Harvey versus Marx on Capitalism’s Crises, Part 3: A Rejoinder

by Andrew Kliman

Does Marx's law of the tendential fall in the rate of profit accurately account for a real feature of capitalism, and can it help explain the Great Recession of 2007-9? The debate between two leading contemporary Marxists continues.

First published: 13 May, 2015 | Category: Economy, Philosophy and Theory

Does the rate of profit tend to fall under capitalism?  If so, does this help to explain capitalist crisis? 

New Left Project recently published a two-part critique by Andrew Kliman of leading Marxist geographer David Harvey’s objection to Marx’s theory of the falling rate of profit.  Part 1 disputed Harvey's interpretation of Marx; Part 2 argued that US corporations’ long term rate of profit fell after WWII, in accordance with Marx’s law.

In response, David Harvey contrasted two metaphors for conceptualising capital, arguing that while 'Kliman may well be right in the long run', 'my organic metaphor for understanding capital’s nature works far better for understanding what is happening to us in the here and now'.

Below is Kliman's rejoinder.

 


 

I wish to begin by thanking David Harvey for taking the time to respond to my counter-critique of his criticisms (Harvey 2014) of Marx’s law of the tendential fall in the rate of profit (LTFRP), the theory of capitalist economic crisis rooted in that law, and the relevance of the law and the theory to an understanding of the Great Recession. His response addresses little of what I wrote; in particular, it does not address the textual or the economic evidence I put forward. It also misconstrues what it does address—my analogy about Marx’s explanatory procedure—by portraying it as a metaphor for ‘capital’s nature’. But at least his response is a start, an opening to a discussion that may yet prove fruitful. 

To set the stage for what follows, I will briefly recapitulate Harvey’s original charge that Marx’s LTFRP is mono-causal and my analogy, which responds to that charge. I will then clarify why the analogy is not a metaphor for ‘capital’s nature’. The remaining sections of this rejoinder then take up Harvey’s new version of the mono-causality charge, his strawman characterisation of the LTFRP, his implicit a priori injunction against considering the possibility that the law might be right, and the need for this discussion, if it is to be fruitful, to return to a consideration of the evidence.

Harvey’s mono-causality charge (first version)

Harvey charged that Marx’s law of the tendential fall in the rate of profit (LTFRP), and the theory of capitalist crisis rooted in the law, are mono-causal.[1] This charge is based on Harvey’s contention that the law depends crucially on a number of ‘draconian assumptions’ made by Marx. By virtue of these alleged assumptions, the LTFRP supposedly rules out all potential causes of falling profitability other than labour-saving technological change, and all factors that can keep the rate of profit from falling by counteracting the effect of technological change.

Yet it is undeniable that Part 3 of the third volume of Capital, entitledThe Law of the Tendential Fall in the Rate of Profit’, discusses several counteracting factors as well as additional causes of crisis such as the financial system. Harvey did not dispute this. His charge that the law is mono-causal instead rested upon the structure of Marx’s explanatory procedure, i.e. the order in which the various causal factors appear in Marx’s account. Marx first presented ‘the law as such’ (das Gesetz als solches); only thereafter did he incorporate counteracting factors, and then additional causes of crisis, into his account of the LTFRP.

This way of structuring an explanation is unexceptionable and quite common. Yet Harvey made it seem to be a mono-causal explanation by reducing the LTFRP to ‘the law as such’. The counteracting factors and additional causes of crisis aren’t part of ‘the law as such’; therefore (for Harvey) the LTFRP assumes that they don’t exist and it isn’t a valid law if they do exist. And therefore (for Harvey) the fact that Marx acknowledged the existence of counteracting factors and additional causes and incorporated them into his account does not acquit him of the mono-causality charge. It just means that Marx was exhibiting his ‘vacillation and ambivalence’ about the validity of the LTFRP and that he was no longer discussing it but was instead discussing ‘what happens when the assumptions made in deriving the law are dropped’.

