"Will there be an economic collapse?"

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whichfinder's picture
Joined: 9-04-10
Feb 24 2013 12:09
"Will there be an economic collapse?"

Date: Sunday, 10th March at 6.00pm

Venue: The Socialist Party's premises, 52 Clapham High Street, London SW4 7UN

Debate between Federico Pistono (TZM) and The Socialist Party

Debate with Federico Pistono of The Zeitgeist Movement and author of the book "Robots will steal your job, but that's OK; how to survive the economic collapse and be happy". Federico Pistono will be in the UK 6-11 March on a stop over to ZDay in Los Angeles.

All welcome

Audience participation


Joined: 6-01-07
Feb 25 2013 11:13

Words like 'collapse' and 'steal' are often understandably used emotively to attract attention to some genuine and very real problems thrown up by capitalism and it rather depends what we mean by them.

This article in one of an interesting series by IP doesn't draw back from predicting an 'economic collapse' at least in the initial form of a financial melt-down, which written back around1997/98 seems impressive given our recent experience. It deals precisely with the subject of ''robots stealing our jobs'' but in the more recogniseable marxist language of changes to the organic composition of capital, falling rates of profit and market realisation as interpretated by various theorists and is worth a read by anyone with at least a basic grounding in Marx's analysis of Capital of which I know there are a good few in the spgb:


Of course 'economic collapse' doesn't necessarily mean the inevitable end of capitalism without human intervention, though it could mean a descent into something I'd call 'emotively' a phase of capitalist barbarism! We might be part way there now?

Dave B
Joined: 3-08-08
Feb 25 2013 23:40

Well it seems that Jevons appears again, at the end of that article.

I suppose with the development of any theory you start off with your hypotheses, premises and predicates etc and then faithfully and fearlessly follow the logical development of the idea with full intellectual rigour to wherever it takes you.

Judging the result of the process by its inevitable conclusions and whether or not you arrive at absurdities or truisms, or both along the way; according perhaps to your own ‘prejudice’.

So from Jevons;

Induction is an inverse operation, the inverse of Deduction, and can only be performed by the use of deduction. Possessing certain facts of observation, we frame an hypothesis as to the laws governing those facts; we reason from the hypothesis deductively to the results to be expected; and we then examine these results in connection with the facts in question; coincidence confirms the whole reasoning; conflict obliges us either to seek for disturbing causes, or else to abandon our hypothesis. In this procedure there is nothing peculiar; when properly understood it is found to be the method of all the inductive sciences.


And where does it go to?;


A man of lower race, a negro for instance, enjoys possession less, and loathes labour more; his exertions, therefore, soon stop. A poor savage would be content to gather the almost gratuitous fruits of nature, if they were sufficient to give sustenance; it is only physical want which drives him to exertion.

The rich man in modern society is supplied apparently with all he can desire, and yet he often labours unceasingly for more. Bishop Berkeley, in his Querist has very well asked, "Whether the creating of wants be not the likeliest way to produce industry in a people? And whether, if our (Irish) peasants were accustomed to eat beef and wear shoes, they would not be more industrious?"

Let them eat Beef and wear shoes?

As was the case with the English working classes;

We may conclude, then, that English labourers enjoying little more than the necessaries of life, will work harder the less the produce.. (what he means by ‘produce’ is their wages)…; or, which comes to the same thing, will work less hard as the produce (wages) increases.

In other words if their wages for 6 hours labour are ‘insufficient to give sustenance’ they work for 12.

It is different for the capitalist class, who receive 'wages of superintendence' of course (Karl didn't ignore that of course nor what happens when 'workers become thier own capitalists'), and the middle classes.

…..in some businesses a man who insisted on working only a few hours a day would soon have no work to do. In the professions of law, medicine, and the like, it is the reputation of enjoying a large practice which attracts new clients. Thus a successful barrister or physician generally labours more severely as his success increases. This result partly depends upon the fact that the work is not easily capable of being performed by deputy.

Besides that I think Jevons is interesting however as he at least draws out the fundamental differences in the starting positions between the Marxist theory and the Marginal utility theory from which everything follows.

The first issue is the consumption orientated position of the Marginal utility theory as opposed to the production orientated one; where even Jevons disagrees with his mentor Mill;


We, first of all, need a theory of the consumption of wealth.

J. S. Mill, indeed, has given an opinion inconsistent with this.

"Political economy,"

he says

"has nothing to do with the consumption of wealth, further than as the consideration of it is inseparable from that of production, or from that of distribution. We know not of any laws of the consumption of wealth, as the subject of a distinct science; they can be no other than the laws of human enjoyment."

