Inicio > Economía marxista > “The Unmaking of Marx’s Capital. Heinrich’s Attempt to Eliminate Marx’s Crisis Theory”: Andrew Kliman, Alan Freeman , Nick Potts, Alexey Gusev and Brendan Cooney

“The Unmaking of Marx’s Capital. Heinrich’s Attempt to Eliminate Marx’s Crisis Theory”: Andrew Kliman, Alan Freeman , Nick Potts, Alexey Gusev and Brendan Cooney


Michael Heinrich’s recent Monthly Review article claims that the law of the tendential fall in the rate of profit (LTFRP) was not proved by Marx and cannot be proved. Heinrich also argues that Marx had doubts about the law and that, for this and other other reasons, his theory of capitalist economic crisis was only provisional and more or less in continual flux.

This response shows that Heinrich’s elementary misunderstanding of the law––his belief that it is
meant to predict what must inevitably happen rather than to explain what does happen––is the
source of his charge that it is unproved. It then shows that a simple misreading of Marx’s text
lies at the basis of Heinrich’s claim that the simplest version of the LTFRP, “the law as such,” is
a failure. Marx’s argument that increases in the rate of surplus-value cannot “cancel” the fall in
the rate of profit is then defended against Heinrich’s attempt to refute it. Finally, the paper
presents evidence that Marx was indeed convinced that the LTFRP is correct and that he
regarded the crisis theory of volume 3 of Capital as finished in a theoretical sense.

I. Introduction

As of this writing, we are in the seventh year of the economic crisis into which the U.S. and
European economies plunged following the 2007 financial crisis. According to almost all
influential canons of economics, this was not supposed to happen. Even mainstream economists
admit that they did not anticipate it, and they are increasingly forced to recognize that they still
cannot explain it.1

If these failures were limited to the mainstream, we would expect a new generation of radicals to
turn rapidly to alternative accounts of economic reality. However, this has not occurred. One
important reason why it has not is that a large number of radical economists also engaged in
triumphalist predictions, insisting––until the crisis broke out––that capitalism was on a new
long-term expansionary path. For example, in their recent book The Crisis of Neoliberalism,
prominent Marxist economists Gérard Duménil and Dominique Lévy (2011) begin by admitting

“when our book Capital Resurgent: Roots of the Neoliberal Revolution was published by
Harvard University Press [in 2004, the neoliberal] strategy appeared successful … The
contemporary crisis is an outcome of the contradictions inherent in that strategy. The
crisis revealed the strategy’s unsustainable character.”

The rest of Duménil and Lévy’s book is an attempt to account for the crisis––but on the basis of
the same theoretical framework that originally led them to conclude that capitalism was
resurgent. What confidence can anyone place in this and other theories that failed to recognize
the unsustainable character of the “neoliberal” boom, until the very moment when it descended
into a new crisis?

Despite radical economists’ lack of theoretical self-criticism, some radical activists are
nevertheless turning to the ideas of Karl Marx, capitalism’s most consistent critic, even though
these ideas have been rejected and dismissed not only by the mainstream but many who present
themselves as Marxists. The new generation needs to appraise, without prejudice, whether and
how Marx’s theory can help them understand this crisis.

The appearance at this moment of Michael Heinrich’s (2013) “Crisis Theory, the Law of the
Tendency of the Profit Rate to Fall, and Marx’s Studies in the 1870s” could have contributed to
this much needed clarification, since Heinrich claims to base his presentation––unlike many
Marxist scholars––on Marx’s own writings. Unfortunately, it is particularly unhelpful, since it
doesn’t actually clarify Marx’s thinking; instead, it is the latest in a long series of efforts to
construct what Freeman (2010) has called “Marxism without Marx.

The point of such efforts is to have one’s cake and eat it too––to disagree with Marx and put
forward an alternative theory, but, at the same time, to present oneself as Marx’s successor. This
tactic works as follows. The proponents of Marxism without Marx claim to show that his
theories are untenable—logically inconsistent, inadequate, or just plain unworthy of
consideration—in their original form. This enables them to represent their own works as
corrected or improved versions of Marx rather than as the divergent theories that they really are.

Artículo Completo


Ver también: Michael Heinrich en Marxismo Crítico

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