On the below linked blog there is an article by the new Brighton based group ‘Endnotes’.The breakdown of a relationship? Reflections on the crisis

In it they say nothing that particularly new. But do use a rather strange flip flopping between the real economy and productive capital.

This relation between finance and productive capital, or between finance and the real economy,while it has always existed in some form in the capitalist mode of production, has not remained unaltered. Since the global crisis of profitability of capital, or looked at another way since the crisis in the capitalist class relation in the late 60s and early 70s (marked by a wave of class struggle, industrial and social unrest), financialisation has been an integral element of the capitalist restructuring and counter-offensive – i.e. of the global restructuring of the relation between capital and proletariat.

The real economy is basically the economy with out inflation. So to look at real economic growth you’d look at nominal economic growth and multiply it by some deflator. However, productive capital, a marxist term, refers to capital that is productive of surplus value. Its a phrase that has caused huge problems for marxist theory, see The power of Women and the Subversion of the Community for one interesting if flawed engagement in that debate. It has also caused a major problem with the emergence of physicalism on the left and the festishisation of manufacturing or more gernerally ‘material labour’.

However later Endnotes go on to say:

The present financial crisis has its roots partly in the subprime loans and mortgages which were predicated on the continual upward trend of the housing market, and the inflation of asset prices (after the collapse of the previous asset bubble – the dot.com boom), with vast amounts of fictitious capital being generated by the leveraging practised by financial institutions (banks, investment funds, private equity funds etc). The finance-led boom ultimately outran the ability of the real economy – i.e. productive capital – to extract surplus value through the exploitation of workers in production(whether this production is ‘material’ or ‘immaterial’). As a consequence we are witnessing a massive ‘correction’ – the falling stock markets, housing market – in Marxian terms the devalorisation of capital (expressed in write-downs, defaults, bankruptcies, mergers and fire-sales of financial institutions, and now their part-nationalisation by capitalist states across the board).

I’ve highlighted the curious bit. They seem to be aware that production and exploitation, i.e. the extration of surplus labour, is not cofined to ‘material’ production. Significantly what this means for the article is that ‘immaterial’ labour such as accounting and finance would be included in the category of ‘productive capital’.  (They are ALWAYS included in the category of ‘the real economy’.)

This reduces what they are saying and brings it out of discussions of ‘productive’ versus ‘unproductive’ capital and into a rather standard statement that the cause of the crisis was the over-expansion of the financial sector of the economy. An over expansion that cannot be dealt with in the standard way of letting the business cycle take its course because as we saw with the collapse of Lehmans’, banks can’t go broke or it’lll only exacerbate the crisis.

Its irratating that revolutionary analysis of the crisis is so often clouded in the arcane lexicon of marxism, where it is often difficult to work out what people are actually saying. And this is another example of it.

In tems of difficult marxism, I have to promote Endnotes first publication: Endnotes no.1

It compiles the debate between Troploin (Gilles Dauve and Karl Nesic) and Theorie Communiste (Roland Simon) in France. It is well worth getting a copy of. Its kind of heavy going, but so is most lefty stuff, and this stuff is actually saying something new and challenging. Anywat I might blog about it a bit more in the forthcoming weeks.