Crisis in Capital and Crisis in Capitalist Society.

Following the distinction made by Heinrich and others, it might be helpful to make a distinction between capital and capitalist society in accounts of crisis. By doing so a crisis of capital could be more strictly defined as disruption and restoration of valorisation, whilst a crisis of capitalist society could be used as a lens through which to interpret the repercussions of the latter on capitalist societies. This might lead to the argument that the crisis is largely over for capital, since profits and valorisation have been restored, but that the crisis is ongoing — in sovreign debt, unemployment, cuts etc.- for capitalist society, which as in the time-honored history capitalist society, has to pay the price for the restoration of capital to business as usual. Just a thought.

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About HR

Deep in the adjunct crackhole.
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7 Responses to Crisis in Capital and Crisis in Capitalist Society.

  1. I like this line of reasoning. Right now there is something like a crisis of political legitimacy as a result of the ruling class’ successful management of the crisis of capital that broke out in 2008.

    All too often catastrophe-mongers attempt to interpret such political crises as indicative of a crisis of capital, but that’s too reductionist. If anything, crises of capital occur with some regularity, whereas political crises, at least of the extent of the one we’re currently experiencing, are rare occurrences. The crisis of capital has been resolved, but at considerable cost of the working class. The question is then how the political conflict will play out. I think a defeat for “our” side, and a subsequent of acceptance of austerity, would be absolutely dire. I think that would stifle promising political mobilization for another generation or so.

  2. “subsequent of acceptance”

    D’oh! Should read “subsequent acceptance” of course.

  3. Rick Deckard says:

    Briefly, what would you say was the cause of the crisis of valorization that happened in 2008 (or earlier?) and how has that been addressed?

    • HR says:

      Good question. I don’t know enough about the crisis — and theores of the crisis– as I should, or as I would like to. I’m not also sure if the speculative distinction I proposed here will stand up in many accounts of the crisis. I imagine it won’t. But i’ll try a brief explanation–the cause of the crisis of valorisation was the financial crisis (here i refrain/dodge from accounts of what caused the financial crisis and whether or not it was rooted in the 1970s or earlier). It seems that it has in large part been addressed by bail outs etc. that have in some instances restored valorisation and in others are restoring it, whilst shifting the crisis to the social institutions sovereign debt, government cuts, lower wages etc. that shift the crisis from one of valorisation to a social crisis. Of course, the question for whether my distinction holds up is how these two relate, whether the social crisis will lead to a decline of consumption, whether my charcterisation of the return to profitability is accurate etc. You will probably have a better grasp of this then I.

    • HR says:

      I should also add that the distinction I proposed in the post wasn’t intended to introduce some sort of false separation between capital and capitalist society, but to try to point to some sort of more complex way of understanding how capital and facets of capitalist society interact, and perhaps to challenge the characterisations of many interpretations of Marxian crisis theory i’ve been coming across by moving to view the function of capital as always one of social crisis.

      • Rick Deckard says:

        I would take the view that the problems in valorization began in the 1970s, but were put off through financialization and accumulation of debt. Debt seems to be value that has yet to be realized, which has been accumulating steadily, and in 2008 we arguably reached the point where it began to seem that too much of that value would never be realized. This certainly isn’t my original interpretation, but it’s the one that seems to work the best to me.

        Although I don’t think that valorization has in this case been restored, and that it’s quite likely that we will see further disruptions, the distinction between capital and capitalist society seems to make sense, because we do indeed see crises migrating from the economy to the realm of politics (and back, etc.) But of course the valorization of capital can’t simply be reduced to ‘the economy.’ What I’m wondering about is whether the category of value as one that is not contained simply in the economy can help us to understand the evolution of crises as they seem to move from one ‘realm’ to another. It’s interesting, for example, that the crisis of the 1960s began as explicitly political and only later did the economic crisis emerge.

        Obviously this is a very sketchy conception, and I’d probably be wiser to finish reading the rest of ‘Capital’ before hazarding further interpretations. By the way, I enjoy your rigorous investigation of Marxian concepts on this blog, keep up the good work.

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