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International Socialism, Spring 2012


David McNally


Explaining the crisis or heresy hunting?

A response to Joseph Choonara


From International Socialism 2 : 134, Spring 2012.
Copyright © International Socialism.
Copied with thanks from the International Socialism Website.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


In opposition to ostensibly “pragmatic” politics, revolutionary Marxists have long insisted that the practice of changing the world is inextricably tied to the ways in which we understand and theorise it. Yet, while maintaining a resolute commitment to the indispensable role of theory, the best Marxist work has also resisted dogmatic ossification, insisting that, since the world we seek to understand is undergoing incessant transformation, so must the theoretical mappings in which we engage. “Where things and their interrelationships are conceived not as fixed but rather as changing, their mental-images too, i.e. concepts, are also subject to change and reformulation,” wrote Engels. [1] Because theoretical formulations can never be entirely adequate to the complex, dynamic reality they seek to decipher, theory must always remain open-ended and subject to revision.

Periods of significant change in the economic rhythms of capitalist accumulation and of the social and political registers of working class experience invariably demand more of Marxist theory and practice in this regard. Old formulations must be subjected to rigorous scrutiny, old positions re-examined. [2] The global economic crisis that broke out in 2008 is a case in point. Once again revolutionary theory and practice are being put to new tests. It remains to be seen how equal to these we shall be.

It was with this sense of the stakes that I developed the arguments that comprise the core of my book Global Slump: The Economics and Politics of Crisis and Resistance. It was – and remains – my conviction that the crisis of 2008 represents a turning point in world economy and politics, that it signals the closing of one period and the opening of another, and that we urgently need to grapple with the central features of this transformation. As I wrote, the crisis of 2008 “represents the terminus of a quarter-century of economic growth – which I shall call the neoliberal expansion – and the transition to a protracted period of slump. It has also opened a new period of social conflict and class struggle”. [3] I realised that parts of this argument would be controversial in some quarters, particularly among those on the left who persist in characterising the last four decades as a period of “crisis” or “downturn” in global capitalism. But I deliberately chose not to make those debates the focus of my text, advising readers that I would largely consign such issues to commentary in endnotes. [4] Contrary to Joseph Choonara’s claim in his ostensible “review” of Global Slump, the “targets” of the book are not radical political economists who differ with me on these questions. [5] These theorists get only passing commentary outside the main body of the text. Instead the book largely targets mainstream understandings of the economy and tries to provide an accessible Marxist interpretation of capitalism, its propensities to crisis, the contours of the neoliberal period, the specific characteristics of the global slump we are living through, and some key lessons to be derived from movements of mass resistance.

That Choonara should so misrepresent the “targets” of Global Slump is, regrettably, consistent with his utterly tendentious review, which combines a series of misrepresentations of key arguments, unintended confirmations of my claims, and cheap shots designed to discredit their author. I do not intend here to enter the tedious game of replying at length to each and every one of these. Instead I want to highlight crucial theoretical and political arguments developed in Global Slump as a contribution to the wider discussions the Marxist left urgently requires. My responses to Choonara will thus be embedded in an account of the actual issues at stake. I shall conclude by offering some comments on the need for Marxists to move beyond a largely defensive approach to theoretical discussion and debate.

A 40-year crisis, or a sequence of crisis, expansion, slump?

“Permanent crises do not exist,” wrote Marx in Theories of Surplus Value. In Marx’s dynamic theory of accumulation, capitalist growth creates the conditions for crisis, just as crises, via the destruction of capital and the lowering of working class earnings, are integral to a resumption of growth (assuming the system is not overturned). For this reason, Marx insisted that a crisis of over-accumulation is always “transitory”, not “permanent”. [6] Now, the possibility must be granted that changes in the modalities of capitalism might so undercut the capacity of crises to lay the basis for new expansions that the system would enter into permanent stagnation or decline. Indeed, something of this sort was claimed by many Trotskyists during and after the Second World War, albeit with little real political-economic analysis. But their perspective was empirically falsified, and in a most dramatic way. To my mind it was also theoretically flawed. [7]

I believe that claims for a “long-term crisis of overaccumulation and profitability” [8] stretching across the last four decades are similarly flawed, though I fully acknowledge, as I did in Global Slump, that some adherents of the 40-year crisis or long-downturn thesis have produced more nuanced versions of their positions over time. [9] And turning to the empirical record, I offer in Global Slump three principal (and interrelated) arguments for conceiving of the period from 1982 to 2007 as one of neoliberal capitalist expansion. Each thesis describes one method of increasing the rate of surplus value (and with it the rate of profit): (1) compressing working class living standards; (2) using new technologies and industrial systems to increase the productivity of labour; [10] (3) creating global production chains that lower the wage bill by drawing new sources of cheap labour into the circuits of capital. [11] Let me briefly elaborate these arguments.

