How Capitalists Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Crisis

Jonathan Nitzan och Shimshon Bichler

Jonathan Nitzan och Shimshon Bichler gav 2009 ut Capital as Power – A Study of Order and Creorder (boken finns för fri nedladdning). I den argumenterar de för ett sätt att se på kapital som inte vidlåds av de cirkelresonemang som både mervärdesteorin och nyttomaximeringsteorin hamnar i. Enligt deras synsätt är kapital makt, kvantifierad som priset på tillgångar, dvs en funktion av förväntad profit på investeringar. I artikeln How Capitalists Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Crisis - en analys av amerikansk ekonomi - illustreras deras ansats på ett tydligt sätt av hur arbetslöshet ökar kapitalisternas andel av BNP och hur krisen alltså ökar kapitalisternas relativa makt i samhället.

Economic, financial and social commentators from all directions and persuasion are obsessed with the prospect of recovery. The world remains mired in a deep, prolonged crisis, and the key question seems to be how to get out of it. The purpose of our paper is to ask a very different question that few if any seem concerned with: can capitalists afford recovery in the first place?

On the face of it, the question sounds silly: of course capitalists want a recovery; how else can they prosper? According to the textbooks, both mainstream and heterodox, capital accumulation and economic growth are two sides of the same process. Accumulation generates growth and growth fuels accumulation, so it seems bootless to ask whether capitalists want growth. Growth is their lifeline, and the more of it, the better it is?

Or is it?

Accumulation of What?

The answer depends on what we mean by capital accumulation. The common view of this process is deeply utilitarian. Capitalists, we are told, seek to maximize their so-called ‘real wealth’: they try to accumulate as many machines, structures, inventories and intellectual property rights as they can. And the reason, supposedly, is straightforward. Capitalists are hedonic creatures. Like every other ‘economic agent’, their ultimate goal is to maximize their utility from consumption. This hedonic quest is best served by economic growth: more output enables more consumption; the faster the expansion of the economy, the more rapid the accumulation of ‘real’ capital; and the larger the capital stock, the greater the utility from its eventual consumption. Utility-seeking capitalists should therefore love booms and hate crises. [2]

But that is not how real capitalists operate.

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Jonathan Nitzan är professor i Political Economy vid York University, Toronto, Canada. Shimshon Bichler undervisar i politisk ekonomi vid flera israeliska universitet. På har de samlat sina publikationer.