Some critical remarks on Kliman's proposition of increasing workers' income

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anatti
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Sep 27 2012 12:42
Some critical remarks on Kliman's proposition of increasing workers' income

Having read Andrew Kliman's latest book "The failure of capitalist production" I have some doubts about his proposition that the real income of workers in the USA has increased over the last 30 years. I hope some readers familiar with Marxian theory (and Kliman's book) could help to clarify the case.

1. Kliman presents a rise in the hourly compensation for the entire group of wage earners (who need not be identical to the working class). These data tell nothing about the distribution of the income among the wage earners. Wages may have decreased for a majority and increased for a minority. A decrease of wages for most people would be consistent with an increase of the average wage for the group of wage earners.

2. What is wage? Who is a wage earner? I think Kliman confuses here some definitions. From a Marxian perspective, wage is the before-tax payment for the labor of the employees. And nothing else is wage. Any transfers, health care, etc. which are received must not be counted as wage. But Kliman arbitrarily takes all transfers received as a part of workers' income. Sure, one can do this, but it causes confusion because it suggests that transfers are some kind of substitute wage. This calculation does not take into account that unemployment has increased by millions. It suggests that receiving transfers is just another way of earning a wage. And what about the millions of (former) workers who are homeless or who do not receive any payments? Kliman simply does not count them and their income of $0. So Kliman makes a trick here. He counts as income earners only those who get a "decent" income. Those who dropped out of the employable proletariat he simply neglects in his statistics.

3. Wage payed in money has more value than wage payed in taxes (for transfers, health care, etc.). Of course, Kliman is right when he argues that health care, pensions and transfers are part of the total wage. It does not matter that the taxes are payed as part of the wage by an employee and the benefits are received years or decades after employment. But Kliman misses the obvious: If I pay a doctor $100 for health services, I receive on average health services worth $100. If I pay $100 in taxes for health care to an insuring company or the state, I will receive on average much less than $100 in health services. The reason is that insuring companies do not produce any value, but generate much false costs. A part of the $100 is spent on the commission which the agents or brokers receive. The more is paid for insurances the less wage laborers get in wages. An increasing part of their wage is transferred to unproductive financial "workers". The entire financial sector, like the commercial sector and like the administrative/government sector, does not produce any value.

4. When Kliman counts the entire income (including pensions) of (former and present) workers, he makes a mistake. He confuses wages of the past and present wages. Pensions are (higher) wages of the past, maybe paid as taxes in the 1960s/70s, but received today. They are an entitlement earned decades ago and are not necessarily connected to today's wages. It is unsound to attribute pension payments to higher present wages. Pension payments are a product of wages of the past decades. The same is true for health care of former workers.

5. Kliman does not take into account any negative income. Thus his data are heavily skewed toward high positive incomes, especially for the lower income strata. Millions of people are indebted and "own" a negative fortune. Often, they don't receive an income, but make new debts to pay old debts. These payments definitely are part of the profit of the capitalist class. Consequently, debt must be taken into account as transfers extorted from the proletariat by the capitalists. This is surplus labor, extracted from the poorest of the poor, who don't even work.

6. Kliman does not take into account taxes which are not part of the wage, but which the working class is robbed of completely and excessively (compared to the capitalist class), like sales tax. Especially the working class is hurt by the sales tax, because they do not invest their wage, but buy wage goods. So a part of their wage goes more or less directly to the state (and from the state to the capitalists) without any service in return. To calculate wages correctly such taxes must be deducted from the before-tax wage.

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Railyon
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Sep 27 2012 13:38

Phew, giant can of worms...

I have a bit of trouble addressing most of your points in a coherent manner but I'd like to reply to your conception of wage and tax.