I maintain, first, that a sustained government and employer offensive against workers, unions and the social wage beginning in the late 1970s reduced working class shares of national income and real wages, leading to a significant increase in the rate of exploitation of labour. [12] I will not elaborate this claim here as Choonara backhandedly grants this point by referring to the work of Anwar Shaikh on the compression of wages in the US. He then adds that had wages “continued to rise, profit rates would have fallen pretty much continuously throughout the neoliberal period”. [13] But, of course, the whole point here is that real wages did not continue to rise. As a result, the rate of exploitation – and with it the rate of profit – rose.

Secondly, I argue that substantial processes of industrial restructuring took place across the neoliberal period, with massive downsizing, mothballing of old plants and equipment, introduction of new technologies, speed-up, and the development of systems of lean production that markedly raised the productivity of labour. Rather than decades of relative technological stagnation, I insist that robotics, computerisation and the widespread application of new production methods (such as continuous casting and electric arc furnaces in the steel industry) are all evidence of decisive processes of technical change that boosted labour productivity, increased relative surplus value, and contributed to rising profitability. To take just one example, I point out that in the US steel industry the period after the recession of 1974–5 saw a contraction in capacity of 100 million tons, a drop of more than 300,000 in employment at integrated mills and a wave of bankruptcies (29 US steel firms collapsing between 1997 and 2002), all of which involved genuine destruction of capital. At the same time, the introduction of new technologies and the corresponding shift to mini-mills altered the technological foundations of the industry. Industrial transformations across the neoliberal period like these made it possible for the productivity of labour in the US to rise between 1979 and 2007 at a rate of about 2 percent a year, roughly twice the rate of increases in real hourly wages. [14] Rather than “limited” restructuring as Choonara claims, [15] I suggest that sweeping processes of industrial reorganisation and technological change in the context of weakened labour movements contributed significantly to increases in the rate of surplus value (which rose by about 40 percent by one calculation), [16] and with it the rate of profit.

Interacting with and reinforcing these trends I identify, thirdly, a dramatic spatial-geographic reorganisation of capital based on some of the most massive and accelerated processes of primitive accumulation in world history, particularly in China, which is in the throes of “the largest mass migration the world has ever seen”, as hundreds of millions leave rural areas and enter wage-labour. [17] My argument stresses the interconnections of global restructuring, foreign direct investment (FDI) by multinational corporations within both the Global North and China (along with some other parts of the Global South), the creation of transnational production chains, and the growth of the world working class, including its reserve army, in the South through intensified processes of displacement and dispossession. The combined result of these developments has been the creation of a new centre of capital accumulation in East Asia (outside of Japan), a tripling in the size of the paid workforce in China as that economy emerges as a crucial workshop of the world, and a tremendous growth in the international working class, which appears to have at least doubled in size across the neoliberal era, with something like half of it living in East and South Asia. [18]

To illustrate the extent of these changes, I point out that during the first six years of the 1990s East Asia (excluding Japan) experienced an explosive 300 percent increase in capital formation, compared to a 40 percent increase for the US and Japan, and 10 percent for Europe. I claim in Global Slump that all of this is confirmation of intensive processes of restructuring and reorganisation of global capitalism across the neoliberal period, evidence not of a capitalism mired in a long-term crisis, but of a system that was sufficiently dynamic to bring hundreds of millions of new wage-labourers into circuits of capitalist production for the first time, and in the process to create a new centre of world accumulation. Choonara’s response is to note that “China has a long way to go, and there is nothing inevitable about its growth continuing as it has over the past decades”. [19] That is undoubtedly true. Moreover, I make precisely such points in Global Slump, illustrating how China’s growth pattern has produced powerful economic and social contradictions. [20] But that is not the issue. The question is whether the rapid processes of capital accumulation in China during the neoliberal period, and the tripling of the size of China’s working class, are evidence that something more has been going on than a “long downturn” in the system.

