Grossman on capitalism’s contradictions

Henryk Grossman, Capitalism’s contradictions: studies in economic theory before and after Marx, edited by Rick Kuhn, published by Haymarket Books.

Rick Kuhn, the indefatigable editor, biographer and publisher of the writings of Henryk Grossman, has another book out on his work.  Grossman was an invaluable contributor to the development of Marxist political economy since Marx’s death in 1883.  An activist in the Polish Social Democrat party and later in the Communist party in Germany, Grossman, in my view, made major contributions in explaining and developing Marx’s theory of value and crises under capitalism.

Grossman established a much clearer view of Marx’s analysis, overcoming the confusions of the epigones, who either dropped Marx’s value theory for the mainstream bourgeois utility theory, or in the case of crises, opted for variants of pre-Marxist theories of underconsumption or disproportion.  In his works, Grossman weaved his way through these diversions, most extensively in his Law of Accumulation and the Breakdown of the Capitalist System in 1929. Grossman put value theory and Marx’s laws of accumulation and profitability at the centre of the cause of recurrent and regular crises under capitalism.

This book brings together essays and articles by Grossman that critiques the errors and revisionism of the Marxists who followed Marx and in so doing combats the apology of capitalism offered by mainstream (or what Grossman calls ‘dominant’) economics.  Rick Kuhn provides a short but comprehensive introduction on Grossman’s life and works, but also on the essence of the essays in the book.

They include an analysis of the economic theories of the Swiss political economist Simonde de Sismonde, who exercised a powerful influence on the early socialists who preceded Marx – and, for that matter, Marx himself.  Then there is a critical essay by Grossman on all the various ideas and theories presented by Marx’s epigones from the 1880s onwards; and two essays on the ideas of the so-called ‘’evolutionists’’, who tried to develop an alternative to the mainstream based on history and development rather than cold theory.  Their argument was the capitalism was changing and developing away from competition and harmonious growth into monopoly, stagnation and inequality.  But, as Grossman says, Marx too recognised these trends but only he could provide a theoretical explanation of why, based on his laws of accumulation (p250).  Change, time and dynamics as opposed to equilibrium, simultaneity and statics is a big theme of Grossman’s exposition of Marxist economics and that is why the chapter on classical political economy and dynamics in the book is the most important, in my view.

But let me highlight the key conclusions that come out of Grossman’s essays that Rick Kuhn also identifies.  Marx considered that one of his greatest contributions to understanding capitalism was the dual nature of value.  Things and services are produced for use by humans (use value), but under capitalism, they are only produced for money (exchange value).  This is the driver of investment and production – value and, in particular, surplus value.  And both use and exchange value are incorporated into a commodity for sale.  But this dual nature of the value also exposes capitalism’s weakness and eventual downfall.  That is because there is an irreconcilable contradiction between production for use and for profit (between use value and exchange value), which leads to regular and recurring crises of production of increasing severity.

As Grossman shows, Sismondi was aware of this contradiction, which he saw as one between production and consumption.  But he did not see, as Marx did, the laws of motion in capitalism, from the law of value to the law of accumulation and finally to the law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, that reveal the causes of crises of overproduction.

The vulgar economists of capitalism have tried to deny this contradiction of capitalist production ever since it was hinted at by the likes of Sismondi, and logically suggested by the law of value based on labour, first proposed by Adam Smith and David Ricardo. The apologists dropped classical theory and turned to a marginal utility theory of value to replace the dangerous labour theory.  They turned to equilibrium as the main tendency of modern economies and they ignored the effect of time and change.  Only the market and exchange became matters of economic analysis, not the production and exploitation of labour.

But as Kuhn points out that “economic processes involve not just the circulation of commodities but their production as use values.  The duration of the periods of production and even the circulation of different commodities vary.  Their coincidence if it occurs at all, can only be accidental.  Yet vulgar economics simply assumes such coincidence or simultaniety of transactions.  It cannot theoretically incorporate time and therefore history.” p17.

Marx’s analysis destroys the idea that all can be explained by exchange and markets.  You have to delve beneath the surface to the process of production, in particular to the production of value (use value and exchange value).  As Grossman puts it: “Marx emphasises the decisive importance of the production process, regarded not merely as a process of valorisation but at the same time a labour process… when the production process is regarded as a mere valorisation process – as in classical theory – it has all the characteristics of hoarding, becomes lost in abstraction and is no longer capable of grasping the real economic process.” p156.

