the persistent fall in profitability underlying the current crisis

by Andrew Kliman

I have just released a new study of the rates of profit of U.S. corporations, 1929-2007, with emphasis on the period since the early 1980s. It’s entitled “The Persistent Fall in Profitability Underlying the Current Crisis: New Temporalist Evidence.


You can obtain the text, and an accompanying spreadsheet file containing data and graphs, by clicking on the link. Continue reading “the persistent fall in profitability underlying the current crisis”

fictitious capital and credit schemes

This talk given by Michael Egoavil at the Left Forum 2009 panel “Marx’s ‘Capital’ and the Economic Crisis” argues against the demand for state ownership of banks. Michael can be reached at

Today I’m going to be discussing Marx’s theory of fictitious capital and its relation to real capital accumulation. Along the way I’m going to focus on Marx’s seldom-read analysis of a French bank known as the Credit Mobilier, in which this theory played a fundamental role. I’ll conclude with some thoughts on how this relates to socialist politics today.

In the third volume of Capital, Marx discusses what he calls “fictitious capital” – what we know as “securities.” Essentially these are titles to streams of income, which are treated as commodities and bought and sold on financial markets. There are significant differences between types of securities. Some represent corporate debts, as with bonds, some represent consumer debts, as with mortgage backed securities, and others represent capital investments, as with shares of stock. But the common aspect of all these different securities is that they all give their owners a right to a stream of income, hopefully leaving them with more money than they started off with. The security owner therefore looks upon his security as capital. Continue reading “fictitious capital and credit schemes”

review of the left press july/august 2009

by Nathan Coombs

It is a well-worn cliché to decry the separation of theory and practice on the Left.

Firstly, you are meant to start by pointing to the specialised jargon and stuffy scholasticism of academic Marxism – a well-deserved reproach in my opinion; at least for anyone who has picked up a text by Theodor Adorno, or, god forbid, the yawn inducing post-Marxist procrastinations of Jurgen Habermas.

Secondly, you are then meant to imply that if only academic Leftists could remedy this state of affairs some sort of revolutionary synergy (praxis) would magically transform the situation – an attitude that could be surmised as “make your works ‘accessible’; take responsibility to lead the vanguard!”

The reality however is surely more mundane and ego deflationary. That is, more mundane in the sense that academic Leftism is a generally a closed circuit of thought in a professional debating chamber. And more deflationary, most people simply don’t have the time to keep up with it all – why should they?

Or perhaps worst of all there is the stinging sense in which we could take Louis Althusser’s idea of Marxist knowledge after Marx[i]: only a transformative movement that takes action and is thrown into a directly political situation can create knowledge which does not dissolve into idealist speculation. If we take Althusser seriously, then the best academic Marxists can seek to do is describe the situation, give class and production oriented historiographies, and provide critique. The separation of theory and practice is inevitable.

In any case, this unresolved apologia out of the way, what I want to do in this regular column for The Commune is to take a critical reading of the main (non-specialist) Left journals to at least help provide a short-cut to the best of the best and the best of the worst out there. Continue reading “review of the left press july/august 2009”

on the roots of the economic crisis and some proposed solutions

Andrew Kliman, author of Reclaiming Marx’s Capital, spoke at our London forum on ‘Causes and Implications of the Economic Crisis’ on Wednesday 8th July. For those who missed Andrew’s excellent talk, this article explains some of his positions on the crisis.

Some prominent radical economists and non-economists have denied that Marx’s theory of the tendential fall in the rate of profit helps to explain the current economic crisis. I want to begin by explaining why they dismiss this theory, and then argue, to the contrary, that the current crisis does have a lot to do with the tendential fall in the rate of profit as analyzed by Marx.


In the 1970s, as an outgrowth of the New Left, and because of the global economic crisis of that decade, there was a renewal of scholarship that attempted to reclaim Marx’s value theory and theories grounded in his value theory, such as his theory of the tendential fall in the rate of profit and his theory of capitalist economic crisis. But these efforts met with a strong reaction, in the form of a resurgent myth that Marx’s value theory and law of the tendential fall in the rate of profit had been proved internally inconsistent. It needs to be stressed that the resurgence of this myth of inconsistency came from within the Left; almost all of the critics of Marx’s value theory in this period, and ever since, have been Marxist or Sraffian economists. Continue reading “on the roots of the economic crisis and some proposed solutions”