Whilst Marxist theory and its antecedents may have focused first on production, consumption ie reproduction of labour power was still integrated and inseparable from it.

I think the Jevons theory works fine when there is no production ie the relative exchange values and marginal utility of a bottle of coke and a Picasso for those left ship wrecked on a desert island.

With those incidental personal possessions separated, divorced and indifferent from reproduction.

And the concomitant speculations about desperation and need.

As you might find on a modern commodity or ‘futures’ market

Second was the idea of 'value' being some other thing than just a relationship, or not; he is with Mill on this one.


Let us turn to Mill's definition of Exchange Value, and we see at once the misleading power of the term.

He tells us—

"Value is a relative term. The value of a thing means the quantity of some other thing, or of things in general, which it exchanges for."

Now, if there is any fact certain about exchange value, it is, that it means not an object at all, but a circumstance of an object. Value implies, in fact, a relation; but if so, it cannot possibly be some other thing.

A student of Economics has no hope of ever being clear and correct in his ideas of the science if he thinks of value as at all a thing or an object, or even as anything which lies in a thing or object. Persons are thus led to speak of such a nonentity as intrinsic value. There are, doubtless, qualities inherent in such a substance as gold or iron which influence its value; but the word Value, so far as it can be correctly used, merely expresses the circumstance of its exchanging in a certain ratio for some other substance.

Actually ‘circumstances’ eg gravity of the earth, ‘as a thing in itself’ acts equally on objects with a common identical/intrinsic property, mass, which manifests itself in the relationship ie weight.

Weight and the weight relationship is a phenomena or consequence of a ‘circumstance’, or earth’s gravity, acting on other masses of identical intrinsic quality.

Relationships in science are phenomenological effects, shadows on Plato’s cave wall, with ‘causes’ of a common identity.

Thus Gay-Lussac's; law where if you double the temperature of a gas its pressure doubles.

Whilst Jevons was prattling on in 1871 about ‘macroscopic’ relationships just being ‘macroscopic’ relationships.

At the same time scientists where at work pursuing their own philosophy to discover the immanent third things.

Which was the kinetic theory of gases.

As you supply energy to the gas molecules they move faster, banging on the inside of the wall of the chamber, the affect, to produce the macroscopic phenomenon/effect of pressure.

Both the temperature and the pressure were macrosopic manifestations, shadows, of very immanent and intrinsic third thing agitated gas molecules.

Jevons talks about water eg

A quart of water per day has the high utility of saving a person from dying in a most distressing manner. Several gallons a day may possess much utility for such purposes as cooking and washing; but after an adequate supply is secured for these


So why is a bottle of water as in a store in Saudi Arabia more expensive than in Canada?

Is it a supply and demand problem and the stock control systems work differently for each product according to geography.

Well no, the marginal utility of the ‘raw materials’ and ‘work’ needed to put it on the shelves are different.

And then the marginal utility of the ‘raw materials’ are determined by the marginal utility the ‘raw materials’ to produce them etc.

Which makes the Marxist theory and the ‘transformation problem’ look like a walk in the park.

Commodities or products have value and are a use value.

I think saying products have use value is spurious tautology, as you do not produce things that don’t have use value; nor did Robinson Crusoe.

Unlike Jevons take on it; Robinson Crusoe was in fact preoccupied to the point of anal fixation, as Karl said, with the amount of time it took him make things and valued things according to that.

I have read it to make sure, I know it is fiction, but seminal for them.

So what is a product?

It is a stupid kindergarten question, products are labour.

If we denominate labour or work in the unit (or as our mathematician Jevons puts it, the dimension) of time.

Why does work time have intrinsic ‘value’, as it would in communism without exchange?

It is defined by its negation time free from work, and the relationship between the two, or Karl’s ‘Realm of freedom’, from the cost in time of necessary labour.

Or in other words according to Jevons ‘disutility’.

Disutility should have the same ‘dimensions’ albeit negated as anti-utility ie time.

And as according to Jevon Utility determines exchange value then ‘exchange values’/ utility dimensions must also be in time ie labour time.

As opposed to his ‘paradoxical’ Kg’s!

whichfinder's picture
Joined: 9-04-10
Mar 4 2013 19:46

It has just been announced that Clifford Slapper, seen here with David Bowie, will be the representative for the World Socialist Movement (SPGB) in this debate