Monday, July 23, 2007

Capitalism, Crisis and Wellies

Capitalism has a tendency towards occasional highly disruptive crises. These can stem from a number of factors (although they often combine and are difficult to separate out). Amongst these factors are 1) the tendency for the organic composition of capital to rise (the good old TRPF), 2) problems of over-accumulation of capital, 3) intensifying international competition driving down general rates of profit, 4) uneven development and sectoral imbalances leading to bottlenecks, over-production, mismatches of supply and so on, 5) financial market instability leading to panic, capital flight and 'contagion' and 6) (while remaining wary of the Glyn and Sutcliffe thesis) we might say that high wages can constitute a drain on the rate of profit.

There's another distinctively 21st Century type of capitalist crisis emerging however - ecological crisis. This is a 'non-economic' kind of crisis given rise to, in great part, by capitalism's driving imperative - accumulation. Capitalism, as Kovel and Löwy point out, is a 'system predicated on the rule: Grow or Die!'. Could it be that while the last great global capitalist crisis - the inter-war slump - was often represented, symbolically, by those photographs of unemployed men in flat caps standing around in the sooty streets of the industrial north, the next big crisis will, later, come to be symbolised by images of people in wellies wading through flooded villages, towns and cities?


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