A Marxist view on the current ‘Long Depression’

I have just started reading Marxist economist Michael Roberts’ new book The Long Depression, which seeks to explore the origins, development and likely future course of the world economic crisis which began in 2007 and whose effects are still very much with us.

His view is that economic cycles are driven by movements in the average economy-wide rate of profit and claims that Marx’s ‘law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall’ and its counter-tendencies are vital to any explanation of booms and busts under capitalism.

I will post on the book in more detail when I have finished it. In the meantime, I can recommend the author’s blog, which can be found here.

Here is an interview with Roberts, from 2009 but still relevant, in which he discusses a previous book, The Great Recession.

I find that Roberts and other Marxist economists often provide a deeper and more insightful analysis of capitalism than mainstream economists. They tend to support its replacement by socialism, and on this they have less to say other than that they favour an economy in which production is planned for human need rather than for profit. On this latter line of thought I remain unconvinced, despite the inherent flaws of capitalism.

I do not see myself as a socialist, more of a social democrat, but I remain open to the idea that capitalism will not last forever (after all, it hasn’t been around forever) and could evolve into a quite different kind of society.

It is also telling that the economists I have read who predicted the 2008 recession were all non-mainstream or heterodox, and either post-Keynesians or Marxists. Apart from Roberts, there was Anwar Shaikh (Marxist/Classical), and Wynne Godley and Steve Keen (both post-Keynesians). Clearly their work is worth following.

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