In response, I explained what’s wrong with this way of interpreting Marx’s explanatory procedure. I noted that ‘[t]he text need not be read in this way. And since it need not, it should not; uncharitable reading is not good interpretive practice’. I then provided what I called an ‘analogy to Marx’s procedure’:  

No sophisticated methodological discussion is needed to understand what’s wrong with the charge of mono-causality. The issue is simple. If I appeal to the universal law of gravitation in order to explain why apples have a tendency to fall off trees, without mentioning other factors that can make them fall, like the blowing of the wind, or counteracting factors, like air resistance, I am not assuming that these other things don’t exist. Much less am I constructing a mono-causal model that excludes them and which is therefore severely restricted in applicability. I am not doing so even if I explain that the law of gravitation follows from Newton’s second law of motion and refrain from introducing other factors into the equation when I show how it follows. If I then go on to talk about air resistance and the blowing of the wind, I am not exhibiting my ambivalence, vacillating, or admitting that the universal law of gravitation operates only in a vacuum, but fails to operate in the real world. [emphasis in original]

A metaphor for ‘capital’s nature’?

Harvey’s (2014) initial contribution to this discussion vigorously criticized Marx’s LTFRP, its place within Marx’s theory of capitalist economic crisis, and its relevance to the Great Recession and the recession’s prolonged aftermath. My counter-critique addressed each of his many criticisms. Harvey’s response to me is devoted exclusively to a discussion of two sentences of my counter-critique—the third and fourth sentences in the passage quoted above—and it seriously misconstrues those two sentences.

According to Harvey, the sentences are a metaphor that Andrew Kliman employed to ‘explain[ ] why his view of the falling rate of profit is not monocausal’ and especially to ‘conceptualise and frame [his] understanding of the nature of capital’. ‘The big difference between Andrew and myself, I would suggest, lies in the metaphorical framing we each have of capital’s nature’.

It should be clear from the preceding section that there are three crucial errors here. First, my analogy is not about a general, overarching matter like the ‘nature of capital’; it is about one specific phenomenon, namely the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. Second, the analogy is not about my view of the falling rate of profit or my understanding of the ‘nature of capital’; it is about Marx’s explanatory procedure and Marx’s law of the tendential fall in the rate of profit.[2] Third, the analogy is not about the ‘nature of capital’; it is about Marx’s explanatory procedure. In other words, it is not ontological (about being), but epistemological (about knowing).

I offered no metaphor, in that passage or elsewhere, to conceptualise or frame my understanding of the ‘nature of capital’, and I have no such metaphor to offer. I have no need for a metaphor to conceptualise my understanding of capital, not least because ‘capital’ is already a conceptualisation of the facts, not a brute fact itself. I don’t see how replacing the original conceptualisation (‘value in process’ (Marx 1990, p. 256)) with a metaphorical one would assist my theoretical or empirical research in any way.

I am suspicious of the phrase ‘nature of capital’. I care much more about how and why capitalism functions and malfunctions than I care about its ‘nature’. And I am particularly suspicious of the phrase ‘nature of capital’ when it is used as Harvey uses it, to impute to me the belief that there is some non-trivial sense in which capital and capitalism are like the natural world, or some non-trivial sense in which the tendency of the rate of profit to fall is like the gravitational force. That is not what I believe.

Contrary to what the fourth and fifth paragraphs of Harvey’s response to me suggest, my revolutionary Marxist-Humanist politics is not deduced from a metaphor (‘Hence Kliman’s conclusion’); it is grounded in evidence and theory. I am willing and able to defend my politics, but only after I read some argument that challenges the evidence and theory in which it is grounded—an honest-to-goodness argument, not a comparison of metaphors. Someone’s personal preference for one metaphor rather than another and the subjective experience (‘how I see and experience capital’) underlying that preference cannot be debated; he prefers what he prefers and experiences what he experiences, and that’s that. Whether the politics associated with the metaphor and the subjective experience is justified, in light of the actual facts, is another matter. When I am given an argument that aims to provide such justification, I will be happy to discuss it.

