Publications since 2001

"Value and Price"
Co-author: Duncan Foley

Chapter 40 in G. Faccarello and H. Kurz (eds.), Handbook of the History of Economic Thought, Volume 3: Developments in Major Fields of Economics, London and Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, forthcoming 2016.

An analytical survey of how economics since Adam Smith has used the terms 'value' and 'price'. The essay contrasts their usages in the classical tradition of surplus-based theories with their usages in the neoclassical tradition following the marginalist revolution of the 1870s, and concludes that the distinction between value and price in the classical tradition is a window through which the workings of capitalist economies can be understood.

"Class Structure and the US Personal Income Distribution, 1918-2012", Metroeconomica, online: DOI: 10.1111/meca.12107 25 November 2015.

Using definitions of class motivated by classical political economy, this paper uses the US tax-unit based personal income distribution to construct quantitative measures of class, by percentile position and income share, on an annual basis from 1918 to 2012. Three classes are identified: 'capitalists', who have sufficient nonlabour income that they do not need labour income from an employment contract (although typically they do engage in such employment); 'managers', who do not have enough nonlabour income to meet that threshold; and the 'working class', members of which have no supervisory responsibilities in employment. Class measures of inequality are constructed to show that inequality was greater by 1987 than at any time since 1918, and by the end of the first decade of this century very, very much greater. The paper concludes with some discussion of how causal explanations of the patterns in the data might be constructed and how the data might be used.

JEL Classification: B51, D31, P16
Keywords: Class analysis, US personal income distribution, inequality

A spreadsheet of the data on which this paper is based can be downloaded here and a detailed account of how the data are constructed can be downloaded here.

"Inequality, Money Markets and Crisis"

In Turan Subasat (ed.), The Great Global Meltdown of 2008: Systemic, Conjunctural or Policy-created? London and Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, forthcoming.

By the end of 2009, all impaired Alt-A and subprime mortgage–backed securities amounted to about $300 billion, about 2 per cent of GDP. So how did problems in only a small part of the financial system cause the imminent collapse of the whole financial system? This paper focuses on the underlying structure of the US financial system in order to explain the systemic nature of the financial crisis, offering a more focused historical perspective on its evolution. The growth of the neoliberal financial sector and its compensation packages is generally considered to be one of the proximate causes of the growth of inequality. This causal chain also works in the opposite direction: the growth in inequality at the top of the income distribution is a major cause of the growth of the neoliberal financial sector and its instabilities. The paper explores in detail how and why this was so.

"Unproductive Labour in the US Economy 1964-2010", Review of Radical Political Economics 46(3): 355-79, 2014

It is commonly proposed by those who accept the distinction between productive and unproductive labour that a rising proportion of unproductive labour constitutes a burden to the operation of a capitalist economy, because unproductive labour is paid out of surplus-value, leaving less available for accumulation. This paper evaluates recent attempts to estimate empirical trends in productive and unproductive labour in the US economy since 1964. These attempts are flawed by a failure to distinguish between working class unproductive labour and the unproductive labour attributable to managers-and-capitalists. This distinction is at the heart of the trends in the neoliberal era, and these trends suggest that the distinction between productive and unproductive labour is less empirically useful than a focus on class.

JEL Classification: E11, J21, N12
Keywords: productive labour, unproductive labour, US economy since 1964

"Rate of Profit and Crisis in the US Economy: A Class Perspective"

Chapter 10 in Lance Taylor, Armon Rezai and Tom Michl (eds.), Social Fairness and Economics: Economic Essays in the Spirit of Duncan Foley, London and New York: Routledge, 2013.

This essay uses the labour theory of value as interpreted by Duncan Foley (and Gérard Duménil) to examine the long run development of the US rate of profit since 1890. In particular, the crises beginning in 1929, 1979 and 2007 are compared, and related to trends in the rate of profit. The essay explores the consequences of considering aggregate profits not as total money value added less total wages, but as total money value added less total working class wages, and finds trends in the rate of profit, so redefined, to be more closely aligned with crisis in 1929 and 2007 than the conventionally defined rate of profit.