As I outlined here, I think taxes are deductions from surplus value and not the wage itself. Therefore I regard the wage as the value of labor power post-tax. Aka what the laborer can actually spend. This in itself is open to debate because that would at first sight imply there's a quantitative difference between the value of labor power and variable capital, which I think does disappear however if we look at it like Marx did with his labor fund, meaning not in a chronological order but in a hypothetical state of infinite reproduction of capital in which the source of variable capital is not advanced by the capitalist but directly reproduced by the laborer themselves, and thus tax appears also not as an advance by the capitalist toward the state but as a deduction from surplus value. However this seems to neglect the possibility of an increase in taxes having an effect on the proposed quantitative measure of the value of labor power, aka an increase in tax meaning a decrease in post-tax wages. I think however this would be sorted out with the ongoing struggle over wages (mainly by unions) anyway, or at least within certain boundaries.

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Any transfers, health care, etc. which are received must not be counted as wage. But Kliman arbitrarily takes all transfers received as a part of workers' income. Sure, one can do this, but it causes confusion because it suggests that transfers are some kind of substitute wage

Hmm. I think calling transfers wages is incorrect (because that has a specific meaning in the Marxian framework), but I have no particular problem calling them workers' income. Because that's what they are, no? The real problem in my opinion lies in the fetishistic notion of the trinity formula, of 'earning your share' which veils the relations in production and thus the class commonality of wage workers and the unemployed. I think some groups call these transfers 'social wage' even.

mikus
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Sep 27 2012 16:35

The basic purpose of his analysis of the wage is to confront the common claim that the capitalist class' share of new value of produced has increased due to falling wages, and that this has restored profitability. Whether or not the capitalist pays the worker directly or indirectly, this is a payment that the capitalist has to make and it therefore cannot be counted as part of his surplus-value, and it therefore cannot be said to cause a rise in his profits.

You make some valid points as to why a worker may prefer to have his income as part of a wage rather than indirectly, but they really don't touch on the main point.

dave c
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Sep 27 2012 18:34

You really need to cite what Kliman actually says.

You say that Kliman's data for hourly compensation say nothing about the distribution of income among wage earners. This is false. Kliman addresses income distribution among wage earners on pages 156-160, and the graphs on page 157 distinguish all workers from "production and nonsupervisory workers."

What you say about wages is very muddled.

anatti wrote:
What is wage? Who is a wage earner? I think Kliman confuses here some definitions. From a Marxian perspective, wage is the before-tax payment for the labor of the employees. And nothing else is wage. Any transfers, health care, etc. which are received must not be counted as wage. But Kliman arbitrarily takes all transfers received as a part of workers' income.... [later] Of course, Kliman is right when he argues that health care, pensions and transfers are part of the total wage.

You seem to contradict yourself. Where exactly does Kliman confuse definitions? Kliman clearly distinguishes between "wages and salaries" and "total compensation" (p. 153). That is, he does not count "transfers, health care, etc." as part of wages, as he clearly considers these to be "nonwage components of compensation" (p. 153). One simply has to read the relevant portion of his book.

Overall, you seem to be reacting to a perceived indifference to the plight of workers. Kliman, however, is not trying to say that workers are doing well: "I do not mean to imply that working people are living well. This isn't the case" (p. 155). Kliman's argument in chapter 8 is fairly clear. He is challenging the "underconsumptionist account of the Great Recession's underlying causes" (p. 151). (He first challenges underconsumptionist claims about income, and then argues that even if these claims were correct, underconsumptionist theory should still be rejected as unsound.) You complain about things that Kliman does not "take into account," but you do not make clear how any of this weakens Kliman's argument against underconsumptionist claims. Why does Kliman need to talk about the homeless, for example? His aim is to address underconsumptionist claims about worker share of national income. Just because he does not make the arguments you would like to see does not mean he is pulling off a "trick." You need to cite what he says in order to show flaws in his arguments.