I noted above that my apples-falling-from-trees analogy is not about the ‘nature of capital’ but about Marx’s explanatory procedure. This may seem to be too neat a division. Doesn’t the kind of explanation one provides depend strongly on the specific ‘nature’ of the phenomena one is explaining? Thus, doesn’t my analogy imply that I am—like it or not—equating the LTFRP and the gravitational force? No, not at all. There is no necessary connection between the ‘nature’ of a phenomenon and how one explains the phenomenon. After all, it is possible to provide a sober analysis of drunkenness.[3]

My apples-falling-from-trees analogy does not compare capitalism to physical reality. It illustrates how a multi-causal explanation that appeals to a general principle or ‘law of a tendency’ works, whatever the subject matter may be.

If I appeal to 

I am not assuming that the additional causal factors and counteracting factors don’t exist. Much less am I constructing a mono-causal model that excludes them and which is therefore severely restricted in applicability. If I then go on to talk about the additional causal factors and the counteracting factors, I am not exhibiting my ambivalence, vacillating, or admitting that the general explanatory principles to which I appealed fail to operate in the real world. 

Consider the first four bullet points. Are they metaphors I have employed to frame my understanding of the ‘nature’ of capital? Do I think there is something non-trivial that falling apples, good grades, long-necked giraffes, disproportionately frequent unemployment, and falling profitability all have in common? Do I think there is something non-trivial that the universal law of gravitation, the study-knowledge relation, natural selection, labour-market discrimination, and the LTFRP all have in common? Hardly. Each of the phenomena has a very different ‘nature’ from the others; each general explanatory principle is very different from the others. Nonetheless, the five explanations have the same basic structure, and among the important things they have in common is the fact that none of them is mono-causal.

Harvey’s mono-causality charge (new version)

Yet Harvey continues to ‘quibble’ over this conclusion:

We could quibble over semantics of what mono-causality means here. If there were no universal law of gravity, no amount of blowing of the wind would send the apple to the ground and the amount of air-resistance would be irrelevant. These conditionalities (or countervailing forces) are relevant only in relation to the universal law.

The normal meaning of mono-causal is ‘having a single cause’, and what Harvey (2014) alleged was indeed that ‘many Marxist economists like to assert’ a ‘single causal theory of crisis formation’ (my emphasis). In this analogy, however, the causes of the apple’s movement include not only gravitation, but also the blowing of the wind and air resistance. There are three causal factors here, not one. The analogy therefore cannot properly be read as exemplifying Harvey’s charge that Marx’s LTFRP and the crisis theory based on it are ‘single causal’.

He is now using the term mono-causal in a novel way. His new implicit definition of mono-causal explanation is ‘an explanation in which there is a cause to which none of the other causes are wholly unrelated’. As I noted in Part 2 of my counter-critique,

I suspect the talk of multi-causality is masking Harvey’s desire for an apousa-causal crisis theory [‘one in which the LTFRP plays no role at all (apousa is Greek for “absent”)’]. He is clearly not happy with the specific multi-causal theory of crisis that emerges, when all is said and done, from volume 3 of Capitala theory in which the LTFRP remains intact and other determinants such as the financial system are linked to it and mediate the way in which it appears. [emphases in original]

I have no objection to Harvey’s re-definition of mono-causal, as long as he makes clear that he isn’t using the term in the normal way. But if he is decrying explanations of social and economic phenomena that are mono-causal in his novel sense, he is decrying the unavoidable. If there were no carbon, there would be no organic life, and thus no human beings, no human activity, and no social or economic phenomena. All such phenomena ‘are relevant only in relation to’ carbon; they can occur only because carbon is present on earth.