Drawing the threads of these three arguments together, I suggest that it is unhelpful to try to capture these dynamic transformations through the lens of a “long-term crisis” or “long downturn” thesis. For a quarter-century (1982 to 2007) world capitalism underwent a period of sustained accumulation (as always, punctuated by recessions) and an upward trend in the rate of return. [21] The current crisis, as Marx’s analysis would suggest, is a result of precisely this dynamism of capitalism across the neoliberal expansion; the recent downturn is not the result of a long downturn. Now, it is true that capitalist growth was not as robust across the neoliberal period as it was during the great boom of 1945–73. But that, I maintain, cannot be our principal metric. Judged across the span of the last 140 years, growth during the quarter-century 1982–2007 is more or less at the capitalist norm. There is thus very little empirical basis for describing the period as one of long-term crisis.

Confronted with these arguments, Choonara chooses a scatter-gun strategy. Having conceded my first argument about wage compression, however backhandedly, having largely ignored the second (except to say that restructuring was “limited”), [22] and having made a point about China with which we both agree but which dodges the real question, he proceeds to try to generate heat about statistics. He attacks, for instance, my use of Angus Maddison’s data on world economic growth rates in an effort to paint my use of statistics as “sloppy and selective”. [23] He conveniently fails to tell his readers that these same data are used by political economists he defends, like Robert Brenner and Alex Callinicos. [24] Apparently, it is fair game to use these data if Choonara agrees with you, but unacceptable if he does not. Similarly, he gets worked up about the fact that I refer to different measures of the rate of profit, and points out that Doug Henwood’s claim, which I cite, for a “doubling” of US non-financial profit rates between 1982 and 1997 does not entirely correspond with figures I present from Simon Mohun. Let me concede here that Mohun’s figures show about half the rate of relative increase in profit rates that Henwood’s figures describe. The same is true of some of the data from Anwar Shaikh that Choonara apparently prefers. [25] I also draw attention to other measures by Fred Moseley, Robert Brenner, Minqi Li, Gérard Duménil and Dominique Lévy, Philip Armstrong, Andrew Glyn and John Harrison. [26] My concern in this area was not with the methodologies and preferred data sets for tracking movements in the rate of profit, which involve questions that lie far beyond the range of Global Slump. My interest was in showing that, notwithstanding differences in methodology, multiple Marxist studies display a protracted upward trend in the rate of profit in the US from the low point of the last crisis until 2006–7. [27]

In the face of such evidence, Choonara simply declares the rising trend in profits to be “fictitious”. [28] It is more than a little unfortunate for his case, however, that he invokes the insightful analysis of Anwar Shaikh in the 2011 Socialist Register. Not only do Shaikh’s data show the same persistent rise in profitability across the period in question, but on the basis of these data he proceeds to define the quarter-century 1982–2007 as a “boom” and even a “great boom”. [29] It is hard to see how this could be considered a refutation of my argument. And it certainly does not support the claim that the upturn in profitability was “fictitious”. Despite himself, Choonara’s invocation of Shaikh’s analysis clearly confirms my view that this period was one of an extended upturn in profitability.

Theorising financialisation

We move next to the question of financialisation. Global Slump attempts to demonstrate that, while the crisis of 2008–9 is fundamentally the result of over-accumulation and generalised problems of profitability – and therefore not simply a financial crisis – it does have some unique financial and monetary features that we need to grasp. However, contrary to many views on the left, I argue that financialisation is not about the rise to prominence of a stratum of financiers or rentiers, who have twisted capitalism to narrowly financial ends. Nor, I maintain, is it simply about neoliberal policies of financial deregulation. [30] Instead I urge that we need to locate the structural foundations of financialisation in the severing of formal convertibility between the dollar and gold in 1971, the heightened volatility in currencies that this generated, the new instabilities this created with respect to the measure of value, and the emergence of new financial instruments – derivatives – designed to hedge against volatility by measuring and pricing (or commodifying) risk, instruments that figured centrally in the concrete forms of the financial meltdown of 2008–9.

