Marx has been getting a lot of media attention recently, with articles exploring his relevance in the New York Times, The New Yorker, Time Magazine, Forbes and many others. A quick search on Google trends for “was Marx right” shows a blip after the crisis but a stream of mentions since 2011.
As Marx is known as having given a powerful and substantive critique of capitalism, it’s natural that whenever it is suggested that capitalism may have endemic problems, that his name will be invoked.
Many economists, including Greenspan, were claiming that crisis was permanently a thing of the past. New Labour famously proclaimed on their advent to power in 1997 that they would put an end to the cycle of “boom and bust” capitalism, only to preside over the biggest bust since the Great Depression.
Marx’s critique, by contrast, held that in fact crisis is inherent to capitalism. With two centuries of periodic crisis it’s clear that any analysis which can claim to be predictive is going to have to account for these crises.
However, something which has not been examined very clearly is how Marx’s critique of political economy was capable of describing crisis, or of making any of the other predictions which it has done. It’s important that we take stock of the analytic tools which gave rise to these predictions so that we can evaluate if we should be using them again in order to understand our current situation.