One of a number of basic theories in the Marxist milieu for what causes capitalist economic crises. Marx called these events “overproduction crises”, though he actually put forward at least three different explanations for them—overproduction (or underconsumption), the anarchy of capitalist production, and the falling rate of profit theory). (And the followers of Marx have constructed even more crisis theories besides those three.)
Underconsumption is just another way of looking at overproduction; they are two sides of the same coin. Underconsumption is in relation to what the masses of the people actually need and want, and results from their not having enough money to buy those commodities. Overproduction is in relation to the real market demand (and not in relation to what people need and want!), but likewise results from people not having the money to buy all the things that are produced which they do in fact need and want.
Some of the early bourgeois theorists of underconsumption (such as Rodbertus, but including even Sismondi, the best of them) put forward undeveloped and often quite naive theories that tended to discredit this type of explanation for capitalist economic crises. In particular, many of them thought that simply raising wages would prevent such crises. (It is actually impossible for the capitalists to raise wages to that degree; they would go broke! In any case, they are definitely unwilling to even give it a try!) Furthermore, because of the multifaceted explanations which Marx himself gave for crises, even many Marxists do not understand that his central, and most essential, explanation was in fact a much more sophisticated form of underconsumption/overproduction theory than bourgeois economists like Rodbertus put forward. Hence the name he used for the phenomenon! Most of us defenders of the “underconsumption” theory of crises follow Marx and instead refer to them as “overproduction crises”. Consequently the term “underconsumptionism” is used mostly by opponents of overproduction theories of capitalist economic crises.
It should also be noted that Marx’s theory of overproduction focuses primarily not on the excess consumer commodities themselves (which are produced relative to the market demand), but rather the excess capital that is created which in turn can be used to produce so many “excess” commodities. In other words Marx is focusing on the overproduction of capital, rather than the overproduction of consumer commodities. This also explains why the term “overproduction” is superior to “underconsumption” in his theory.
See: OVERPRODUCTION CRISES.
1. Either a formal or informal agreement of different political forces (possibly even from different social classes) to work cooperatively with regard to one or a few issues on which they agree, despite their many disagreements on other issues.
2. A government created on the basis of such an agreement, even if unstable over the long term, and probably short-lived. [More to be added.]
U.S. GOVERNMENT — Control Of
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“The real truth of the matter is, as you and I know, that a financial element in the larger centers has owned the Government ever since the days of Andrew Jackson.” —Franklin Delano Roosevelt, speaking to Colonel Edward M. House, Nov. 21, 1933. [Quoted in: Ronald Wright, What Is America? (2008), p. 169.]
U.S. IMPERIALISM — Crimes Of
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“I never apologize for the United States of America. I don’t care what the facts are.” —George H. Bush, while campaigning for President in 1988, speaking soon after the U.S. warship Vincennes “accidently” shot down an Iranian airliner on July 3, 1988, killing all 290 people on board. [Quoted in Harper’s magazine, November 1990.]
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See also: PRODUCTIVE LABOR
UPPER PALEOLITHIC (LATE PALEOLITHIC)
The European pre-historical period from about 35,000 to 11,000 years ago. The Upper Paleolithic and first part of the Neolithic are generally divided into six principle cultural periods (which overlap somewhat): The Chatelperonian (35,000-30,000 years ago); the Aurignacian (34,000-30,000); the Gravettian (30,000-22,000); the Solutrean (22,000-18,000); the Magdelenian (18,000-11,000); and the Azilian (11,000-9,000). [Roger Lewin, In the Age of Mankind (1988), pp. 145-6.]
See also: PALEOLITHIC
[Sometimes without the hyphen.] 1. An item which is useful or meets a need or satisfies a desire that someone has. (Marx generally uses the term in this sense.)
2. The characteristic(s) of an item that makes it useful or allows it to meet a need.
“Whatever its social form may be, wealth always consists of use-values...” —Marx, CCPE, pp. 27-8. “The use-value of a commodity is the basis of its exchange-value and thus of its value.” —Marx, Capital, vol. III, Part VI, Ch. 37: (International, p. 636; Penguin, p. 774.)
See also: VALUE and EXCHANGE-VALUE
1. Any of a large number of ethical theories, most of which are now varieties of hedonism, and therefore focus on “happiness” and “pain”.
2. [Originally, and logically:] The ethical theory that goodness and morality derive from utility or usefulness. Marxist-Leninist Class Interest Ethics has developed from these roots.
See also: Philosophical Doggerel on utilitarianism.
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“It is natural that utopian theories, which before the era of materialistic critical socialism contained the rudiments of the latter within itself, can now, coming belatedly, only be silly, stale, and basically reactionary.” —Marx, Letter to Friedrich Adolph Sorge, Oct. 19, 1877, Marx-Engels: Selected Correspondence (Moscow: Progress, 1975), p. 291. [In a slightly different translation in MECW 45:284.]
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