Crisis (I)

Another nice post by Jehu on Sasha Lilley’s anti-crisis-theory:

In a recent interview as well as in this essay, Lilley equates the inevitable demise of capitalism with “peak oil”, the Mayan calendar, religious inspired prophecies of the end of time, etc. She even tries to tie the inevitable demise of capitalism based on labor theory of value with the odious Malthus’ theory of overpopulation. Re:The People

Because capitalist relations engenders a certain tendency to make irrational predictions for its demise, it clearly will last for-ev-ah! (unlike all previous historical social systems). Also, each moment capitalist relations continue is further proof they will continue forever or at least “until the sun burns out” (as one expert Marx-hobbyist once posted).

A look at “historical eras” would indicate that one has followed the next in increasingly short order, so we can see that expecting change is hardly irrational today. Jehu makes the further useful observation that the failure of the crisis of the Great Depression and WWII to result in communism hardly means that those expecting a crisis in 1928 were incorrect in their expectation.

Ultimately, it is true that the usefulness of crisis theory comes not from the prediction of a single moment of crisis but in describing the entire fabric of capitalist relations that leads up to the crisis and results from the crisis. Here, I think it’s reasonable to say crisis theory has succeeded. The history of the last twenty years might well be described as “a tale of crisis postponed” – the dot-com bubble and the housing bubble involved increasingly short-term efforts to maintain the apparent health of an il-balanced economy. And now? Today’s economy with its huge corporate profits and anemic “real economy” performance seems to be later stages of “to preserve this cancer we must kill the patient” treatment. That the economy is not at the stage of 1930-style financial collapse is mostly a statement that the present rulers no longer have faith in the standard process of “destruction and renewal” that the previous crisis involved. That does point to a world of permanent depression without renewal. Which obviously can last “forever”.

Going back to the decadence thread referenced earlier, one has to say that there are two kinds of effective understanding. Ideally, we would want to have a scientific understanding in which our theories had specific, falsifiable predictions. However, since we live in the “real world”, we wind up forced to use the most plausible idea among a set of not-yet-scientifically falsifiable positions. And getting back to Sasha Lilley, in this real world, the absence of a fully-proven theory for X does not prove not-X.

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