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2009-05-16 19:01:43|  分类: 默认分类 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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TheSecond Slump: A Marxist Analysis of Recession in the Seventies. By ErnestMandel. London:N.L.B., 1978. Pp. 212. $12.95.

Thetitle of this book is somewhat ambiguous. Presumably it refers to thelikelihood, as the author sees it, of a depression on the order of 1929-36. Itmight better be called in a hortatory fashion, the Last Slump, since Mandel, asa faithful Marxist, has the apocalyptic faith that "capitalism isdoomed" (p. 2) because of "the coincidence of the generalizedeconomic depression" with "an exceptionally high level oforganization, numerical strength and combativity of the proletariat, combinedwith the exceptionally pronounced political weakness of the bourgeoissystem" (his italics, pp. 83-84). The apocalyptic vision foreseesproduction for needs, not value in exchange, but is vague on its nature anduncertain that it will occur soon. Falling profit and overproduction produceinstability in what he terms the "imperialist" world, but Mandel isprepared to take notice of "underproduction" in the "so- calledsocialist countries" which, even though they are "superior to acapitalist market economy in [their] ability to avert great cyclicalfluctuations, overproduction crises, and unemployment," have"monstrous waste and imbalances caused by the bureaucratic monopoly ofeconomic and political management" and are distant from a genuinesocialist economy (pp. 146-48). He ends with three pages of rhetoricalquestions which fail to advance matters much.


Thebook, then, is better at sketching the troubles and difficulties of capitalismthan at outlining an alternative system. Mandel insists that the 1974-75recession was not the product of the OPEC oil price hike, but arose rather fromthe exhaustion of the industrial reserve army without which capitalism cannotsurvive. It is "extremely unlikely that the international capitalisteconomy will be able to return to the growth rates it enjoyed during thefifties and sixties" (p. 84). Increases in productivity have declined. Thebanking system is unstable. The Keynesian medicine no longer suffices to pullthe international economy out with increased sales to OPEC countries, moreloans to non-oil LDCs, and to so-called socialist countries. It is not madeclear why a rise in domestic public debt cannot substitute for the private debtwhich fueled the fifties and sixties, though partly the difficulty is that theworld economy is international, while fiscal policy is conducted on a nationalbasis, and there is "a crisis in international political leadership in theinternational capitalist world, even more sharply now than in previousyears" (his italics). The book is pieced out with 53 tables from standardsources, unhappily hard to retrieve since they are neither indexed nor listedin the table of contents. The literature cited is partly main- stream andpartly European radical, but not much of either.


Thereis something to much of this. But the work can be recommended only to the truebeliever. First, it suffers from writing at the top of one's voice, such ascalling Norway, Sweden, and Austria imperialist. Developingcountries are "semi-colonials." Words like"super-imperialism," "super-exploitation," and"super-profits" are not explained. The organic composition ofcapital, Department I and Department II, and so forth, are bandied about asin-group vocabulary. The first section of chapter 5 on "Marxism and theCrisis" is addressed to an attack on deviations among the faithful, andcomes through only dimly to the casual churchgoer. I tire easily of a surfeitof adverbs: "precisely," "clearly," "obviously,""excessively catastrophic" [sic], "virtually permanentnon-utilization of one third of existing productive capacity in the UnitedStates" (his italics, p. 26), not to mention the plethora of italicizationand of exclamation points.


Inhis preface the author claims to have striven for maximum "objectivity,"but not to be "impartial" (his italics, p. 8). I would not haveguessed the first.


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