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Capitalist Competition and the Tendency to Overproduction: Comments on Brenner's ‘Uneven Development and the Long Downturn’

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The publication of Bob Brenner's long-awaited analysis of the development of post-war capitalism is to be welcomed. Brenner's systematic review of a mass of data on the development of the US, German and Japanese economies finally, and incontrovertibly, destroys the ‘profit squeeze’ explanation for the tendencies to stagnation and crisis which have afflicted global capitalism over the past thirty years. This once fashionable theory explained the crisis tendencies of capitalism in terms of the ability of workers to restrict profitability through their demands for higher wages and their resistance to the intensification of labour. It is manifestly the case that the struggles of workers over the past thirty years have been predominantly defensive struggles, attempting, at best, to limit the erosion of relative gains of previous years in the spheres of wages, job control and welfare provision. The resistance of workers to a further intensification of their exploitation may have presented a barrier to the resolution of the crisis on the basis of capital, but it is certainly not the struggle of workers that has provoked the crisis.


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