Making Marxist use of Keynes
in Keynes and Marx
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This chapter argues that a more adequate understanding of unemployment can be developed by building on Marx and Keynes. Both Marx and Keynes already theorise unemployment, but a better theory can be developed through a critical, Marxist appropriation of Keynesian insights. The first section identifies Marxist arguments around so-called ‘primitive accumulation’ and how the establishment of a ‘reserve army’ of labour is functional for capitalism. Suggesting that such functional arguments are useful but insufficient, the chapter accordingly continues by identify important arguments in Marx and Keynes by which agents’ motivations can be understood to reproduce unemployment. The second section identifies Marx’s depiction of imperatives to accumulate, which create alternative processes of labour recruitment and displacement, and the third section identifies how Keynes’s model of unemployment equilibrium points to situations in which entrepreneurs rationally fail to increase employment. Keynes’s model provides a potentially important ‘snap-shot’ of what need to be reconceived as dynamic and changing processes. The fourth section accordingly develops claims made by both Marx and Keynes that capital’s adjustments are uneven and hence conducive to reproducing unemployment. There are multidimensional, sectoral, temporal and spatial processes of uneven development which mean there are at most only a series of moving equilibria. The fifth section turns to states and economic policy, reiterating that states can and do act, pursuing more or less effective employment policies, and that unemployment remains a contested political achievement.


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