Objecting to my statement that he is campaigning for an apousa-causal crisis theory in which the LTFRP plays no role at all, Harvey writes, ‘the organic whole constituted by capital could be laid low by the mechanism pointing towards falling profits that Andrew favours and I certainly did not exclude that possibility, in spite of what he says’. But I never said that he denies that there might be some exceptional case in which labour-saving technological change is a cause of falling profitability and the fall in profitability is a cause of crisis. I said and say again that he is trying to exclude from consideration the possibility that Marx’s law of the tendential fall in the rate of profit is a genuine law—that is, a general principle that successfully explains why the rate of profit has a tendency to fall. He is also trying to exclude from consideration the possibility that the theory of capitalist economic crisis rooted in the law might successfully explain ‘what is happening to us in the here and now’ rather than what will happen in the distant future when ‘the sun … eventually run[s] out of gas’.[4] The concluding words of his rejoinder reject these possibilities explicitly: ‘my organic metaphor for understanding capital’s nature works far better for understanding what is happening to us in the here and now’ (emphasis added).

A strawman LTFRP

Although Harvey’s claim that my apples-falling-from-trees analogy is a metaphor for ‘capital’s nature’ misunderstands what I wrote, it does have the merit of not being made up out of whole cloth. The same cannot be said for his statement that I frame capital’s nature in terms of

the mechanical certainties of that Newtonian world in which the clock was wound up at the outset through the extractions of absolute surplus value only to gradually be wound down under the competitive impetus to create relative surplus value. As the ratio of capital to labour employed shifts ineluctably in the former’s favour, so the profit rate trends down. To me, this mechanical model appears too deterministic, too unidirectional and too teleological to fit how I see and experience capital evolving as an organic whole.

Note that this statement, like his earlier statement that ‘Andrew Kliman has been most strident in his claim that the crisis had nothing to do with financialisation’, is not accompanied by any supporting evidence or citation. And it is equally false. My position on this matter, which I have made perfectly clear, is the opposite of the position attributed to me:

The destruction of capital value through crises is a recurrent phenomenon. The restoration of profitability that this destruction brings about is therefore a recurrent phenomenon as well. Because of this, the rate of profit does not have a determinate secular trend throughout the entire history of capitalism, and efforts to deduce or predict such a trend are futile. [Kliman 2012, p. 25]

The following is a much better example of the use of mechanical metaphors drawn from Newtonian physics to frame a deterministic outlook:

In the same way that the laws of fluid dynamics are invariant in every river in the world, so the laws of capital circulation are consistent from one supermarket to another, from one labour market to another, from one commodity production system to another, from one country to another and from one household to another. 

However, I cannot take credit for this deterministic metaphor.[5] It appears on page 343 of The Condition of Postmodernity (Harvey 1990).

Harvey seems quite reluctant to let go of his strawman versions of the LTFRP and the crisis theory rooted in it. In addition to attributing to me a mechanical conception in which a single driving force ineluctably forces down the rate of profit, he abruptly reverts back to his charge that the LTFRP and the associated crisis theory are mono-causal in the standard ‘single cause’ sense. ‘[T]o focus primarily on [the mechanism pointing towards falling profits] is like saying we should focus only on heart attacks as causes of human death’ (my emphases). No, it’s not like that; primarily does not mean only. In any case, I do not focus primarily on the fall in the rate of profit as a cause of crisis (need I repeat the twelve causes of the financial crisis of 2007–8 that I discussed in my book on the Great Recession and listed in Part 1 of my counter-critique?); much less do I tell others they should do so.