Choonara’s strategy here is to declare that “there is nothing at all original” about my analysis. [31] He rightly observes that many commentators have described the shift to a regime of floating exchange rates and the growth of currency trading. But this is not the blow he imagines to my claim for having said something a bit different on this matter. For my argument is that these changes created pressures for capitalists to seek out financial instruments – derivatives – that would ostensibly protect them from, or hedge against, losses due to sharp fluctuations in currencies and other prices. Greater involvement in markets for such financial products, and with it growing financial profits, followed logically from these structural changes. Global Slump then demonstrates how the rise of derivatives involved attempts by financial actors to measure quantities of risk in general – or “abstract risk” – so that protection from it, or means of profiting by it, could be bought and sold via esoteric financial instruments of the sort that figured prominently in the credit crisis (mortgaged-backed securities, collateralised debt obligations, credit default swaps, and the like). The book further explores the system of reified calculations associated with quantifications of “abstract risk” in order to offer a value-theoretic approach to understanding these instruments and the dynamics they involved. [32] Perhaps all of this is less significant than I think. But dismissing the argument because other writers have described the emergence of floating exchange rates and currency trading is really beside the point. [33] Short of a serious counter-argument, I remain convinced that theoretically connecting the marked growth of financial transactions (and of derivatives designed to commodify abstract risk) to the severing of formal convertibility between the dollar and gold constitutes a crucial determinant of the financialisation of late capitalism. I recommend that interested readers examine the argument for themselves.

The politics of working class resistance

By the time we reach the final section of Choonara’s article, we do indeed encounter a genuine theoretical and political disagreement between us. But, here again, my own views are distorted beyond recognition. Choonara first quotes a passage from Global Slump in which, having discussed important movements of racialised workers in the US, I address the need for workers of colour to draw “white workers into the struggle”. I insist that this “is not accomplished by trying to find a common ground of ‘class unity’ that ignores or downplays the very real social hierarchies – based on race, gender, sexuality, and ability – that frequently divide workers”. [34] On the basis of this quote Choonara then makes an extraordinary claim: “Here,” he pronounces, “in common with much contemporary writing on the left, class is seen as just one among many kinds of identity in a kaleidoscope of struggle”. [35] This is quite a conceptual leap, to say the least, particularly as I nowhere suggest the social relations of class are mere identities. [36] If insisting that authentic class unity cannot be built by ignoring or downplaying “the very real social hierarchies” among workers is proof that one treats class as merely an identity, it would logically follow that only by ignoring or downplaying hierarchies among workers can one avoid the identity-based misunderstanding of class. I am fairly certain that this is not a position Choonara would defend. But if not, the charge against me falls flat.

I suspect the real issue here is my adherence to the view that class relations in any real historical context are inflected by a constellation of relations of domination, including those of gender, sexuality, race and nationality. Class, therefore, does not exist as a structure outside these relations; it is in part constituted in and through them – just as, say, race and gender are always shot through with the realities of class. It follows from this analysis, I argue, that the building of real working class unity means “developing a politics of working class solidarity and struggle that both identifies common ground while also challenging many workers’ investments in oppressive relations and practices”. [37] On this basis, I insist that anti-racist and feminist commitments – just like support for the right of oppressed nations to self-determination – are not additions to meaningful working class politics, but are integral to them. [38] And it is in this spirit that I advocate “working class organising along profoundly feminist and anti-racist lines”. [39] Now, there is no question that my attitude towards work in the Marxist-feminist tradition is more favourable than that of many contributors to International Socialism. So it may be that Choonara can only process socialist-feminist and anti-racist commitments as a form of identity politics. I adhere to a different position, considering such commitments essential to the building of working class solidarities that confront “the very real social hierarchies” among workers, and holding that this need not involve any form of identity politics. [40]