For those who do not have the book, the basic argument of that chapter is made here: http://www.marxisthumanistinitiative.org/economic-crisis/lies-damned-lie...

anatti
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Sep 27 2012 19:57

@Railyon
There are taxes which are clearly a part of the wage. To approximate the wage in the Marxian sense it is more accurate to recognize the before-tax wage than the after-tax wage. Taxes for health care, pension, welfare, etc. are obviously parts of the wage. Workers consume the services that are paid with these taxes. Therefore, these taxes are not paid from surplus value.

Quote:
Hmm. I think calling transfers wages is incorrect (because that has a specific meaning in the Marxian framework), but I have no particular problem calling them workers' income. Because that's what they are, no?

Transfers are part of the wage because workers consume them. Instead of spending this part of the wage directly, workers pay it to an insurance. It is not surplus value, it is not money lost forever to the capitalists. Workers continually draw benefits from the insurance which is paid from taxes.

I think it is problematic to count transfers as income because, since they are part of the before-tax wage paid by workers, we already counted them. We should not count them again when they are received. I know that Kliman does much subtracting and adding of different income parts, but I argue it would be the easiest and most adequate practice to just look at the real before-tax wages per working hour. These are the wages that are actually and presently paid by capitalists. To know these figures is more informative than to add and subtract all sorts of income which are not related to the present state of exploitation.

@mikus

Quote:
The basic purpose of his analysis of the wage is to confront the common claim that the capitalist class' share of new value of produced has increased due to falling wages, and that this has restored profitability.

Sure, that is his purpose. And I think he is right. But I said a different thing. I doubt that his proposition about the development of wages under neoliberalism is correct. Falling wages were not the cause for the crisis, but – in my opinion – they nevertheless may have fallen. I do not criticize Kliman's sources of data. I criticize his methods of accounting.

@dave c

Quote:
You say that Kliman's data for hourly compensation say nothing about the distribution of income among wage earners. This is false. Kliman addresses income distribution among wage earners on pages 256-260, and the graphs on page 157 distinguish all workers from "production and nonsupervisory workers."

Yes, he makes this specific distinction. He distinguishes by type of work, not by wage per hour. We don't read about how many workers are employed in low wage jobs. How many are working poor? I don't have the numbers but I am sure that the share of working poor has increased under neoliberalism. The occurrence of homeless full-time workers with four jobs is definitely a product of neoliberalism.

Quote:
You seem to contradict yourself.

No. Transfers are a part of before-tax wages. And because this is so, they should not be counted again when they are received. I made the distinction between transfers paid and transfers received.

Quote:
Kliman, however, is not trying to say that workers are doing well

Yes, I know what he says. But still, his proposition about rising wages under neoliberalism does not seem to be substantiated.

Quote:
You complain about things that Kliman does not "take into account," but you do not make clear how any of this weakens Kliman's argument against underconsumptionist claims.

I didn't even mention the underconsumptionist theory. I wrote about an entirely different issue. Why should I care about underconsumptionism? Kliman is correct in his refutation of the underconsumption theory. But presenting the development of wages in the last 30 years can neither confirm nor refute the underconsumptionist theory. He refutes this theory in the section "The underconsumptionist intuition" starting on page 160.

Quote:
Why does Kliman need to talk about the homeless, for example?

Because they are part of the working class, too. Capitalists threw them into the reserve army and now they receive a "zero wage" although they could work maybe eight hours per day. So there are millions of people who have had jobs before neoliberalism, but have lost their jobs in the course of the last 30 years. This is really a wage cut by 100% for millions of people. But Kliman does not take this into account because his statistics recognize employed workers only. He pretends there were no such cuts. Thus, Kliman's data are heavily skewed in the first place since unemployed proletarians in the reserve army are deliberately excluded as if they needed no income to live, as if they could magically disappear and be right back when they are needed as employees again. Kliman consequently ignores an entire stratum of poor in his "income" statistics.

anatti
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Sep 27 2012 20:06

@Railyon
I forgot to mention that there are taxes which are not part of the wage. I already wrote about the sales tax. To calculate the correct "Marxian wage" taxes like this should be deducted from the wage because workers cannot consume them. Workers cannot spend their full after-tax wage to buy goods because the state rips them off whenever they shop for something.