Whether a particular potential cause has actually been the primary one, or a secondary one, or inoperative is something that cannot be known in advance. That’s why we must consider the empirical evidence (which is what Harvey and I were doing before he diverted the discussion onto his metaphor versus my (nonexistent) metaphor). As I noted in my book,

Prior to analysing the data, I had no prior belief that actual rates of profit had failed to rebound since the early 1980s….  If I can now say that a persistent decline in US corporations’ profitability is a significant underlying cause of the Great Recession, and that Marx’s explanation of why the rate of profit tends to decline fits the facts remarkably well, it is because I have crunched and analysed the numbers. I could not have said these things a few years ago. [Kliman 2012, pp. 8-9]

Do not block the way of inquiry

Harvey’s metaphor about heart attacks is troubling because it runs afoul of the ‘first rule of reason’ put forward by Charles Sanders Peirce: ‘Do not block the way of inquiry’. He argued that  

there is no positive sin against logic in trying any theory which may come into our heads, so long as it is adopted in such a sense as to permit the investigation to go on unimpeded and undiscouraged. On the other hand, to set up a philosophy which barricades the road of further advance toward the truth is the one unpardonable offence in reasoning. [emphasis in original] 

The heart-attack metaphor is an implicit a priori injunction against considering even the possibility that the tendency of the rate of profit to fall as a result of labour-saving technological change is the primary cause of crisis. It is a priori because this possibility is ruled out in advance, before considering the evidence and without regard to the evidence, merely because ‘the metaphor that impresses me most’, the one that best ‘fit[s] how I see and experience capital’, is that of an allegedly ‘organic whole’ that is nonetheless made up of ‘disconnected factors operating independently of one another’.[6]

Metaphors are an important part of the process of inquiry—when they disclose additional possibilities that have not been recognized before. But when they are used to rule out possibilities in advance, they block the way of inquiry, impede and discourage investigation, and ‘barricade[ ] the road of further advance toward the truth’. 

Harvey’s metaphor about heart attacks is ‘clever and beguiling’, partly because we already have sufficient evidence to reject—a posteriorithe possibility that heart attacks are the only cause of human death, and partly because of his illicit substitution of primarily with only. Let us therefore reinstate the term primary and consider other cases. Should one have enjoined others to rule out, in advance of the evidence, the possibility that smoking is the primary cause of lung cancer, or that the burning of fossil fuels has been the primary cause of climate change, or that financial problems are the primary cause of US college students’ failure to graduate? If the answer is ‘no’, then why enjoin them to rule out, in advance of the evidence, the hypothesis that the crises of capitalism may in fact have a primary cause? 

I understand that some people are incurious enough not to care whether a cause has been primary or not; and some may be so incurious as to not care about the causes of the events and phenomena they experience. I have no desire to alter their preferences. I do ask that they not let their preferences block the way of inquiries that others of us wish to engage in.

Back to the evidence?

Let me stress again, however, that I am not suggesting that capitalism’s crises have a single primary cause, or even that the ‘here and now’ crisis—the Great Recession and its aftermath—had a single primary cause. What I argue is much less audacious: that the long-term fall in US corporations’ rate of profit was ‘a significant underlying cause of the Great Recession, and that Marx’s explanation of why the rate of profit tends to decline fits the facts remarkably well’ in this particular case. Nor is the issue here whether it is proper to rule out these hypotheses in advance of the evidence. I have already put forward my evidence. I have shown that my analyses and interpretations of the evidence anticipated and dealt with Harvey’s several objections to falling-rate-of-profit evidence that others had earlier put forward. And I have shown that he has provided no legitimate counter-evidence: his labour-force growth statistic is just not evidence that the rate of profit rose or that the LTFRP has been inoperative. 

Thus the issue here is whether it is proper to ignore the (legitimate) evidence, and dismiss my inferences from the evidence as somehow irrelevant to ‘what is happening to us in the here and now’, simply because my (alleged but nonexistent) ‘metaphorical framing’ isn’t Metaphorically Correct. Lest I be accused of misrepresenting Harvey here, lest it be said that he has simply compared and contrasted different metaphorical framings because doing so is ‘useful for readers’, I reiterate that he (1) concludes his response to me by stating categorically that his ‘organic metaphor for understanding capital’s nature works far better for understanding what is happening to us in the here and now’, and (2) arrives at this conclusion without regard to the empirical evidence. He does not challenge my evidence nor put forward any legitimate empirical counter-evidence. He instead appeals to what ‘impresses’ him and ‘how I see and experience capital’ to decide what ‘works far better’.

