Social Scientist. v 19, no. 212-13 (Jan-Feb 1991) p. 82.

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lines or by those who would seek a long-term transition to a socialist society. Without denigrating the first objective, we regard the second as of considerable importance to progressive social movements; we consider one of the advantages of our approach that it provides a way of answering—however provisionally—questions about how the economy works and how it might work, which are necessarily on the agendas of political activists and their communities.

In pursuing our project we have developed three overlapping but distinguishable types of understanding. First, following Gordon and his coauthors (1982), we have presented (1983) a largely narrative account of the evolution of the social structure of accumulation in the United States in response to the competing projects and political organizations of distinct groups of capitalists, workers, and others, both in the United States and throughout the world. Second, we have developed a series of more general formal models of the labor process, profitability, and macroeconomic dynamics to explain how the objectives of competing groups and individuals conflict and are reconciled within a given SSA.1 And third, we have performed a series of largely econometric investigations focusing on the social structural determination of productivity growth, profitability, and investment in a particular economy, the United States since World War II.

These are distinct projects, none of which is reducible to, or an execution of, the other, and each of which exhibits characteristic insights and shortcomings. Our models of the labor process, for example, are not formal representations of our narrative accounts of class conflict in production; they are at once more precise and less informed by the historical particularities of our historical accounts. Nor are our econometric studies of strike activity or productivity 'tests' either of the formal models of the labor process or of the historical accounts of class conflict in production and the evolution of dual labor markets. Yet each sheds light on the other, and together, we think, they provide important insights into the accumulation process.

Let us review one example of this kind of symbiosis of historical, theoretical, and econometric analysis in order to help make their interrelationships more concrete: our illustrative account of the price of electrical power in Beyond the V/aste Land. The price of electrical power is a relevant example for these purposes because it is representative of input prices which are among the proximate determinants of profit rates both at the firm and economywide levels;

it is therefore also a potential determinant of the rate of accumulation in general and the particular dynamic of boom and bust through which the postwar U.S. economy has passed.

In various parts of our work, we consider the sources and effects of the price of electrical power from each of the above three methodological angles. In Beyond the Vfaste Land, we describe historically the world trading system that emerged from World War II and some of the

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