In my view, Grossman makes an important point in emphasising that the production of value is the driving force behind the contradictions in capitalism not its circulation or distribution, even as these are an integral part of the circuit of capital, or value in motion.  This issue of the role of production retains even more relevance in debates on the relevant laws of motion of capitalism today, given the development of ‘financialisation’ and the apparent slumber of industrial proletariat.

In the chapter on dynamics, Grossman perceptively exposes the failure of mainstream theories which are based on static analysis.  Such theories lead to the conclusion that crises are just shocks to an essentially tendency towards equilibrium and even a stationary state – something that Keynes too accepted.  Capitalism is not gradually moving on (with occasional shocks) in a generally harmonious way towards superabundance and a leisure society where toil ceases – on the contrary it is increasingly driven by crises, inequality and destruction of the planet.

It is the “incongruence” between the value side and the material side of the process of reproduction that is the key to the disruption of capitalist accumulation.  There is no symmetry as the mainstream thinks. The value of individual commodities tends to fall while the mass of material goods increases. Here is the essence of the transitional nature of capitalism as expressed in Marx’s ”dual” value theory and the law of profitability.

26 thoughts on “Grossman on capitalism’s contradictions

  1. Value is the organic unity of use value and exchange value, reflecting the objective fact that human activity (including productive labor) is performed over a period of time, has a history.

    The political economy that Marx critiques reifies abstract labor time (exchange value) as an “objective fact” of nature–when the real objective fact is the alienation of actual human beings from the means of production under capitalism). Marx’s labor theory of value is based on his discovery that capitalism’s antagonistic social relation is repeated in the product of capitalism’s mode of production, here as a contradiction between use value (the actual product of actual beings) and exchange value (reified abstract labor time). Capitalism’s realization of surplus value (necessarily requiring the reconciliation of use value and exchange value in the surplus products) is therefore as inherently problematic–and violent–as is the reproduction of its social order.

    When a “marxist” (e.g. Boffy) claims that exchange value is an objective, eternal fact of nature (independent of actual human activity in producing use values), he (or she) is in fact employing Marx’s labor theory of value as would a mainstream political economist. It seems that lots of marxists have been and still are, wittingly and unwittingly, really liberals, some with an historical tendency towards imperial apologetics.

    1. You might not know whether Boffy is a male or female but you have pretty much nailed him on everything else!

      He also tends to generalise too much, for example he asks us to imagine a society where only machines produce and tells us this means there won’t be capitalism, but I can do the opposite and say if we imagine a society with no machines and only human labour we don’t have capitalism either! Where does that get us? Marx is not an accounting system but an historical and logical development, a method of investigation.

      I would say that those who focus solely the rate of profit are guilty of generalising to some extent, as the real crisis comes when the contradictions have run out of resolutions/countervailing tendencies. call them what you will.

      One barrier, one limit will be the expansion of the market, a limit that wasn’t present in Marx’s time. We are reaching a point where the rate of profit is beside the point because capitalism is reaching technical barriers which it cannot hope to cross, at least not without destroying everything.

      1. Far be it from me to defend Boffy, but in actuality, his observation that in a society where all production is automated, capitalism cannot exist, is correct.

        Without necessary labor time there can be no surplus labor time, and hence no surplus value. At the same time, a society with no machines, but simple tools can be a capitalist society, at least the originating point for capitalist society, and has in fact been that starting point. Agriculture in the English countryside, where capitalism first germinated, was not mechanized. The social relation was imposed, separating the producers from the means of subsistence, thus compelling the producers to present their labor time as a means of exchange.

        The “technical barriers” that capitalism encounters are not exclusively technical, but are intimately bound up with the social restrictions and limitations of profit and profitability.

      2. “but in actuality, his observation that in a society where all production is automated, capitalism cannot exist, is correct.”

        That wasn’t my point. This observation may be correct from some sort of technical point of view, but we can also say that a system with no machines cannot be capitalist either. And a system purely built on human labour cannot be capitalistic. Both of these flights of fancy may be technically correct but they are theoretically erroneous, and offer nothing and I would contend take us away from the historic and logical marxist method. They also take generalisation to the point of absurdity.

        “Agriculture in the English countryside, where capitalism first germinated, was not mechanized”

        Nonsense, of course there was machinery. Seriously what history books have you been reading?

        It is always about specifics, this is why theory always needs to keep up with reality. Your belief that Agriculture n the English countryside, where capitalism first germinated, was not mechanized shows where generalised thought ends up! It is all in the detail, skip the detail and the whole theory comes tumbling down.

