EXTRA Class Session on Grossman’s Breakdown Model and Theory
By popular demand, Andrew Kliman led a third class session that focused on class members’ questions and comments, after a brief presentation in which he addressed a few issues he didn’t have time to discuss in the first two classes.
The videos of the first two class sessions are embedded in the article below. Here is the video of the third session:
Video of Class 3
(Note revised and video added on Nov. 9, 2023)
The two-part, online class series on Henryk Grossman’s breakdown model and theory of capitalist breakdown, which Marxist-Humanist Initiative sponsored and Andrew Kliman led, was completed this past Sunday. Grossman’s work is currently a major inspiration for radicals whose outlook is fatalistic and whose politics is informed by fatalism.
This article contains the complete video recordings of the two class sessions (September 24 and October 8); study questions, readings, and supplementary material for the classes; the written texts of Alan Freeman’s and Sebastián Hernández’s discussant comments; and biographical information on the discussants. We hope that you will continue the discussion in the comment area below the article. The possibility of holding a third, follow-up, class and discussion is currently under consideration. Join our mailing list to make sure that you will be notified.
In addition to Kliman’s presentations, the class series included questions and comments that participants posted in the Zoom chat and discussant comments from Alan Freeman, Esteban Mora, A. Sebastián Hernández Solorza, and Nick Potts. Both class sessions began with a “welcome” and opening remarks from Anne Jaclard of Marxist-Humanist Initiative.
Topics covered in the classes included economic crisis theory (including Marx’s) before Grossman and the controversy surrounding Eduard Bernstein’s revisionism; the reproduction scheme developed by Otto Bauer and adopted by Grossman; the modifications to the basic scheme that Grossman introduced, and how Grossman’s theory has been received. Kliman’s presentations were based primarily on his recent critiques, published in With Sober Senses, of the Bauer-Grossman reproduction scheme and Grossman’s modified breakdown theory, which he regards as fatally flawed. However, the presentations aimed to teach, explain, and contextualize the material, and to answer questions and criticisms, not just to repeat what Kliman has written.
Readings for Both Classes
Andrew Kliman, “Henryk Grossmann’s Breakdown Model: On the Real Cause of the Fictitious Breakdown Tendency,” With Sober Senses, Oct. 7, 2021.
_______. “Grossmann’s Breakdown Model: Responses to Challenges and Questions,” With Sober Senses, Jan. 27, 2022.
_______. “Review-essay: The End of Capitalism: The Thought of Henryk Grossman,” With Sober Senses, May 27, 2022. Ted Reese is the author of the book reviewed.
CLASS 1 (SEPTEMBER 24)
Video of Class 1
Discussants: Alan Freeman, Esteban Mora. Alan Freeman’s written text.
Study Questions: Study Questions for Class 1. The underlined terms in Questions 4 and 7 are links to online texts.
Outline of Presentation Topics
I. Preliminary Points
II. Reproduction and Accumulation—terminology & relations
III. Marx’s and Grossman’s Crisis Theories
IV. History: Revisionist Controversy and Breakdown Controversy
Timeline of Main Authors & Works discussed in points III and IV
CLASS 2 (OCTOBER 8)
Video of Class 2
Discussants: Alan Freeman (continued), A. Sebastián Hernández Solorza, Nick Potts. Sebastián Hernández’s written text. (The link to Alan Freeman’s written text is posted in the Class 1 section, above.)
Study Questions: Study Questions for Class 2. Includes clickable links. Some of the study questions posted in the Class 1 section, above, are also about issues addressed in Class 2.)
Grossman Growthmath PDF: Mathematics of Growth and Breakdown in the Bauer-Grossman Model.
Outline of Presentation Topics
I. The Bauer-Grossman Reproduction Scheme
…..B. Grossman Growthmath
……….1. constraint on growth of physical output
……….2. physical “capital/output” ratio approaches 1
……….3. rising “capital/output” ratio drives falling rate of profit
II. Grossman’s Relaxation of the Constant-Value Assumption
…..A. Recognition of Problem, Modified Breakdown Claim
…..B. Grossman’s Error and Its Source
III. Long-run Breakdown Tendency Incompatible with Marx’s Theory
…..A. Plausibility of Grossman-style Breakdown
About the Discussants
Alan Freeman is a former principal economist with the Greater London Authority and is now a research affiliate of the University of Manitoba. With Radhika Desai, he is co-director of the Geopolitical Economy Research Group. He is co-editor of the Future of World Capitalism book series with Pluto Books, and the Geopolitical Economy book series with Manchester University Press. Freeman is an honorary life vice-president of the Association for Heterodox Economics (www.hetecon.net) and a vice-chair of the World Association for Political Economy. He a former board member of Video Pool Winnipeg and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.
Sebastián Hernández is an economist from Mexico who works in the division of labor markets in the Inter-American Development Bank. He writes about Marxist economic theory; his most recent publications are about work intensity. Hernández also translates Marxist writings on economics and politics into Spanish. His translations are published in the Tiempos Críticos website.
Esteban Mora is a graduate student in Collective Communications Science at the Universidad de Costa Rica, where he also studied political economy. He writes on Marxist economics at marxparaelsiglo.blogspot.com, and is the author of a trilogy of books on cultural economics and cultural studies, written from a Marxist perspective. He has also written several other works on economics, semiotics and mathematics. At the Review of African Political Economy, he is a contributor to discussion of Harvey-Smith debate (between David Harvey and John Smith), and he is a frequent contributor to the leftist outlet Intervención y Coyuntura, located in Mexico. In addition, Esteban has worked as a member of an audiovisual production collective, collaborated on a university radio show and on a weekly music column at Semanario Universidad from Universidad de Costa Rica, and he has been a producer of image, music and text.
Nick Potts, an emeritus professor of economics, has written about Marx’s value theory since 2000. His work has been split between arguing for the temporal single-system interpretation of Marx and trying to apply Marx’s consistent theory of value to the world (considering crisis, inequality, knowledge, the environment and finance). Potts has been on the Capital & Class editorial board since 2005, co-ordinating papers concerning Marx’s value theory. He is also co-editor of the 2015 collection, Is Marx’s Theory of Profit Right?