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Railyon
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Sep 27 2012 22:07

Anatti,

after some reconsideration (and after consulting a book or two) I concede that my way of looking at wages and taxes was too simplistic. Yes, the value of labor power is not after-tax wages, but it seems we disagree on redistribution and transfers to the working class via tax being part of the so-called social wage and thus part of the value of labor power (if I understood your point 2 right). And interestingly enough, this makes my claim of tax being a fetishistic category even stronger although that's an entirely different matter.

But since I don't know the book and underconsumptionist theory is not the actual topic after all I guess I can't contribute anything.

mikus
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Sep 28 2012 04:01

Anatti I'll get back to you when I have a chance, but for now I can't help but feel like think this is one of those times where I wonder "revol68, wtf are you doing here?" You obviously haven't read any of the relevant literature, so what are you on about exactly? You keep bringing up issues that aren't even relevant to the topic. Start another thread if you want to talk about those things.

kingzog
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Sep 28 2012 22:03

I believe one can look at the stats Kliman cites in his book online from BLS and a few other governmental statistics agencies. In his book, he states that take home pay has declined for workers, a little less for managers, but overall, it has declined. What has increased though is healthcare and pensions and if you add this together, you get a clear picture of national income, which for workers and capitalists has remained at about the same ratio. Kliman also adds that stats exist which include gov't benefits as well, this is helpful because ultimately gov't benefits come from taxes on business' and individuals. the point of this comprehensive analysis is to get a clear picture of national income. That is, the distribution of total income (this includes all forms of payments) between workers and capitalists.

Kliman's analysis is ultimately about showing that profits are historically low (and profit rates have been trending downward for a long time now) and a drop in pay for workers has not meant an increase in corporate profits because workers are still costing corporations at an increasing rate (although this growth has slowed considerably). Corporations pay for a lot of healthcare and pensions, and so this is why looking at these things as overall compensation gives us a better picture of national income, than just take home pay. Kliman also says that overall compensation growth has indeed slowed down and this counts as a decline in workers' standard of living.

Edit: Also worth mentioning is that I believe Kliman mentions in talks he gives on the book that sectors of the working class are better off and worse off than others. A number of industries have suffered in the past 30 years, This is not necessarily outside the norm of capitalism though. He doesn't dismiss workers who have lost jobs, his book is about looking at capitalist production in general (and he argues that this system is weak and is both a failure on it's own terms and for everyday people). Whether or not one thinks this sort of analysis is useful is up to them to decide.

mikus
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Sep 28 2012 22:28
revol68 wrote:
I'm taking issue with his wording in his blog where he presents underconsumptist theories as somehow external to capitalism. I find it odd.

The implication of underconsumptionist theories is that if wages are higher, crises can be averted. Thus the cause of crises is not capitalist production tout courte, but a certain level of wages. That's the basic point.

revol68 wrote:
I've subsequent;y been chatting to others on funner forums who've read him and they say he's actually pretty damn good and they were surprised to see him word his case so crudely in the blog.

Good to know that you talked to someone who told you one time that they heard something from someone who said that Kliman was okay. Top notch work, revol!

kingzog
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Sep 29 2012 00:33

@revol68

Kliman often makes the argument that consumer demand does not drive economies. Rather, business demand does. This is so because business demand always grows faster than consumer demand. This is the heart of the basic contradiction(edit: fallacy is more accurate really) within underconsumptionist theory, the notion that only consumer demand matters. I might be able to find some good material on this for you, but I just wanted to mention this idea for now. Imagine a mining company that mines ore, they sell that ore to a steel manufacturer, the steel company sells the steel to a mining equipment manufacturer, the equipment company than sells to the mining company. This is "production for the sake of production" and one of the absurdities of capitalism, and data suggests that it is this sort of demand that really drives growth.

