There are, of course, a whole myriad of levels to the current economic crisis. Some of them are more obvious than others. What Marx writes here on the basic contradiction of capitalist crises is still awfully trenchant. He places the heart of the contradiction between the purpose of capital; the expansion and accumulation of capital, with the means; the unconditional development of productive forces.
The crumbling and abandoned buildings I saw in Detroit today on the way to a (sadly) rained out Tigers-Yankees game are about as empty as the housing divisions built up outside the city during the housing bubble, I mean boom. Amidst the empty homes are thousands of homeless people. Foreclosed and for sale signs everywhere and not a buyer. Point one for Marx.
I saw documentary about a wealthy housing development built in Dubai being completely sold out- and completely empty. The multi-million houses built on an artificial island jutting into the Persian Gulf were only built to be investment properties for international investment firms. Those that built the homes live in trailers in the desert. Point two for Marx.
Any of us could come up with a thousand examples. The common joke of meeting someone at Starbucks and missing them because they were at the one across the street comes to mind. Which side of the street will Starbucks close down, pauperising yet more workers, when people can’t afford a two dollar luxury?
From Volume III of Capital“The last cause of all real crises always remains the poverty of and restricted consumption of the masses as compared to the tendency of capitalist production to develop the productive forces in such a way that only the absolute power of consumption of the entire society would be their limit”
or put another way….“The real barrier of capitalist production is capital itself. It is that capital and its self-expansion appear as the starting and the closing point, the motive and the purpose of production; that production is only production for capital and not vice versa, the means of production are not mere means for a constant expansion of the living process of the of the society of producers. The limits within which the preservation or self-expansion of the value of capital resting on the expropriation and pauperisation of the great mass of producers can alone move – these limits come continually into conflict with the methods of production employed by capital for its purposes, which drive towards unlimited extension of production as an end in itself, towards unconditional development of the social productivity of labor. The means- unconditional development of the productive forces of society- comes continually into conflict with the limited purpose, the self-expansion of capital.”
Aside: A rainy Sunday afternoon with a comrade; smoke filled room, a discussion of the Cuban intervention in Africa, strong coffee and a visit to the used book store where I found a hardback of Gustav Mayer’s biography of Engels and my comrade added several more volumes on the African liberation struggle to his library. If you’re ever in Ypsi you might find Cross Street Books (523 Cross) open. A bookwormer’s wet dream.