Choonara’s next line of attack is to inform readers that workers’ struggles have figured prominently in the revolutionary events in Tunisia and Egypt, as if this comprises some sort of refutation of my position. The problem here is that I have repeatedly argued precisely this, emphasising the key role of radical dissidents within the General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT) in sparking general strikes that figured centrally in the overthrow of Ben Ali, and highlighting the decisive importance of the Egyptian strike wave of early February 2011 in the toppling of Mubarak. [41] Building on Global Slump’s analysis of the month-long general strikes in Guadeloupe and Martinique – about which Choonara is notably silent, perhaps because it does not fit his caricature of my politics – I have recently written:

the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, like the general strikes in Guadeloupe and Martinique, show that new forms of radical working class politics can make crucial gains. In each of these cases, we observe the emergence of militant labour activism beyond the constraints of the business unionism that predominates in the Global North. [42]

The upsurge of radical workers’ movements in Tunisia and Egypt is to be enthusiastically celebrated across the left. To offer them up as some sort of “refutation” of the analyses in Global Slump is, however, yet another red herring.

Beyond heresy hunting

What are we to make of all this? What is the point of treating readers of International Socialism to a “review” that consists of multiple misrepresentations of key arguments, evasions of real issues, and attempts to discredit an author?

The clue, I think, lies in Choonara’s opening claim that the “targets” of Global Slump are radical political economists who subscribe to the long downturn or 40-year crisis perspective on the neoliberal era. As we have seen, these are not at all the targets of the book. But perceiving that my book challenges an analysis that has become something of an orthodoxy in the pages of this journal, it seems that Choonara can only fixate on this. “There is a case to be made against McNally,” he declares, and so we are off to the tendentious races, careening through a flurry of charges that nowhere comprise a serious, coherent argument. There is a name for such a procedure: heresy hunting. Since McNally does not honour the orthodoxy defended by Choonara, every tactic will be used to discredit his work. Consumed by the logic of heresy hunting, the critic soon loses any sense of the real arguments in play. No longer is he interested in a genuine criticism that comprehends and engages; the task becomes a frantic search for rebuttals, however tenuous or incoherent. Readers of International Socialism, a journal that has made important contributions to the Marxist left, deserve better. Whether Global Slump is a work “unworthy of my abilities” [43] I leave for readers to decide. What I would insist is that Choonara’s review of the book is unworthy of this journal’s readership.

Let me return finally to the real stakes here. On the basis of the economic analysis developed in my book, I claimed that we have entered a protracted slump involving “a whole period of interconnected crises – the bursting of a real estate bubble; a wave of bank collapses; a series of sovereign debt crises; relapses into recession – that goes on for years without a sustained economic recovery”. [44] I further suggested that this period will involve brutal attacks on poor and working class people around the world, as well as massive outbreaks of popular resistance – and that all of this will put an enormous premium on “mass democratic anti-capitalist organisation”. [45] In such a situation we need serious, committed debate designed to strengthen the theoretical and practical capacities of the left, not misleading, knee-jerk efforts at defending positions for their own sake. Marxism as a truly critical revolutionary theory must be capable of confronting its own inherited positions, extending, modifying and amending them to meet the challenges of an ever-changing reality. It would be some small progress in that direction if we could abandon merely defensive tactics and move on to the discussions we urgently need.

* * *


1. Engels, 1981, p. 103. See also Ollman, 1970, chapter 1.

2. As cases in point, think of Marx’s feverish labours, manifest in the Grundrisse, as he reworked his critique of political economy in the light of the economic crisis of 1857–8, of his and Engels’s shift in position on the issue of smashing the state in light of the Paris Commune of 1871, of Rosa Luxemburg’s emphasis on the role of the mass strike in response to the Russian workers’ upheaval of 1905, and of the theorisations of workers’ councils (and the question of the state) by a whole generation of revolutionaries from Lenin to Gramsci in the context of the working class upheavals at the end of the First World War. I would argue that important efforts to understand the post Second World War stabilisation of capitalism (e.g. Kidron, 1970) need also to be considered in these terms.

3. McNally, 2011a, p. 2.

4. McNally, 2011a, p. 12.

5. Choonara, 2011, p. 158.

6. Marx, 1968, Part 2, p. 497n. Based both on Marx’s theoretical argument, which I judge to be correct, and the empirical evidence, I took issue (in an endnote) with Chris Harman’s longstanding claim that in the 1970s capitalism had entered a period of “permanent crisis”. See Harman, 1984, and his quite appropriate rejection of that formulation in Harman, 2007, as well as my commentary in McNally 2011a, p. 201 n61.