kingzog
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Sep 29 2012 00:36

also, the problem with Harvey is that he has no explanation for why over-accumulation occurs (over-accumulation is caused by over-acumulation?) and this leaves many to the conclusion that he is an underconsumptionist, since he accepts, uncritically, the okishio theorm

kingzog
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Sep 29 2012 00:53

revol68 said:

Quote:
am genuinely intrigued by Kliman's claim that workers share of national income has risen in the US, especially as so many marxist economists claim the opposite, it's especially interesting because it's an empirical claim rather than the usual interpretive ones.

yeah I was very surprised when I first read "the Failure of Capitalist Production" to say the least!

You know, an underlying issue with "so many marxist economist claiming the opposite' of what Kliman claims is that most "marxist eonomist" are more influenced by Monthly Review and Keynes than Marx. This mostly goes back to what happened in the 1970's when Sraffian theory and the Okishio theorem presented a challenge to Marxist economists that they were not prepared for, and so most of them began to reject Marx, but at the same time claim to be his successors in order to exploit a "niche market" for marxoid studies, among other things...

mikus
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Sep 29 2012 03:04
mikus wrote:
revol68 wrote:
The implication of underconsumptionist theories is that if wages are higher, crises can be averted. Thus the cause of crises is not capitalist production tout courte, but a certain level of wages. That's the basic point.

Sorry but that is nonsense, for a start even the most dogmatic underconsumptionist would point out that the problem of wages is that they can't go higher without threatening capitalist profits, that is it's a fundamental inherent contradiction in capitalist production, therefore underconsumptionist crises are themselves internal to capitalist production not somehow external. If underconsumptionists held that the problem of capitalist crisis was solvable by simply raising wages it wouldn't be much of a crisis theory, it would be a management one.

SImply not true, there have been plenty of underconsumptionists historically who have argued that higher wages alleviate crises. You hear this sort of thing even coming out of people like Obama, who talk about how the supposed genius of people like Ford was that they paid their workers enough to buy the cars that they produced, creating a demand for the product.

Secondly, it's quite a theory which states that if wages are high, capitalists have no profit, but if they're low they also have no profit because they can't sell anything. The contradiction does not lie in capitalist production but in their own muddled theory.

revl68 wrote:
mikus wrote:
revol68 wrote:
I've subsequent;y been chatting to others on funner forums who've read him and they say he's actually pretty damn good and they were surprised to see him word his case so crudely in the blog.

Good to know that you talked to someone who told you one time that they heard something from someone who said that Kliman was okay. Top notch work, revol!

And yeah, what a dick I am, imagining asking other people who have read quite a bit of Kliman about something I found problematic and seeking to learn something.

If you actually sought to learn something, you'd probably go read the book instead of constantly opining on a thread where you haven't read anything at all relevant to the discussion. You seem to be in greater need of waxing intellectual on the internet than actually learning something.

mikus
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Sep 29 2012 03:06
revol68 wrote:
Also doesn't the whole financialisation theories play an important role in explaining the blocks on business demand as well as consumer? Just throwing that out there.

Kliman wrote a little book you may have heard of called "The Failure of Capitalist Production," in which he addresses this exact issue. Just throwing that out there.

kingzog
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Sep 29 2012 03:47

rev68 wrote

Quote:
Also doesn't the whole financialisation theories play an important role in explaining the blocks on business demand as well as consumer? Just throwing that out there.

Quote:
mikus: Kliman wrote a little book you may have heard of called "The Failure of Capitalist Production," in which he addresses this exact issue. Just throwing that out there

.

totally, he also wrote a paper which you can access on his page http://akliman.squarespace.com/writings/
look at the very bottom and you will see this:

Why “Financialization” Hasn’t Depressed U.S. Productive Investment (162K)
May 2012. Co-authored by Shannon D. Williams. Extends some of the work on this question reported in my book, The Failure of Capitalist Production, into a fuller critique of some work of the "financialization school."

