I received this response by Adam Buick to my post, “The collapse already happened, Adam”,
Frankly, I don’t see how anybody reading the Fragment on Machines can come to any other conclusion than that Marx was writing about a theoretical situation where productivity had become so high that the labour-time content of individual commodities would be so low as to mean that their exchange value would be virtually zero. It is not about money or the rate of profit (though of course at this theoretical point the rate of profit too would be zero). And it wasn’t a “prediction” (i.e something he expected to actually happen) but rather a “thought experiment” based on assuming what would happen if current trends continued to their mathematical end.
I don’t think Marx thought that the abandoning of a currency directly linked to gold would mean the end of production based on exchange value. Fiat money (“inconvertible paper money issued by the state and given forced currency”) is even discussed as early as chapter 3 (section c) of Capital where there no suggestion that capitalist production could not continue if such money were to become the only currency. There is also a good discussion of fiat money and its relation to commodity-money (silver) rather than gold) in chapter 2 of Hilferding’s Finance Capital.
As to the rate of profit, we need to distinguish between the short-term fluctuations that govern the course of the business cycle and a theoretical long-run tendency for it to fall. This latter is, once again, a thought experiment, not a prediction, as Marx was well aware that in practice there were countervailing tendencies. In any event, the long-term rate of profit has not fallen to zero.
Let me first say that I am disappointed by this response, Adam. It did not move the ball one foot in either direction. You say Marx’s “collapse statement” was a thought experiment. I say Marx’s “collapse statement” was a prediction. Then you repeat that Marx’s “collapse statement” was a thought experiment. This accomplishes nothing.
Having set out our initial disagreement, what we now need to do is to agree to disagree, concede one or the other of our respective positions or buttress our respective positions with evidence.
Since I don’t want to waste my time engaging in a sterile “Yes, he did. No, he didn’t.” debate with you, let me try to move the ball down the field a bit.
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