"Productive and Unproductive Labour" and "The Rate of Profit"

Chapters 44 and 47 (respectively) in Ben Fine and Alfredo Saad-Filho with Marco Boffo (eds.) The Elgar Companion to Marxist Economics, Cheltenham, UK and Northampton, MA, USA: Edward Elgar, 2012.

These two short essays outline the basic concepts of productive and unproductive labour and the law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, and survey the debates around them.

"Reorienting Economics?", Philosophy of the Social Sciences , 42(1): 126-45, 2012
Co-author: Roberto Veneziani

Review essay based on: Lawson Tony, Reorienting Economics, Routledge, London (2003). Reorienting Economics analyses many important issues in the social sciences. This paper focuses on Lawson's key methodological and epistemological claims concerning the role of mathematics in social theory. Lawson provides several forceful criticisms of the search for mathematical rigor for the mere sake of formalism. Yet his stronger claims on the extremely limited, if nonexistent, scope for formal analysis in the social sciences are less convincing. In general, his purely methodological approach does not provide robust foundations for reorienting economics.

"The UK Interwar Rate of Profit 1920-38", Cambridge Journal of Economics 35.6: 1035-59, 2011.
Co-author: Vincent Brown

The UK rate of profit rose considerably over the inter-war period and hence this period was one of significant recovery for capital, albeit with some volatility. Several decompositions of the profit rate are explored in pursuit of proximate determinants of the rising profit rate. A Marxian decomposition shows that the 1920s were characterised by a rising rate of surplus-value and a falling composition of capital; and the 1930s by a constant rate of surplus-value and a falling composition of capital. A decomposition into the product of profit share and capital productivity shows that the profit share in the first half of the1920s was driven upwards by the excess of productivity growth over real wage rate growth, but thereafter fluctuated inversely with fluctuations in the unproductive wage share; the predominant positive impact on the profit rate was rising capital productivity. This was due to rising labour productivity with constant capital intensity in the 1920s, and rising labour productivity with falling capital intensity in the 1930s. Some implications for both Marxian theory and historical interpretation are considered.

JEL Classification: N14, B51, E11, O52
Keywords: rate of profit, UK interwar years, Marxian models

"Research Audits and their Consequences"
Co-authors: Michael Rowlinson and John Hassard

Chapter 10 in Cassell, C. and Lee, B. (eds.) Challenges and Controversies in Management Research, London: Routledge, 2010.

Using Business and Management research in the UK Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) as an example, this paper focuses on the funding consequences of research auditing, rather than on the impact of such auditing on research behaviour. It argues that the aim of concentrating research funding in 'top' institutions, through greater selectivity, failed in the 2008 RAE, largely because, in a context in which research is increasingly homogeneous, most 'top' institutions failed to differentiate their profiles from the rest.

"The Temporal Single-System Interpretation: Underdetermination and Inconsistency", Marxism 21 6.3: 277-99, 2009
Co-author: Roberto Veneziani

This paper critically evaluates a recent contribution by Kliman and Freeman (2009) in this journal. It is argued that none of their arguments dispel previous criticisms of the 'temporal single system interpretation' (TSSI). Indeed the paper confirms the suggestions of many critics that, as the missing parts of the TSSI theoretical constructs are provided, in particular the Monetary Expression of Labour Time, the TSSI rests on inconsistency and arbitrary assumptions.

JEL Classification: B24
Keywords: Value, exploitation, TSSI.

"Aggregate Capital Productivity in the U.S. Economy 1964-2001", Cambridge Journal of Economics 33.5: 1023-46, 2009.

In the decomposition of the U.S. average pre-tax rate of profit as the product of profit share and capital productivity, this paper considers the role of capital productivity over the period 1964 to 2001. The primary finding is that prior to 1982, capital productivity falls because capital deepening proceeds faster than labour productivity growth, whereas from 1982 to 1997 the opposite occurs. If prior to 1982, the U.S. economy is characterized by Marx-biased technical progress, what requires explanation is why labour productivity continued to grow after 1982 in the absence of sufficient capital deepening. The paper explores various hypotheses, contrasts neoclassical and classical notions of technical change, and investigates the robustness of its results to the productive-unproductive distinction, and to accounting for changes in capacity utilization.

