In These Times - September 9, 2020
"Capitalism forces us into a spiral of accumulation for the sake of accumulation. Planned development to improve the quality of life for the vast majority of humanity on the basis of sustainable production and planning is its polar opposite. That is the vision of a socialist society..."
The following is an excerpt from A People’s Guide to Capitalism: An Introduction to Marxist Economics (Haymarket Books, August 2020).
Competition is the beating heart of capitalism. Market competition acts as a discipling force, which compels capitalists to constantly “accumulate”: to transform profits into further investments.
It isn’t the case that each capitalist wants to make a greater profit than his neighbor so that he’ll feel himself a bigger man (though it’s true that most capitalists are men). Nor is the drive for profit driven by his insatiable thirst for more luxuries. Rather, he desperately needs to accumulate more capital in order to get hold of the latest, most efficient, laborsaving automation. The bigger the profit of an individual capitalist, the more quickly he’ll be able to invest in these technologies, ahead of his competitors. In the words of Dell Computers founder and CEO, Michael Dell, corporations must “grow or die.”
As Friedrich Engels explained:
We have seen that the perfectibility of modern machinery, developed to the highest degree, becomes transformed by means of the anarchy of production in society into a compulsory law for the individual industrial capitalist constantly to improve his machinery, constantly to increase its productive power. The bare factual possibility of extending his sphere of production, becomes transformed, for him, into a similar compulsory law. The enormous expansive force of modern industry, in comparison with which that of gases is veritable child’s play, appears now before our eyes as a qualitative and quantitative need to expand which laughs at all resistance.
In the auto industry, for instance, the average time between redesigns of new models is five years. Automobile technology for electric motors, multispeed automatic transmissions, battery power, and engine power is continually updated to provide “more car for your money.” If a car company comes out with a new vehicle that does not significantly improve upon older models, it will spend those years between redesigns losing market share until it can produce a new model.
Read full excerpt at In These Times