RedHughs
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Sep 29 2012 04:17

David Harvey sure sounds like an underconsumptionist in this video - as well as denouncing the excessive power of finance capital.

He does have a pleasing accent.

mikus
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Sep 29 2012 14:36
revol68 wrote:
Mikus I thought it was obvious that we are discussing underconsumptionist tendencies within the marxist tradition.

The contradiction that wages being too high and too low threatens capitalism is is pretty basic, for a start if capitalists are left to their own devices there is a danger of them exploiting labour to such an extent that it can no longer reproduce itself. There's nothing muddled about that.

Yes, it is completely muddled. The implication is that wages at any level are both too high and too low, since workers are never paid enough to buy back the whole social product (and are therefore too low), yet they also cannot be paid any more without threatening the profitability of the whole system (and are therefore too high).

The only way out of this complete muddle is to propose some kind of happy medium wage level where wages are just right. Of course, this leads to further complications for the theory, but it really is the only way out of the previous muddle and it does lead to the implication that crises are avertable with the correct level of wages.

revol68 wrote:
Regarding Harvey's "underconsumptionism", well I don't think it's fair to describe him in such terms, yes he thinks there can crises of underconsumption but that is only one of many forms that the inherent contradictions of capitalism can be expressed in.

Okay, well then he is an underconsumptionist (amongst other things).

revol68 wrote:
Certainly the notion he thinks higher wages or other keynesian measures can iron out these contradictions is nonsense, rather he see's it at best kicking the can further down the road for a bit.

This is just rich -- low wages = low profits because workers can't buy enough of the social product back. High wages = low profits because the capitalists pay too much to the workers.

Either there's some kind of happy medium where wages are at the right level and crises can be averted, or this is just transparently absurd.

mikus
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Sep 29 2012 15:17

I haven't read much Harvey. Hence why I don't go into Harvey threads and babble on and on with no end in sight.

I said "well then he is an underconsumptionist (amongst other things)" because it's exactly what you were saying. No need to get upset when I restate exactly what you said. Whether or not it's true, I don't know, but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you've actually read some Harvey (rather than going off of what you heard some dude say he heard about Harvey on the internet).

revol68 wrote:
it's almost like capitalism is a fundamentally contradictory system, in a kind of permanent crisis that articulates itself in different ways, y'know as Harvey argues.

Now I get why you bitch about dialectics.

Waving away a self-contradiction with a vague reference to "dialectics" is one of the oldest tricks in the book, but not exactly illuminating. And if you think there's a permanent crisis, well, you know just as little about the history of capitalism as you do about Kliman.

mikus
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Sep 29 2012 15:19

Back to the original post.

After rereading it, I do feel it's quite confused. For example, as Dave C pointed out, in point 2 you criticize Kliman for supposedly treating transfers as part of the wage, and then in point 3 you say that Kliman is "of course right" to treat transfers as part of the wage! (In a reply to Dave C, you say that you made a specific distinction between

As regards point 1: Kliman addresses this, as Dave C pointed out, in pages 156-160.

As regards point 2: Dave C already responded to the bulk of it (pointing out that Kliman doesn't actually collapse the distinction as you claim), but I will also point out that the second part of the point is quite strange as well. You claim that Kliman employs a "trick" by not counting the unemployed in his calculations. This is completely backwards -- it would've been a "trick" if he had counted the unemployed, since his point is to look at the distribution of income between workers and capitalists. Because the unemployed (by definition) produce no income for capitalists and have no income themselves (except for transfer payments!), they have to be excluded from this analysis.

Point 3: As I said before, even if you are correct then it doesn't touch on his main point, which is to show that capitalists haven't made the profit rate recover by lowering workers' living standards -- whether the money goes directly to workers as part of their wage or not, the capitalist actually has to pay this money and therefore it isn't part of his profit.