JEL Classification: E11, O47, O51
Keywords: capital productivity, labour productivity, productive labour, unproductive labour, rate of profit

"Goodwin Cycles and the U.S. Economy, 1948-2004"

pp. 107-130 in P. Flaschel and M. Landesmann (eds.), Mathematical Economics and the Dynamics of Capitalism. London: Routledge, 2008. Also published in Chinese in Economics Study of Shanghai School August 2006: pp. 62-73

Co-author: Roberto Veneziani

This paper provides empirical support for an interpretation of the Goodwin growth cycle as isolating the main forces underlying distributive conflict, but in a fragile symbiotic mechanism because of endogenous forces that modify the balance of class power. Goodwin cycles are the shorter run cycles that appear around a long run motion that is the product of structural change. The paper describes long run trends in the Goodwin variables in the US corporate economy from 1948 to 2004, which exhibit both a sharp break at the beginning of the 80s, and no long run cycles. Short run detrended Goodwin cycles are identified, which broadly coincide in period and timing with the NBER dating of (the troughs of) business cycles. The paper then divides the employed nonfarm private industry labour force into supervisory and nonsupervisory workers, and focuses on the latter. The same two conclusions apply.

JEL Classification: E11, E32, J20
Keywords: Goodwin growth cycle, wage share, US economy

"The Incoherence of the TSSI: A Reply to Kliman and Freeman", Capital & Class , 92: 139-45, 2007
Co-author: Roberto Veneziani

In this short note we examine the substantive arguments proposed by Kliman and Freeman (2006) in their reply to Mohun (2003). We find these seriously deficient.

JEL Classification: E11
Keywords: labour theory of value

"Structural Stability and Goodwin's A Growth Cycle", Structural Change and Economic Dynamics , 17(4): 437-51, 2006
Co-author (and corresponding author): Roberto Veneziani

The methodological prescription that a structurally unstable model should be rejected is critically analysed by considering Goodwin's predator-prey model (GPPM; Goodwin 1967, 1972). It is argued that structural instability is not sufficient to reject GPPM and that structurally stable extensions yielding limit-cycles are not necessarily more appropriate foundations of distributive conflict, from both a theoretical and an empirical viewpoint. An interpretation of GPPM and of the empirical evidence is proposed, which takes into account structural instability.

JEL Classification: B41, C62, E32, J20
Keywords: dynamic systems, structural instability, distributive conflict, cycles

"Distributive Shares in the U.S. Economy, 1964-2001", Cambridge Journal of Economics 30.3: 347-70, 2006.

Specifying the labour theory of value in a way that distinguishes both productive from unproductive labour, and production workers from supervisory workers, this paper considers distributive shares in the U.S. economy between 1964 and 2001. Trends in productive and unproductive labour are explored in full-time equivalents, hours and money. After 1979, there was a large shift of money value (not matched by a shift in either hours or employment) from the wages paid to productive labour to those paid to supervisory labour. Since the wage share in money value added of nonsupervisory labour in unproductive sectors was approximately constant, the 1980s and 1990s also saw the profits share squeezed by the rising wage share of supervisory workers. Some implications of this are explored in the construction of a class rather than a factor approach to distributive shares.

JEL Classification: C82, E24, O51
Keywords: productive labour, unproductive labour, profit share, US economy

"On Measuring the Wealth of Nations: the US Economy, 1964-2001", Cambridge Journal of Economics 29.5: 799-815, 2005.

This paper examines the methodology of Shaikh and Tonak (Measuring the Wealth of Nations, 1994) underlying their calculation of estimates of productive labour in the U.S. economy from 1964 to 2001. The focus is not on the results but on the methods that generate them. The paper finds that the compromises made by Shaikh and Tonak because of data unavailability are unreliable, and that better approximations are possible. On this latter basis the Shaikh and Tonak methodology can be used to provide the labour and wage estimates needed for empirical investigations in the surplus-based tradition.

JEL classification: B5, O51
Keywords: productive labour, unproductive labour, US economy.

“The Labour Theory of Value as Foundation for Empirical Investigations”, Metroeconomica 55.1: 65-95, 2004.