      3. A further point:to Sartesian:

        You correctly argued that value may have appeared in pockets before capitalism but only under capitalism could it take on a universal character. The same applied to machinery. Capitalism as a dominant system can only exist once industry has reached a certain stage.

        You argue one thing when it comes to machinery and argue the other when it comes to value. There is an inconsistency in your thinking.

      4. What history books have I been reading? Brenner for one. Mark Overton’s Agricultural Revolution England for another: “Little mechanization of farming took place before the mid-nineteenth century.” p 121

        Capitalist agriculture seizes hold of the English countryside in the 17th century, and the roots of that change can be detected in the 16th century.

        It was not until 1830 that the agricultural engineering industry developed in Britain. Changes in tools, land use patterns, animals, and shifts from crop to pasture, occur, with significant impacts on productivity, but mechanization does not occur prior to the 19th century.

        Mechanization does not occur until the 19th century.

        I’m not arguing one way comes to value and another way when it comes to machinery. I argue that capitalism is defined by its social organization of labor; that social organization precedes mechanization, and in fact mechanization only occurs at a certain point after the development of capitalism– in England, and in the US.

        Arguing that capitalism expands the role of machinery, that the accumulation of capital means in fact the accumulation of the means of production as values does not mean that capitalism springs into existence fully mechanized.

        Pay attention to the real history of capitalist development rather than your own prejudices.

      5. Socialism in One Bedroom is evidently conducive to a rise in temperature and a stifling of thought. So whether male or female they need to open the window or better still go for a walk to clear his/her head. He/she should not so readily bandy the word ‘nonsense’. Is it difficult to understand that unless there are factories and and a class of free wage labourers in existence the introduction of machinery cannot be effected?

        ” Capitalism as a dominant system can only exist once industry has reached a certain stage.” Marx is quite clear: capitalism starts in the countryside. The Carron Iron Works were established in 1759. In 1814 they were the biggest iron works in Europe. What is the fuel of the Industrial Revolution? Coal! The earliest reference I know of to coal working in Britain is 1291, when the Abbot and monks of Dunfermline Abbey were granted the right to dig for coal on the estates of the Lord of Pittencrieff in the county of Fife. Fife’s most famous son is Adam Smith, who published that bible of capitalism ”The Wealth of Nations” in 1776. The coal masters however were landowners and they had laws passed in the early 17th century binding the miners and their families to their work in the mines. It was as late as 1805 that the last miner families were finally liberated from this slavery in the Fife village of Townhill. Contemporary witnesses note that the female labourers were especially benefitted as it was their burden in this underground division of labour to carry the coal from the coalface ON THEIR BACKS!! The actual hewing was still done by pick and shovel as in 1291. In fact apart from the wheelbarrow there does not appear to have been any great technical advance in mining since Roman times.

    2. ”Far be it from me to defend Boffy, but in actuality, his observation that in a society where all production is automated, capitalism cannot exist, is correct.”

      Nice to find Sartesian in agreement with Boffy.

      Martha says:

      ”When a “marxist” (e.g. Boffy) claims that exchange value is an objective, eternal fact of nature (independent of actual human activity in producing use values), ” This is the exact opposite of what Boffy says. He made efforts to answer you. It is a pity you did not make corresponding efforts to read what he wrote.

      1. But I have to disagree with you j– Boffy claims value, and the law of value, has governed the social organization of labor thousands of years prior to capitalism. He draws a distinction, in the abstract, between value and exchange value, but in the concrete conflates the two and actually proclaims that value governs isolated, individual, direct producers ( the Robinson Crusoe argument).

        The distinction between value and exchange value is the distinction between content and expression; one cannot maintain its existence without the other.

      2. ”. In Capital I, Chapter I, Marx defines what a use value is, as something that someone finds useful. He then distinguishes between two kinds of use value. The first kind of use value comes to us free from nature, like air and water, or naturally growing fruits etc. These use values have no value, Marx says, because they require no labour for their production, and value is labour. The second kind of use value, is one that requires labour for its production, and this kind of use value he calls a product.” Thus Boffy.

        ”When a “marxist” (e.g. Boffy) claims that exchange value is an objective, eternal fact of nature (independent of actual human activity in producing use values), ” Thus Boffy, according to Martha.