7. Among other things, it was often based on the view that the development of the productive forces drives the historical process and that capitalism was no longer capable of overseeing such development. Indeed, Trotsky suggested that such a “regime of decline” would signal “the eclipse of civilisation” – Trotsky, 1971, p. 10.

8. Callinicos, 2010, p. 50.

9. So where Chris Harman had argued (1984, p. 121) that “the present phase of crisis is likely to go on and on – until it is resolved either by plunging much of the world into barbarism or by a succession of workers’ revolutions”, by 2007 he moved off this position, though he still insisted that capitalism since 1973 has exhibited “an overall tendency to stagnation”-Harman, 2007. Alex Callinicos (2010, p. 53) goes beyond Harman, arguing that to see the period since 1973 as one of a long-term crisis “is not to portray it as one of permanent stagnation”. To avoid any misunderstanding, let me also add that these analyses are much more serious than those typically found in the Trotskyist movement of the 1940s. My comments on Brenner, Harman and Callinicos in these regards can be found in McNally, 2011a, pp. 201–202 n61, 206 n95, 207 n105.

10. This makes possible the capture of productivity gains by capital and the cheapening of subsistence goods necessary to the reproduction of the working class.

11. To avoid any misunderstanding here, let me underline that these methods were frequently combined as elements of corporate strategies for raising rates of return.

12. McNally, 2011a, pp. 35–36, 42–45.

13. Choonara, 2011, p. 161.

14. McNally, 2011a, pp. 47–48.

15. Choonara, 2011, p. 161.

16. Mohun, 2009, as cited in McNally, 2011a, p. 48.

17. Yardley, 2004. See also Hart-Landsberg and Burkett, 2005, pp. 45, 55, and Li, 2008, p. 70.

18. McNally, 2011a, ppp. 51–56, 134–137, 208 n120. Choonara gets quite exercised (pp. 162–163) about my explicitly qualified reference to the World Bank’s measures for “the export-weighted” industrial working class. As he knows, I find these figures (and the methodology for calculating them) suspect. He also knows that my argument by no means rests upon them and that I suggest they are useful only as an “index of the relative growth of the world working class”. Perhaps my qualified use of these figures, as a way of underlining the shift of global manufacturing to parts of East Asia and the concomitant growth of the industrial working class there, still puts too much stock in them. That is a point worth discussing. Choonara seems to prefer my use of figures for the paid workforce in China – which demonstrate a tripling of the working class there, as he notes. But, without informing readers that the data he prefers confirm my overall argument, he cites this as an alleged example of my “sloppy and selective use of data” (p. 163).

19. Choonara, 2011, p. 164. Choonara also objects (p. 163) to the specific years I cite in describing the growth of FDI into China. He points out that in one of the years in question the US was in recession. Fair enough, but as he well knows, I readily acknowledge that the bulk of FDI continues to flow within the Global North-McNally, 2011a, p. 50. What is at issue here is that East Asia in general and China in particular have become of “decisive importance” (McNally, 2011a, p. 50) in terms of patterns of world investment, and that “in one sector of the Chinese economy after another, the world’s largest corporations have now set up shop” as part of a major reorganisation of world capitalism – McNally, 2011a, pp. 54–55.

20. McNally, 2011a, pp. 7–8, 57.

21. I also argue that the neoliberal expansion was beginning to slow down by 1997, the year of the Asian crisis, but that at this point credit-creation driven by central banks played a key role in extending the expansion.

22. The term “limited” is of course decidedly vague. I cannot imagine anyone arguing that restructuring was “unlimited”. My argument is that it was considerable enough to significantly transform the technological basis (and profitability) of core industries across the capitalist economy.

23. Choonara, 2011, p. 163.

24. See Brenner, 2006, Table 3.1, p. 43, and Callinicos, 2010, Table 1.2, p. 51. I use these figures in McNally, 2011a, Table 2.1, p. 38. I believe that Brenner, Callinicos and I would all express similar reservations about Maddison’s figures while also holding that they are nevertheless of some explanatory value.

25. Shaikh, 2010, p. 48. The rate of profit on enterprise figures Shaikh produces (p. 52) shows much more than a doubling from 1982 to 2007.