But even as far as your point goes, I'm not at all convinced. Of course financial and transfer work aren't productive, but it's nevertheless true that they involve economies of scale that individual workers would not be able to achieve. It doesn't seem at all apparent to me that individual workers would spend their $100 more wisely or efficiently than an insurance agency, on average.

Point 4: You'll have to point me to the exact part of the book you're referring to.

Point 5: Capitalists cannot make profit on this basis. If the worker owes money but does not have income, he cannot pay the money he owes and therefore the lender has no profit at all except for unrealized book gains which will eventually have to be recognized as losses. In any case, this has nothing to do with industrial profit.

Point 6: This only matters if you are proposing that workers have somehow become more impoverished by sales tax than they were before (because what we're looking at is a trend over time and not an absolute level).

mikus
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Sep 29 2012 15:18

Revol, start a fucking Harvey thread if you want to talk about David Harvey all day! Jesus christ man.

kingzog
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Sep 29 2012 16:14

revol68 wrote

Quote:
No, your summary of underconsumptionist tendencies (I don't think there are many actual avowed marxist underconsumptionists, rather it's always something someone else is) is not one that fits with Harvey's arguments

Unfortunately however, the majority of so-called 'marxist economists' are avoid underconsumptionists. And so are a lot 'libertarian-socialists' like Robin Hahnel(one of the guys behind parecon) for instance. Anyone from the Monthly Review tradition is and underconsumptionist, and a lot of Marxist economists are tacitly so.

in that animated Harvey video on the crises, Harvey says that underconsumptionism is a basic contradiction in capitalism (I think he says that underconsumption reminds him of a part of the Grundrisse where Marx says, "inherent contradictions in Capital".

To be fair, Harvey gives all sorts of explanations about the proximate causes of crises, like his ideas about how there are all these issues in the circulation process that can disrupt realization of surplus-value or what-not. But, the point here is that he only really ever gives underconsumptionism as the underlying, basic contradiction. At least as far as I can tell, from his lectures and writings. He might have some nuanced take on underconsumptionism, or a sophisticated reason why keynsianism doesn't solve it, but that doesn't change the fact that he accepts it.

revol68 wrote:

Quote:
Tell you what I'm going to read Kliman before making any claims about the truth value of his work, why don't you do the same for Harvey.

that's a great idea, but one does not need to read Harvey all that much to see that he is an underconsumptionist. Whereas, Klimans work is very empirical, and while it is accessible, it takes time to understand a lot of it.

Angelus Novus
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Sep 29 2012 16:18

"The ultimate reason for all real crises always remains the poverty and restricted consumption of the masses as opposed to the drive of capitalist production to develop the productive forces as though only the absolute consuming power of society constituted their limit."

kingzog
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Sep 29 2012 16:18

I see mikus wrote a good reply up there, trying to bring it back to criticisms of the book. Sorry I brought things back to Harvey, mikus. wink

kingzog
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Sep 29 2012 16:20

nice quote from marx angelus, but it is taken out of context. Kliman talks about that quote, specifically, in his new book.

Angelus Novus
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Sep 29 2012 16:27

Everytime somebody is confronted with a Marx quote that opposes one of their favorite shibboleths, they always argue it's "out of context." One of Kliman's Marxist-Humanist pals on the Principia Dialectica blog used to pull the same routine when confronted with quotations supporting the monetary theory of value. Arguing with adherents of what Scott McLemee calls the "Dunayevskaya Cult of Textuality" is an impossibility, because every single passage from Marx that doesn't support their interpretation is "out of context."

kingzog
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Sep 29 2012 17:01

monetary theory of value, what exactly is that? Do you mean to say Marx supports that? As far as the previous Marx quote, I just suggest to others that they read the full passage it is contained in. Whether or not this makes Marx an underconsumptionist is up to the reader I suppose.