        ”Boffy claims value, and the law of value, has governed the social organization of labor thousands of years prior to capitalism. ” Yes, but he claims it operates in a quite different way. Marx himself points out that a commodity produced under capitalist conditions contains both paid and unpaid labour. As for the Roman world Marx certainly underestimates the extent of commodity production, markets and indeed of wage labour. Of whether the law of value operates in any meaningful way in pre-class society I am not sufficiently knowledgeable and would like to see more debate from those who are. As for family labour, such labour is aimed at the reproduction of the family. Whether such labour which produces a ‘good’ also produces value is I think dependent upon the productive relations that dominate the society into which the familiar labour is embedded. If my wife bakes a cake for family consumption, she may of course instead sell it in a commodity producing society, and its individual value will be determined by the social value prevailing in the baking industry. But despite Boffy’s best efforts, it is not clear to me that her cake baking activity is in any way regulated by the law of value. Her only concern is the quality of the cake, and the time she devotes to it is determined solely by her desire to attain this quality and her desire to devote time to other family or leisure activities. In a primitive or communist society if we did not want to consume the cake ourselves then its circulation would be determined by kinship or social obligations and customs.

        Take again the case of my wife’s giving me a haircut. It seems to me that this could only take the form of value in a slave society, where the haircut might be seen as adding to the value of a slave. Of course such a haircut might be evaluated by the number of minutes it takes against the social norm, but the actual activity of haircutting is in this case not regulated by any social norm.

        The brings me back to what is my main concern. Marx states something to the effect that primitive communism does not offer lessons for modern communism. If following Marx and Engels we agree that production is regulated by direct labour time, then some sort of metric analogous to the law of value is needed, since the labour time available to society is necessarily constrained by the maximum number of hours that a society decides to work. Different people have different needs and wants. Some drink milk, others alcohol, and yet others neither. To meet these needs labour time has to be apportioned in the appropriate quantities. Otherwise there might be too much vodka and not enough milk. But there is a greater problem: how does socialism ensure that use values are produced to the requisite quality and in the socially necessary labour time? The experience of the Soviet Union demonstrated many examples of shoddy work and coasting on the job. I give one personal experience. At a large hotel I stayed at, which was of Tsarist vintage and had many long corridors, a beautiful carpet from Central Asia was laid. But when the workers came to a turning they had not bothered to fit the carpet, but had merely bent it over and round. In a short time the press of so many feet could not but cause it to crack.

  2. Hi,

    Follow your postings.

    I moderate 1400+ listserve of activists, etc in Los Angeles.

    Would like for you to forward the postings to it. You can opt for post-only.

    Respond if you would like for me to forward invite to join and thus being able to post.



    On Tue, Dec 5, 2017 at 7:17 AM, Michael Roberts Blog wrote:

    > michael roberts posted: “Henryk Grossman, Capitalism’s contradictions: > studies in economic theory before and after Marx, edited by Rick Kuhn, > published by Haymarket Books. Rick Kuhn, the indefatigable editor, > biographer and publisher of the writings of Henryk Grossman, has ano” >

  3. I propose that the argument as to whether capitalism can exist in the form of “equipment only” or “labour only” misses the point. For Marx the essential fact was this. Capitalism can only exist as many capitals or not at all. If it becomes a single capital, where the mass of profits replaces the rate of profit (born of exchange and made dynamic by unequal exchange) it ceases to function as a capitalist society regulated by profit. It would be dysfunctional. This is the fundamental mistake the state capitalists make when they apply this theory to the USSR. The importance of many capitals is explained by Marx in Volume 3 where he discusses the concentration and centralisation of capital counteracted by the tendency for capitalism to spawn new capitals whose midwife is most often new technologies.

    1. No mode of production operates as “labour only” or “equipment only.” That wasn’t the point of the discussion. Capital and capitalism existed prior to mechanization; prior to the “industrial revolution.” The separation of the laborers from the means of production, whether those means be tools, land, animals, or manually powered looms is the critical, determining relationship. From that basis capital can compel the laborers to present their ability to labor as a “thing” as a commodity for exchange. Then like every other commodity, it can be exchanged at its value, at its cost of reproduction. However, the cost of reproduction is the necessary labor time, thereby allowing a surplus labor time which capital appropriates as surplus value.

      In a completely automated society, there is no necessary labor, correct? The machines provide no new value, and there is no labor-time being appropriated. Without that there is no capital. It is the tendency of the rate of profit to fall writ large– as it falls to zero precisely as living labor is displaced by what is called “capital.”

