Social Scientist. v 15, no. 167-68 (April-May 1987) p. 45.


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PRABHAT PATNAIK

The Current Conjuncture in the World Capitalist Crisis

WHY the capitalist world sank into a protracted economic crisis in the seventies, characterised by low rates of growth, high rates of unemp-loymnt, and pervasive instability, is a question which need not detain us here; like-wise the different phases through which crisis has manifested itself, encompassing for instance the cyclical as well as uneven behaviour of the GDP in the OECD countries, the sharp swings in the fortunes of the oil-producers, the spread of stagnation from the first to the third world, the sudden change in the direction of international capital flows, etc. are matters which I do not propose to go into here. My concern is with something different: what is the play of contradictions in the capitalist world today which stands in the way of a general recovery, or, to put it differently, what is the texture, as opposed to the symptoms, of the crisis today ? I raise this question for two reasons : first, countries do not just sit back and watch the play of contradictions; they try to overcome it in various ways. And the ways in which the advanced capitalist countries singly or collectively, will try to overcome the current conjuncture will have important effects on our own economy which necessitates our studying this conjuncture. Secondly, it seems to me that a good deal of existing writing which purports to illuminate the texture of the current conjucture, in fact does nothing of the kind and is even seriously misleading. There is room therefore for a fresh look at the issue.

An influential body of opinion, typified for instance by the Brandt Commission report, advocates a large-scale transfer of resources from the advanced capitalist countries to the third world in the context of the current crisis. The advanced capitalist world, it is argued, is characterised by mass unemployment and unutilised capacity. The third world on the other hand is characterised by a shortage of resources for stepping up investment and growth-rates to tackle the existing mass poverty. If the advanced capitalist world stepped up its production and made available to the third world the resulting extra-output, over and above what is required, directly and indirectly, to produce it, then both would be gainers. A capital transfer of this sort would have overcome at one stroke the demand

*Center For Economic Studies and pl^nnin^ Javyabarlal Nehru University, New Delhi.



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