This way of deciding matters is certainly superior to careful consideration of hard evidence if one’s goal is to confirm what one already believes, or to give an ex post justification for conclusions that are actually based on political expediency. But it is indescribably inferior if one’s goal is to understand what is actually ‘happening to us in the here and now’. How people ‘see and experience’ what is happening is frequently different from what is actually happening and, even more frequently, inadequate as a method of comprehending what is happening.[7] Careful reasoning and consideration of hard evidence are needed before the accuracy and adequacy of what is ‘see[n] and experience[d]’ can be confirmed or disconfirmed.

When subjective experience is strongly influenced by misunderstandings, it is an especially faulty guide to understanding what is happening. Harvey (2014) contends that growing employment is, in and of itself, important evidence that the rate of profit has risen and that the LTFRP has not been operative. He argues that Marx’s law would hold true only if commodities’ prices equalled their values. He questions the legitimacy of contemporary falling-rate-of-profit evidence, apparently unaware that his many objections had already been anticipated and dealt with. It is hardly surprising that Marx’s theory of capitalist crisis will be experienced as inapplicable to the ‘here and now’ when subjective experience is coloured by such misunderstandings.

I think it is terribly important, politically and ethically, to combat and try to root out dogmatism. One type of dogmatism is stubborn insistence that one’s opponent is wrong. Harvey is certainly not guilty of that. He writes, ‘There is, however, the possibility that both Andrew and I might be right in our metaphorical framings’. Although this statement wrongly attributes to me a metaphor I didn’t put forward and don’t endorse, it is at least admirably non-dogmatic. Yet there is a second type of dogmatism as well: stubborn refusal to modify one’s beliefs in the light of hard evidence and logical considerations. ‘You have your opinion and I have mine’ and ‘You’re not coming from where I’m coming from’ may seem to be the quintessence of open-mindedness and mutual respect, but if these things are said in order to dismiss evidence and logic, they are nothing more than dogmatic refusal to entertain the possibility that one might be wrong.[8]

I am not suggesting that Harvey is guilty of the second type of dogmatism. He has not refused to reconsider what he thinks in light of the empirical evidence. He simply has not yet engaged with the evidence. He still has the opportunity to do so, and I hope he will avail himself of it. Doing so may not be ‘useful for readers’, but we intellectuals have other responsibilities as well. One of them is to separate the wheat from the chaff:[9] that which is empirically correct and logically sound from that which is not. This responsibility is crucial, because many if not most readers lack the knowledge, and the time required to acquire sufficient knowledge, to properly evaluate the evidence and arguments on their own. They need some help. It is our responsibility to help them.

Readers’ lack of time and knowledge is a main reason that some of them may find comparison of metaphors to be more ‘useful’ than evidence and arguments they are unable to evaluate properly. Some of them may be heartened by the ‘useful’ suggestion that they may instead decide what ‘works far better’ by appealing to something they do know––namely, which metaphors they like and which they dislike. But this suggestion is politically unwise. If we want to change the world, not just replace one set of personifications of capital who happen to be in charge of the world with different personifications of capital, we can do so effectively only if we have real knowledge—evidence- and argument-based knowledge—of how the world actually functions and malfunctions. The ‘useful’ suggestion is also unethical. As W. K. Clifford argued convincingly in ‘The Ethics of Belief’, ‘it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence’. A person who doesn’t have the time needed to become a competent judge of the issues should also ‘have no time to believe’.

 

References

Harvey, David. 1990. The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change. Cambridge, MA and Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.

_______. 2014. ‘Crisis Theory and the Falling Rate of Profit’.

Kliman, Andrew. 2012. The Failure of Capitalist Production: Underlying Causes of the Great Recession. London: Pluto Books.