  4. …Incidentally, in my first response, “reifies”(in the first line of the second paragraph) should read “reified”.

    jlowrie, it’s true that I didn’t read all of Boffy’s responses, only, in an heroic effort, most of them. Boffy indulges in a kind of Chinese torture of a thousand cuts to prove his point(s)… Yet….he always makes valuable (though torturously long) contributions to the discussion…He knows way more than I, and proves it every time…

    But when I suggested that he seemed to believe that exchange value is a kind of platonic ideal, his reply was that, indeed, that is exactly how he intended it be understood, using the example (as Sartesian points out) that exchange value preceded the establishment of the capitalist mode of production.

    Well, maybe Boffy contradicts his affirmation somewhere else, but in subsuming use value (human need being the primary determinant of human productive activity) under exchange value (a contingent, secondary determination specific to the capitalist mode of production), and, in tracing this irrational and illogical subsumption back to mythical, pre-capitalist times, he can be compared to Adam Smith, who reified exchange value into the form of his trucking and bartering natural man. Capitalists still claim that they are the true producers of value, not labor…and isn’t that so? Where, in our “post-industrial age”, have all the workers of the world gone?

    1. ” Boffy indulges in a kind of Chinese torture of a thousand cuts to prove his point(s)…”. Martha, Christmas is upon us. Surely you mean ”Boffy inspires us with a kind of Marxian spirit of a thousand quotes!”

      ” his reply was that, indeed, that is exactly how he intended it be understood, using the example (as Sartesian points out) that exchange value preceded the establishment of the capitalist mode of production.”

      Martha, you really need to read Boffy again. This is not his understanding, but that of Marx himself.

      1. I take your point of B being a kind of marxist Santa Claus of a thousand quotes. Along the way, he drops many good ones.

        If Boffy thinks that Marx’s understanding is that value as such is use value and that labor time is an “objective fact” only as a contingent attribute of productive (use value creating) human activity, he and I (and maybe Marx, who didn’t want to be called a marxist) agree.

        The point however is helping to rebuild socialism by thinking in terms of humanity’s global struggle to escape capitalism’s globalized law of value by ending capitalism. We need more than Santa Claus for dropping that gift to humanity.

  5. Hi Michael,

    Thanks for reviewing this very interesting volume. It is great to see that good work on solid Marxist Political Economy is still being done.

    I am wondering about one thing. In what way is it possible for classical Marxist economics to engage with the modern-day mainstream? It seems that the two have drifted so far apart that they even lack common terms of reference. Is there any point of contact beyond a critique of the fundamentals (ie LTV vs Utility?)

    If there isn’t, can you suggest any succinct texts criticising marginalism from a Marxist prespective, ie some basis on which to demonstrate to an adherent of the mainstream that their assumptions are wrong (as in opposed to demonstrating that LTV is right).


  6. There are levels of meaning to “value,” of course. The calculation of wealth in monetary terms pre-dates capitalism — and will post-date it, I believe, until prices and money are no longer needed for any type of good or service. But socialism will have no LAW of value, which is specific to capitalism. It won’t have “spontaneous” prices. And to speak of a LAW of value pre-dating capitalism — that makes no sense to me at all.

  7. In simple reproduction the capital goods sector is exactly big enough to replace used up capital goods as they unevenly expire. But that won’t happen, leading to likely overproduction of capital goods and strong competition among their producers, which in turn will lead them to innovations that they embody in their capital goods. There will be strong incentives to use the new capital goods. This makes capitalism dynamic. It is a system where due to the adoption of new capital goods supply races forward; in fact the characteristic response to oversupply will be even more supply, i.e. to shift the supply curve outward so even more can be sold. The capitalist system is thus in a state of perpetual disequilibrium. This is a key insight of Grossman’s dynamics essay.

  8. Dr Roberts,

    How would you respond to this criticism?

    “A further objection is that Marx’s assertion that only labour can create surplus value is unsupported by any argument or analysis, and can be argued to be merely an artifact of the nature of his presentation. Any commodity can be picked to play a similar role. Consequently with equal justification one could set out a corn theory of value, arguing that corn has the unique power of creating more value than it costs. Formally this would be identical to the labour theory of value”

    it’s from Jonathan Wolff’s article on Karl Marx in the STANFORD ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PHILOSOPHY

    also, do you know where this criticism originated?

