This concise book lays out the most precise criticism of capitalist society printed in recent years. In plain English the author points out the crisis ridden nature of our current social order, which as he reminds us, is organized to produce profit and not necessarily the things that human beings want or need. Rather than a problem of "underconsumption" that can be remedied by state spending and stimulus of the Keynesian variety, the author points out that a tendency of the rate of profit to decline is the root cause of all recent crises including the "great recession" that we are currently suffering through.
Describing the current crisis as mere tremors indicating the more major crisis lurking under the surface, the author warns of dire consequences that will come from either a continued deepening of the current issues or more "jobless recovery." An expanded crisis has obvious ramifications including the real possibility of another world war, but even a recovery would entail increasing degradation of the environment and a forced lowering of wages.
While the illusionary (or delusionary) left has either dropped pretensions of opposing profit-centered social relations or faded away into the oblivion, the author is not disheartened. He points out that these forces often got in the way of self activity of working people to find solutions to the problems they face. Whatever happens in the future is up to us, and we are better enabled to act without phony saviors in our way leading us down the wrong paths.
In the crises inevitably to come there will be real opportunities for people to act in a way that can fundamentally alter society in favor of humanity rather than the drive for more profits. The means for meeting the wants and needs of us all already exist. All it takes is real action to reorient society to human need, and in fact that is the only way out of this economic crisis and the other more major crises that may follow.
Paul Mattick is a fantastic speaker. I highly suggest to anyone interested in the recent recession: watch his youtube videos and recent discussion for the Platypus society. Moreover, he writes as clearly as he speaks. However, when it comes to actually comprehending the financial crisis in intimate detail, I somewhat prefer Andrew Kliman's presentation, which has far more statistics, and graphs, and the feeling of a solid well thought out presentation and all encompassing theory. Mattick is more or less giving the reader a spotty historical account of the booms and bust of the capitalist mode of production; which is very interesting, and very hard to do in a mere 100 pages. That said, because he spends so much time on the history of capitalism, much of the actual recession is somewhat left out. And because it is more or less a history book of the overall problems of capitalism, the nuance that each boom-bust cycle deserves, it also somewhat left out.
Still, it's overall a good book, and can be read in a matter of hours. It's also good to see people like Mattick and Kliman offering a very unique take on capitalism, and how it operates. So, purchase Kliman for an intimate understanding of our recession, purchase Mattick for a sleek history of why capitalism is prone to erratic behavior (although by always being erratic, one could say it's also always stable).
At first when I first saw this book pop up on Amazon.com last year I thought it might be a collection of Paul Mattick Sr's writings on crisis. There was little descriptive info given to make a different conclusion (since publications they added more to the Amazon description). However, the book was actually written by his son Paul Mattick jr (tho they dropped the jr for unknown reasons) who was a member of the councilist group "Root & Branch" during the late 70's & early 80's. Since he since has become a Professor of Philosophy and author of books on post-modernism, I thought the book would come from that perspective. I was wrong. This little book basically gives a history of this crisis and prior crisises of capitalism from a councilist perspective but without labeling it as such. It does this from the perspective of the US and its central role in the world economy. As for solutions, Mattick disses whats left of the Left. He finds hope in the ability of every day folk to take over the ruins of capital and remake it for use in their everyday lives. He draws from the work of Rebecca Solnit (A Paradise Built in Hell) in which she analysed various natural and unnatural disasters. To find common ground in the reaction of the victims to organize themselves outside of the State and find solidarity with fellow victims to overcome their loss. BTW, I recommend readers of this blog to read Solnit's work. Over all, I recommend this book. Its a good summary of Marxist economic theory in everyday language and applied to the current crisis. jim davis