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Abstract

Brenner's ‘The Economics of Global Turbulence’ is a review of the world economy in the second half of the 20th century and its momentous changes. It deals with a wide range of issues and developments and is supported by a wealth of statistical and historical material. At the same time, it debunks many of the myths upon which recent (economic) history has been written. Perhaps even more importantly, it seeks the causes of crises in the laws of motion of capital itself (a point made from a different perspective by this review as well).

In: Historical Materialism
Marx's Dialectics of Value and Knowledge
Much has been written since Capital was first published, and more recently after the demise of the Soviet Union and the consequent triumph of neoliberalism, about the irrelevance, inconsistency, and obsoleteness of Marx. This has been attributed to his unworkable method of inquiry. This book goes against the current. It introduces the issues that are presently most hotly debated, it evaluates them, and it groups them into four headings, each one of them corresponding to a chapter. At the same time, it submits a new reading of Marx’s method of social research and on this basis it argues that Marx’s work offers a solid foundation upon which to further develop a multi-faceted theory of crises highly relevant for the contemporary world.

Abstract

Chris Arthur's approach aims at a systematic re-ordering of Marx's categories. This article argues that his approach is actually a different ordering of different categories that are positioned within a specific theoretical whole, a Hegelian re-interpretation of Marx and especially of abstract labour, which distances itself from Marx. While the debate has focused mainly on the philosophical aspects of Arthur's work, its economic features have not been the object of a systematic analysis. Yet, a full assessment of the 'New Dialectics' should include explicitly a systematic internal critique of its economic dimensions. The aim of this article is to assess the internal consistency of the economic ramifications of the 'New Dialectics'. The focus is on the notions of abstract labour, concrete labour, and exploitation. Arthur's faithfulness to Marx, or correspondence to Marx's quotations, is not the criterion used to assess the 'New Dialectics'. Rather, the criterion is whether it (a) discovers logical inconsistencies in Capital and (b) is itself free from inconsistencies. The answer is negative in both cases.

In: Historical Materialism

Abstract

The fulcrum of this work is knowledge: what it is and how it is generated within the context of a capitalist society. First, Marx’s analysis of the objective labour process is extended to the mental labour process. Then, objective and mental labour processes are defined in terms of objective and mental transformations, with consideration paid to which of the two types of transformation is determinant. This requires a discussion of dialectical logic and formal logic. Within dialectical logic, two types of processes are introduced: open ended and pre-determined. It is argued that computers (both traditional and quantum) and Artificial Intelligence cannot generate new knowledge, because they (a) rely on formal logic, i.e. they cannot engage in open-ended dialectical processes, and (b) are impervious to social determination. Connectedly, Artificial Intelligence systems such as ChatGPT cannot be a substitute for human thought or writing, because of the inevitability of ‘model collapse’. Next, focus is shifted to a specific form of knowledge: the ‘Copenhagen interpretation’ of quantum mechanics. It is shown that this interpretation is steeped in irrationalism and that it is a variant of pro-capitalist ideology. Finally, the social-historical roots of this ideology are revealed.

Open Access
In: Historical Materialism

Abstract

This work focuses exclusively on the modern economic aspects of imperialism. We define it as a persistent and long-term net appropriation of surplus value by the high-technology imperialist countries from the low-technology dominated countries. This process is placed within the secular tendential fall in profitability, not only in the imperialist countries but also in the dominated ones. We identify four channels through which surplus value flows to the imperialist countries: currency seigniorage; income flows from capital investments; unequal exchange through trade; and changes in exchange rates.

We pay particular attention to the theorisation and quantification of international UE and of exchange-rate movements. Concerning UE, we extend Marx’s transformation procedure to the international setting. We use two variables in the analysis of UE: the organic composition of capital and the rate of exploitation, and we measure which of these two variables is more important in contributing to UE transfers. We research a time span longer than in any previous study. We also introduce the distinction between narrow and broad unequal exchange according to whether two countries are assumed to trade only with each other or also with the rest of the world.

As for the analysis of the exchange rates as a channel for appropriation of international surplus value, we reject conventional approaches because they are rooted in equilibrium theory. We find very strong empirical evidence that exchange rates tend towards the point at which the productivities are equalised. This is only a tendency because this equalisation is inherently incompatible with the nature of imperialism.

Finally, given its topicality, we apply our analysis to the relation between the US and China and find that China is not an imperialist country according to our definition and data.

Open Access
In: Historical Materialism