Zero Podcast #62: Marx on Machines

Marx’s Capital, Volume 1, Chapter 15 entitled “Machinery and Modern Industry” is the topic this week as Andy Marshall and Andrew Kliman return to the podcast. For people who have been paying close attention you might realize that Andy, Andrew and I have been reading Capital together for a little over a year, and that we’re coming to the end of the endeavor.

Since 2008 Marx has suffered through a resurgence. He’s often spoken of or referenced, but little read or understood. This episode of Zero Squared is one small part of a project to work against that trend.

The music in this episode includes a ukulele cover of Pink Floyd’s “Welcome to the Machine” and the theme from the television show “Out of the Unknown” and Metal Machine Music.

Diet Soap Rerun: Capitalism’s System Failure

The guest was Marxist economist Andrew Kliman. Kliman is a professor at Pace University, the author of two books: Reclaiming Marx and The Failure of Capitalist Production, and he was a returning guest to the podcast.

Here’s a description of Kliman’s book “The Failure of Capitalist Production.”
The reasons behind the global financial crisis and the Great Recession are the subject of much debate. This is the first book to conclude, on the basis of in-depth analyses of official U.S. data, that Marx’s crisis theory can explain these events.

Marx believed that the rate of profit has a tendency to fall, leading to economic crises and recessions. Many economists, Marxists among them, have dismissed this theory out of hand, but Andrew Kliman’s careful data analysis shows that the rate of profit did indeed decline after the post-World War II boom. He shows that free-market policies have failed to reverse that decline. This fall in profitability led to sluggish investment and economic growth, mounting debt problems, desperate attempts of governments to fight these problems by piling up even more debt – ultimately ending in the Great Recession.

Kliman’s conclusion is simple but shocking: short of socialist transformation, the only way to escape the ‘new normal’ of a stagnant, crisis-prone economy is to restore profitability through full-scale destruction of the value of existing capital assets, something not seen since the Depression of the 1930s.