    – Attlee

    1. Wikipedia answers this quite well!

      The starting point for Marx’s argument was: “What is the common social substance of all commodities? It is labor.”[15] It is not possible to view grain, iron etc. as common to all commodities, whereas the production of commodities is impossible without labor (while it can also be said that other commodities such as tools are required, they cannot be properly aggregated by value because they are specialised and disparate in nature and their values, relative to each other and to labor, depend on prices that in turn depend on their values; Sraffa (1960), for instance, aggregates them according to the labor required for their production).

      Marx identifies the substance of value as labor, which in his view is not a commodity (though “labor power” is). This was a necessary aspect for the substance of value Marx elaborates upon in Capital[16] and Theories of Surplus Value.[17]

      Some supporters of the LTV, however, accept the thrust of the “corn theory of value” critique, but emphasise the social aspect of what Marx calls the “common social substance”, arguing that labor power is unique as it is the only commodity not sold by capitalists but rather sold by the workers themselves, whose income tends to a minimum, because they have nothing else to sell. The surplus product is appropriated by the capitalists.

      Alan Freeman argues: “This is of course true of other commodities [than labor power] also; but other commodities do not walk around the market disposing of their income on an equal basis with their owners. The cost of labor power is determined independently of its capacity to make money for its purchaser. This, and no other reason, is why profit exists. If laborers were hired directly as slaves, robots, beasts of burden or servants, then whether or not labor time were the measure of value, surplus labor would not be extracted in the form of money profits but directly, like domestic labor.”[18][19] Albert Einstein, in his description of the LTV, argues similarly: “It is important to understand that even in theory the payment of the worker is not determined by the value of his product.”[20] Marx writes on this: “In the slave system, the money-capital invested in the purchase of labor-power plays the role of the money-form of the fixed capital, which is but gradually replaced as the active period of the slave’s life expires.”[21]

      Freeman, Alan: Price, value and profit – a continuous, general treatment. In: Alan Freeman, Guglielmo Carchedi (editors): Marx and non-equilibrium economics. Edward Elgar. Cheltenham, UK, Brookfield, US 1996.

    2. ”“A further objection is that Marx’s assertion that only labour can create surplus value is unsupported by any argument or analysis,”

      This is arrant nonsense. The opening Chapter of ”Capital” is just such an analysis.

      ” Consequently with equal justification one could set out a corn theory of value, arguing that corn has the unique power of creating more value than it costs.” Let us say our enterprising farmer garners a surplus product of 100 bushels of corn. What then is the value of this corn? 100 bushels of corn has the value of 100 bushels of corn? or of 1 ton of coal? Why 1 ton of coal and not 2 tons? What is the common substance that effects such equality? Human labour!

      I daresay by some intellectual gymnastics one could argue that corn might function as a measure of value, but how could it function as the sole store of value ? Are we to assume that the good Herr Dr. Professor Wolff envisages going around with sachets of corn in his pockets?

  9. Hi Michael,

    There’s an interesting unresolved issue Grossman left at the end of the “Fifty years struggle over Marxism” essay in Rick Kuhn’s edition when, at p. 129, he says that “A point must be reached at which the part of surplus value destined for the consumption of the workers and the capitalists (av+f) declines absolutely.”. This is basically at the heart of his argument over the breakdown of capitalism at higher rates of accumulation(*). He traces this breakdown by way of showing that either it will a) result in a class struggle over the distribution of income between the workers and capitalists or b) the tempo of accumulation would slow down if wages are kept at present levels (limiting investment in technologies and fixed capital, etc.). The third option of imperialism counteracts this through unequal exchange and, much like Lenin, through the export of capital. All three options presuppose that wages can be lowered to a certain minimum (he explains on the following pages). ( (*) For the sake of other readers: the presupposition is that during the development of accumulation the surplus value required for additional accumulation (and not merely sustaining the present level accumulation itself) will at some time exceed the present capabilities of surplus value production by the working class.)

    However, John Smith recently developed a new theory of Imperialism in the 21st century precisely based on a “fourth” option – the lowering wages below the level of reproduction required to reproduce labor power itself which Grossman explicitly excluded, while Smith used it to describe outsourcing. Although Smith never mentions Grossman (since Grossman was translated only after his book came out), in my view combining the two could be promising in terms of the analyzing the development of imperialism (and the theories of imperialism) in terms of Marx’s value-form analysis.

    This is a long-shot, but, since I know you’ve reviewed both books, do you know if Smith uses Grossman elsewhere or, would you say there’s a deeper conceptual connections between the two in terms of analysis of imperialism? Because it seems the former picked up precisely where the latter left…

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