multi-faceted a critique of “extractivism” as the conditions demand? With ongoing paralysis of United Nations climate negotiators, to illustrate, the most critical question for several decades to come is whether citizen activism can forestall further fossil fuel combustion. In many settings, the extractive industries are critical targets of climate activists, for example, where divestment of stocks is one strategy, or refusing access to land for mining is another. Invoking climate justice principles requires investigating the broader socio-ecological and economic costs and benefits of capital accumulation associated with fossil fuel use, through forceful questioning both by immediate victims and by all those concerned about GreenHouse Gas emissions. Their solidarity with each other is vital to nurture and to that end, the most powerful anti-corporate tactic developed so far, indeed beginning in South Africa during the anti-apartheid struggle, appears to be financial sanctions. The argumentation for invoking sanctions against the fossil fuel industry (and its enablers such as international shipping) is by itself insufficient. Also required is a solid activist tradition. There are, in 2014, two inter-related cases in which South African environmental justice activists have critiqued multi-billion dollar investments, and thus collided with the state, with two vast parastatal corporations and with their international financiers. Whether these collisions move beyond conflicting visions, and actually halt the fossil-intensive projects, is a matter that can only be worked out both through argumentation – for example, in the pages below – and through gaining the solidarity required to halt the financing of climate change.
This chapter reviews the ongoing processes of marketisation in secondary school teaching and its further embedment through commodification of teachers’ performance. We track developments through documentary evidence from Government statements and other agency reports and unstructured interviews with teachers’ union representatives in the South West of England. Following Carter and Stevenson (2012) we begin by introducing the labour process debate concerning teachers’ productive labour to provide the backdrop for the argument that teachers’ work is increasingly commodified and judged along neoliberalised requirements. Commodification has taken place through measurement of abstract standards constructed by associating individual teachers with their pupils’ achievements, as well as subjective assessment of teacher behaviour judged against newly introduced ‘Teacher Standards’. We argue that this attempted quantification of teacher output is constructed, in Marxist terms, to accommodate to the ‘socially necessary labour time’ and to indirectly maximise work ‘output’ for individual teachers through a process of standardisation of processes involved in task completion. We attempt to define new ways of measuring teachers’ work through the lens of abstract labour and link such processes to workplace alienation. In such fashion, teachers are subject to work intensification, increased monitoring and surveillance, further standardisation of work and weakening of creative autonomy leading to intensified alienation from the professional nature of the job.
Austerity in Greece has produced the ostensibly counterproductive effect of throwing the country into a deeper depression and rendering it more difficult to repay its debts. I address this apparent paradox by examining both the integration of Greece into the European Monetary Union and post-crisis austerity measures with a particular focus on the Greek credit system. I do so by employing a historical materialist framework focusing on Marx’s concept of ‘fictitious capital’, capital not backed by a commodity transaction, but by a claim on future value. I argue that, while the crisis is overdetermined, one hitherto unexplored dimension is the rapid expansion of the Greek credit system in the 1990s and 2000s. More specifically, Greek banks expanded to neighbouring countries, and borrowing by households and firmed spiked dramatically after Greece adopted the Euro, but a number of domestic political-economic factors acted as drags to this process. In this context, I argue that the crisis has served as an opportunity to impose a radically accelerated restructuring of the Greek economy in line with the ideal neoliberal utopia. This can be understood as one of the three responses to a crisis of fictitious capital: internal devaluation, asset devaluation or upward. However, the success of this project is far from guaranteed, so far the austerity project pursued by the troika has failed to replace the old Greek balance of social forces that have dominated the post-junta political economy of Greece.
This chapter undertakes one re-evaluation of Louis Althusser’s philosophical legacy for modern Marxism. While Althusser self-consciously undertook to defend the scientific character of Marxism and so permanently establish it on a firm footing, many of his closest followers eventually exited the Marxian paradigm for a post-structuralism post-Marxism. We will argue that this development was rooted in Althusser’s initial procedure as he attempted to ground Marxism’s scientificity in an epistemological argument whose main referent was Marxism itself. This initiated a circularity which was ultimately to prove fatal to Althusser’s project. Less remarked upon, however, is a further legacy of the Althusserian oeuvre, the critical realist conception of Marxism initiated by Roy Bhaskar. Bhaskar found part of his inspiration in Althusser’s successful posing of the question of Marx’s science. On the one hand, Althusser’s work can legitimately be seen as a bridge into the post-modern challenge to Marxism. On the other hand, it can be seen as clearing the ground and establishing some of the foundation for critical realism’s successful recuperation of the scientific character of Marxism.
This essay is a response to Zak Cope’s defense of the “labor aristocracy” theory of working class reformism and conservatism. Specifically, the essay engages Cope’s claims that British colonialism, imperialist investment, and transnational “monopoly” corporations have accrued “surplus-profits” that have underwritten the existence of a “labor aristocracy” historically, and that “unequal exchange” today has transformed almost the entirety of the working classes of the global North into a labor aristocracy. We conclude with a presentation of an alternative explanation of working class reformism and conservatism.
The issue of the existence and persistence of a labour aristocracy in advanced capitalist countries is connected with the emergence and persistence of an extremely unequal international economic order. The emergence of that order is the direct result of capitalist colonialism. That colonialism helped garner and control resources for the pioneering capitalist countries, which also emerged as the top imperialist countries of the world. The colonial resources were used to support and augment the profits of the capitalist class, but after the immiserizing phase of industrialization had passed, they also helped increase the incomes of workers in the advanced capitalist countries. Workers’ struggles and the threat of such struggles in some phases of development of capitalism led to increases in their incomes. However, there are instances in which the ruling class in the USA and UK deliberately used the lure of private property or acquisition of colonies to try and get their support. Thus, the debate between Post and Cope can only be resolved by invoking the complexities of the patterns of exploitation and governance under actually existing capitalism.
The essay is a short response to Charles Post’s reflections on my critique of his work on the theory of the labour aristocracy, challenging Post’s denial of the existence of imperialism and its transformation of the global class structure over time and insisting upon the correctness of the idea that workers in the global North constitute a labour aristocracy and a bulwark of global capitalist rule.
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