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Railyon
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Sep 29 2012 17:31
Angelus Novus wrote:
Everytime somebody is confronted with a Marx quote that opposes one of their favorite shibboleths, they always argue it's "out of context." One of Kliman's Marxist-Humanist pals on the Principia Dialectica blog used to pull the same routine when confronted with quotations supporting the monetary theory of value. Arguing with adherents of what Scott McLemee calls the "Dunayevskaya Cult of Textuality" is an impossibility, because every single passage from Marx that doesn't support their interpretation is "out of context."

So we take from it that Marx's theory is incoherent after all, or we interpret it like Alfred Müller1:

Wenn Marx im Kapital ähnlich wie in den Grundrissen und den Theorien hervorhebt: "Der letzte Grund aller wirklichen Krisen bleibt immer die Armut und Konsumtionsbeschränkung der Massen" (MEW 25/501), ist auch hier nicht von der krisenverursachenden Unterkonsumtion die Rede, sondern von der ungenügenden Mehrwertproduktion und damit von der unzureichenden Mehrwerterzeugung als Krisenursache, als Auslöser der Kräfte, die die Verschlechterung der Kapitalverwertung und damit die Krise hervorbringen. Mehrwert kann nur entstehen, wenn das Mehrprodukt und damit die Mehrarbeit in den Händen der Kapitalbesitzer verbleibt und nicht von den Massen konsumiert wird. Daher ist die Konsumtionbeschränkung der Massen, festgelegt über die Lohnhöhe, eine wesentliche Bedingung der Mehrwertproduktion und diese der letzte Grund aller wirklichen Krisen.

Cause and effect, you know.

  • 1. Die Marxsche Konjunkturtheorie p157
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Railyon
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Joined: 4-11-11
Sep 29 2012 17:40

Tl;dr is that underconsumption is a necessary condition for the production of surplus value (because there would be no surplus value extraction if all would be consumed) but it is in the end the contradiction between the development of productive forces and production relations that cause (regular aka cyclical) crises.

mikus
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Joined: 18-07-06
Sep 29 2012 18:15
Angelus Novus wrote:
Everytime somebody is confronted with a Marx quote that opposes one of their favorite shibboleths, they always argue it's "out of context." One of Kliman's Marxist-Humanist pals on the Principia Dialectica blog used to pull the same routine when confronted with quotations supporting the monetary theory of value. Arguing with adherents of what Scott McLemee calls the "Dunayevskaya Cult of Textuality" is an impossibility, because every single passage from Marx that doesn't support their interpretation is "out of context."

Perhaps it's because you.... like to take Marx quotes out of context.

Just a possibility.

dave c
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Sep 29 2012 18:32

Kingzog, regarding the "monetary theory of value," check out Angelus' defense of such an interpretation of Marx and Mikus' criticisms of it in this thread (Jura and I also participate): http://libcom.org/forums/thought/theories-value-06022008?page=1 . The following numbered posts contain the discussion I am referring to: 44, 46, 56, 76, 115, 151, 158, 159, 160, 161, 163, 164, 165, 166, 169, 171, 173, 175, 176, 180, 181, 182, 197. After reading that discussion, I don't understand how anyone would think this is in any way a viable interpretation of Marx.

For Michael Heinrich's espousal of such an interpretation, consult chapter 3 of his An Introduction to the Three Volumes of Karl Marx's Capital, wherein he says value "firsts exists in exchange," that the substance of value "is bestowed mutually in the act of exchange." (53) There are parallels with the libcom discussion I linked to in the book [for example, see posts 158 and 159, where one of the quotes from Marx reproduced by Heinrich (p. 51) is discussed].

On interpretive method, Kliman wants to be very transparent on this score, and chapter 4 of his Reclaiming Marx's "Capital" is devoted to the topic (though he is not especially concerned with the "monetary theory of value" in that book). But one does not need to read what he says about interpretive method to understand that basically everything Marx wrote about value contradicts Heinrich's interpretation.