Social Scientist. v 19, no. 212-13 (Jan-Feb 1991) p. 81.

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Social Institutions, Interests, and the Empirical Analysis of Accumulation: A Reply to Bruce Norton

It is a pleasure to respond to Bruce Norton's insightful and generous review of our work on the social structure of accumulation (SSA). The intelligence and collegiality with which he has pursued his critique is a welcome relief from the disinformation and acrimony which sometimes mark these exchanges. We will first review the general objectives of our continuing work, then consider some major issues raised by Norton—what he terms the 'tension in the relationship between SSA theory's institutional analysis and the model which represents that analysis mathematically' (13), the question of 'fixed' or 'abstract' interests, the relationship of our work to neoclassical economics and 'analytical Marxism;' and our conception of the relationship between production and circulation.


In our work we have sought to integrate the theoretical and concrete analyses of economic institutions. The first of our two overriding objectives in this project is to provide a conceptual framework capable of embracing what are often conceived as two disparate elements of Marxian theory: the precise modelling of macroeconomic phenomena characteristic of Marxian crisis theory; and the concretely grounded accounts of the structural origins and consequences of conflict and cooperation among classes, other collective actors, and individuals characteristic of Marxian historical studies, or more broadly, of historical materialism.

Our second objective is to develop an understanding of the dynamics of the U.S. economy in the postwar period capable of explaining why macroeconomic performance was so successful for so long, why it faltered, and what now might be done about it, either by those who would reconstruct the social structure of accumulation along capitalist

* Samuel Bowjes teaches Economics at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts; David Gordon teaches Economics in the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research, New York; Thomas Weisskopf teaches Economics at the University of Michigan.

Social Scientist, Vol. 19, Nos. 1-2, January-February 1991

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