Crisis and Capitalism
275 Madison Avenue, Suite 2114
New York, NY 10016
Do capitalist societies have an inherent tendency toward economic, social, and political crises? Political economists have, over the course of the past 250 years, offered different frameworks to understand the existence of crises within capitalism: from Adam Smith’s “general glut” (when production exceeds demand) to Marx’s belief that the contradictions inherent in capitalism will lead to its eventual demise and the Keynesian attempt to maintain capitalism through state intervention, the question as to whether capitalism necessarily begets crisis has served as one of the foundational concerns for generations of thinkers.
This course will survey the competing theories of crisis in different strands of political economy and economics. Why does the process of capital accumulation take place unevenly, and what are the implications of this fact for political and social life? Students will examine foundational responses to this question: Marx’s theory of crisis (as extended by leading Marxist theorists); Keynes’ theory of persistent unemployment as resulting from the inescapable volatility of aggregate demand; Schumpeter’s concept of creative destruction; Minsky’s financial instability hypothesis (which links speculative credit bubbles and the operation of the financial system to the swings of the business cycle); and Habermas’s legitimation crisis, in which the inability of the state to “manage” economic crises undercuts faith in the existing political system. In doing so, we’ll ponder topics such as profitability and competition, the anarchy of capitalist production, technological progress and technological unemployment, and the process of capital concentration, ever mindful of the political and social reverberations of these economic behaviors.
Course ScheduleMonday, 6:30-9:30pm
June 04 — June 25, 2018