This paper outlines some recent approaches to the construction of an accounting structure that relates observable prices to Marxian labour values. The first is that proposed (independently of each other) by Duménil and Foley (DF); the second in some sense is a generalisation that focuses on gross value produced rather than net value added; and a third imposes some temporal structure upon the second approach. The second two approaches are based on different definitions of labour value from that in the DF approach, and the paper argues that the DF approach is both more theoretically coherent and more practically useful.

JEL Classification: E11
Keywords: labour theory of value

“The Australian Rate of Profit, 1965-2001”, Journal of Australian Political Economy 52: 83-112, 2003.

This exploration of the long run development of Australian capitalism focuses on the average rate of profit and its decomposition into profit share and capital productivity. This decomposition is described in some detail in terms of its components’ contribution to a dramatic decline in trend profitability from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s, and its recovery thereafter by the end of the century. Particular stress is placed on the productivity variables and on how they impact on profitability.

JEL Classification: E11, N17, O56
Keywords: Australia, profit rate, profitability, productivity.

"On the TSSI and the Exploitation Theory of Profit”, Capital & Class 81: 85-102, 2003.

In a recent article in this journal, Kliman (2001) has argued that only a temporal single system interpretation (TSSI) of Marxian value theory preserves the fundamental Marxian theorem (FMT) and hence finds the origin of profit solely in exploitation. This paper first outlines the TSSI in order to emphasise the particular and controversial definition of value on which it depends. Kliman’s logical demonstration of the FMT is then shown to fail on exactly the same grounds for which he indicts rival interpretations.

JEL Classification: E11
Keywords: labour theory of value

“Ideology, Markets and Money”, Cambridge Journal of Economics 27:3: 401-18, 2003.

Contemporary economic theory is considered in terms of the science/ideology distinction. Marx’s critique of Hegel is then used to derive a demarcation criterion that sharply separates scientific knowledge from ideology. This critique interprets Hegelian methodology as fundamentally ideological because it understands reality in terms of abstract thought and then hypostatises that thought as reality. This process is more generally treated in terms of Marx’s theory of value and money, in which money really does do what Hegelian logic purports to do. The consequences of considering Marxian theory in this way provide some purchase on the logic and limitations of contemporary economic theory.

JEL Classification: A14, B41
Key words: ideology, hypostatisation, inversion, labour theory of value

“Does All Labour Create Value?”

Chapter 2, pp. 42-58, in Alfredo Saad-Filho (ed.), Anti-Capitalism: a Marxist Introduction. London: Pluto Press 2003.

This chapter provides an introductory survey of the Marxist categories of productive and unproductive labour, discusses the main objections that have been made to the distinction and outlines some responses to them, and finally considers the practical usefulness of the categories in analysing capitalist development.

“Consumer Sovereignty”

Chapter 16, pp. 139-43, in D. B. Clarke, M. A. Doel and K. M. L. Housiaux, The Consumption Reader. London and New York: Routledge 2003.

This selection from the chapter in the currently out-of-print Economics: An Anti-Text omits the sections on neoclassical economics, presents the Marxist alternative that production rather than consumption is the primary motive force in capitalist development, and suggests why the ideology of consumer sovereignty was necessary to that development.

Originally published as pp. 57-75 in F. Green and P. Nore (eds.), Economics: An Anti-Text. London: Macmillan, 1977.

“Commodity Fetishism”, “Labour Process”, “New Classical Economics”, “Political Economy”, “Post-Keynesianism”, “Socialist Economics”, “Value”
In William Outhwaite (ed.), The Blackwell Dictionary of Modern Social Thought. Second Edition. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers 2003.
[Revised from First Edition, published as William Outhwaite and Tom Bottomore (eds.), The Blackwell Dictionary of Twentieth Century Social Thought. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1993.]

“Productive and Unproductive Labor: A Reply to Houston and Laibman”, Review of Radical Political Economics 34.2: 187-201, 2002.

Responding to criticisms of Mohun (1996) by Houston (1997) and Laibman (1999) in the RRPE, this paper explores the empirical consequences of the competing definitions proposed for productive labor, and concludes that abandoning the productive-unproductive labor distinction renders the Marxian theory of capitalist accumulation an unconvincing account of US accumulation from 1948 to 1989.

JEL Classification: E11, E32, N12
Keywords: Productive labor, unproductive labor, rate of profit, US economy