26. McNally, 2011a, p. 203 n67. It may indeed have been unhelpful for me to have referred again to Henwood’s formulation in the context of Mohun’s data (McNally, 2011a, p. 49), so let me concede that one to Choonara, though it does not undermine my general claim for a sustained upward movement in profitability across this period. For Henwood’s data, which show a more than doubling of the profit rate for US non-financial corporations from under 3.5 percent to nearly 8 percent between 1982 and 1997, see Henwood, 2003, p. 204.

27. At the time of writing Global Slump, I was not acquainted with the very important work of Michael Roberts, particularly his book The Great Recession (Roberts, 2009). Using historic costs rather than replacement costs for measuring capital stock, Roberts too comes to the conclusion “that the period of 1982 to 1997 (the so-called period of neoliberalism) does show a rise in profitability, however you measure it” (Roberts, 2012). Focusing more on the over-accumulation side of the equation, my argument about an upward cycle from 1982 to 1997 that was then extended increasingly through credit-creation accords closely with Roberts’s findings.

28. Choonara, 2011, p. 161.

29. Shaikh, 2010, pp. 45, 50, 52 and Figures 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8. Choonara objects to my use of 1982 as a starting point for establishing an upward trend since it was the low point of a slump. However, this is no innovation on my part: starting from the low point of the previous downturn is precisely how expansions are measured. To measure “from trough to trough” as he proposes (p. 161) has nothing to do with measuring a period of expansion or recovery.

30. McNally, 2011a, pp. 87, 91, 214 n201.

31. Choonara, 2011, p. 169.

32. McNally, 2011a, pp. 88–112.

33. The fact that Choonara then uses the work of Bryan and Rafferty in his attempt to debunk me is more than a little strange, as is his description of their essay in Socialist Register 2011 as a “standout” piece – Choonara, 2011, p. 155 n2. While Bryan and Rafferty are right, as I have previously noted, to see derivatives as of real significance to financial transformations within contemporary capitalism, they err in holding that derivatives are now “money” – see McNally, 2009, p. 70 n85. But in the article that Choonara praises in his attack on me, Bryan and Rafferty argue that “it was labour, and its failure as an asset class, not its power as a working class, that triggered the global financial crisis” – Bryan and Rafferty, 2010, p. 216. I strongly dissent from this position as the analysis in Global Slump makes clear.

34. McNally, 2011a, p. 171.

35. Choonara, 2011, p. 172.

36. That there can be class-based identities is another matter, of course.

37. McNally, 2011a, p. 171. Here, for instance, I am thinking of W.E.B. Dubois’s claim for the “psychological wage” that white workers derive from their participation in racist practices. See Dubois, 1995, pp. 700–701. See also Roediger, 1991, and McNally, 2006, chapter 4. This theme is also taken up in Callinicos, 1993, pp. 36–39.

38. Of course, these commitments must be developed in terms that express the class realities of capitalism.

39. McNally, 2011a, p. 172.

40. Since it is not possible to pursue here the favourable position I hold on important work in Marxist-feminism, interested readers might consult Ferguson and McNally, 2012, and the principal book we discuss there, Vogel, 1983.

41. See McNally, 2011b, McNally, 2011c, and McNally, 2011d, pp. 52–55.

42. McNally, 2011d, p. 55.

43. Choonara, 2011, p. 173.

44. McNally, 2011a, pp. 8–9.

45. McNally, 2011a, p. 182.

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Brenner, Robert, 2006, The Economics of Global Turbulence (Verso).

Bryan, Dick, and Michael Rafferty, 2010, Deriving Capital’s (and Labour’s) Future, Socialist Register 2011: The Crisis This Time (Merlin).

Callinicos, Alex, 1993, Race and Class (Bookmarks).

Callinicos, Alex, 2010, Bonfire of Illusions: The Twin Crises of the Liberal World (Polity).

Choonara, Joseph, 2011, Once More (With Feeling) on Marxist Accounts of the Crisis, International Socialism 132 (Autumn).

Dubois, W.E.B., 1995, Black Reconstruction in America, 1860–1880 (Touchstone).

Engels, Frederick, 1981, Preface to Karl Marx, Capital, volume 3 (Penguin).

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Last updated on 24 November 2021