Marx, Karl. 1971. Theories of Surplus-Value, Part III. Moscow: Progress Publishers.

_______. 1989b. Karl Marx, Frederick Engels: Collected Works, Vol. 32. New York: International Publishers.

_______. 1990. Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Vol. I. London: Penguin. 

_______. 1991. Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Vol. III. London: Penguin. 

Quine, W. V. O. 1960. Word and Object, Cambridge, MA and London: MIT Press.

 


 

[1] As I noted in Part 1 of this counter-critique, Marx's law says that the rate of profit tends to fall because of labour-saving technological progress under capitalism. By lowering costs of production, technological innovations tend to keep products’ prices from rising, and this makes it difficult for companies’ profits to increase as rapidly as the amount of capital they invested to produce their products.

[2] Harvey’s fundamental disagreements here are with Marx. His initial contribution (Harvey 2014) criticised Marx frequently and at great length, while I was mentioned once. In contrast, Harvey’s response almost makes Marx disappear—he is mentioned only a few times, mostly in connection with his metaphors, but not once with regard to the LTFRP and the crisis theory based on it—and it portrays the dispute between Harvey and Marx as a dispute between Harvey and Kliman. What accounts for the sudden change? And what accounts for the fact that Harvey has abruptly shifted from discussing evidence to discussing metaphors? Could it be that it is one thing to concede that Kliman’s supposed ‘metaphorical framings’ might be right, but quite another to concede that Marx’s law of the tendential fall in the rate of profit might be right, and relevant for understanding why the Great Recession erupted?

[3] Apparently, the phrase ‘sober analysis of drunkenness’ was coined by Tadeusz Boy-Żeleński, who used it to characterise Michel de Montaigne’s essay ‘Of Drunkenness’. 

[4] Harvey seems to have borrowed this quip from Rosa Luxemburg, who wrote, ‘there is still some time to pass before capitalism collapses because of the falling rate of profit, roughly until the sun burns out’. There seems to be no evidence that Marx held that capitalism must, or will, collapse because of the falling rate of profit. On the contrary, he argued that ‘[c]ounteracting influences [are] at work, checking and cancelling the effect of the general law [of the tendential fall in the rate of profit]’, that the LTFRP ‘has constantly to be overcome by way of crises’, and that ‘[p]ermanent crises do not exist’ (Marx 1991, pp. 339, 367; Marx 1989, p. 128, starred note).

[5] It is true that the Navier-Stokes equations on which modern fluid mechanics is based suggest that fluid flow may be ‘chaotic’. However, chaotic has a technical meaning here that differs from the everyday meaning. The behavior of variables in a chaotic dynamical system, though unpredictable in practice, is completely deterministic.  

[6] The only organic entities that fit this description are the famous gavagai, the ‘undetached parts of rabbits’ that W. V. O. Quine’s (1960, p. 52) imaginary ‘native’ perceives when the rest of us perceive whole rabbits. The ‘disconnected factors operating independently’ phrase appears in Harvey (2014) as well as in his recent response. He is quoting Marx (1971, p. 120); but Marx used the phrase to characterise economic crises as a violent fusion of disconnected and independently operating factors, while Harvey uses it to suggest that the causes of crises are disconnected from, and operate independently of, one another.

[7] ‘[A]ll science would be superfluous if the form of appearance of things directly coincided with their essence’ (Marx 1991, p. 956); but they don’t coincide, so ‘science’ is necessary.

[8] I am well aware of incommensurability, the theory-ladenness of observation, and the like. None of these problems are relevant to what I am discussing at this point. They are about cases in which evidence and reason are insufficient to settle disputes, not cases in which they are sufficient but one side of the dispute dogmatically refuses to accept their consequences.

[9] I hasten to clarify that this is not a metaphor that compares ‘capital’s nature’ to agricultural production.

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