Ive been trying to catch up on the discussions on decadence on libcom and in particular the concerns expressed by MH and Baboon about the ICCs ‘internal’ discussions on China
First of all im not so sure that Alf meant there had been a significant departure in the ICCs understanding. He actually said: “…particularly the question of the rapid development of industrialisation in China and other Asian countries. These developments do pose a challenge to the theory of decadence and one that we have been late in responding to. But whether they refute the overall analysis is another matter. “
It would be far more surprising if our understanding of decadence did not change as decadence itself progressed. Additionally, im quite glad to see evidence of political discussion taking place internally
I do think the concept of ascendance and decadence is a fundamental element of historical materialism and hence Marxism’s view of history. It is a fundamental tool to analyse events in this period.
Im quite happy however to ask what the issues/problems are with decadence theory and how has it changed and developed? I think these are useful questions. For example in its early days – say the first half of the 20th century, it was easy to use phrases like collapse, a permanent crisis, a period of revolutions and wars, no reforms, impoverishment & pauperization, no new imperialist powers. They now feel like shorthand terms – they have value but don’t describe accurately what has happened and as a result don’t help persuade others of the value of decadence theory. After a century of decadence, society has experienced not only the wars but massive industrial development, massive technological development, massive social change, massive changes in daily life, living standards, cultures. It is understandable hard to persuade anyone that these changes are signs of collapse/decline etc.
So does the economic development of India and China challenge decadence theory? No I don’t think so but I do think it raises challenge for crisis theory. Perhaps one lesson we should learn from the last half century that markets theories and FROP theories are crisis theories not explanations of decadence and that Decadence is a qualitative change in period not an economic crisis as such.
India and China have populations of 2 billion between them, Africa another billion. Is their development related to internal extra capitalist markets or global capital or both? If so what does this say about the level of extra capitalist markets in 1914 (again a shorthand I know)? Someone more knowledgeable than me can detail the answers here but I suspect that it is not actually relevant to decadence theory even if it is relevant to the rate of economic growth.
I suspect too that their development, rapid in relation to the rest of the world, is more of a problem for the concept of decomposition since 1990.
In some ways I am more concerned about the overall world population growth to 7billion today from 1.5 billion at the start of the 20th century. It has doubled since 1970. How? Again Ive never quite understood the link between economic cycles and population reqts of capitalism but does capitalism enable or even cause this growth? If not, doesn’t that mean it’s a product of extra capitalist markets? Ermm does that mean they are growing???
In terms of crisis theory, as ive indicated before, i question the concept that economic growth is due to the existence of pre-capitalist markets. They facilitate faster growth clearly but I cant accept Luxemburg’s idea that no accumulation takes place without pre or extra capitalist markets. This idea clearly clashes with any understanding of the reconstruction post WW2. More than that however the scale of postwar economic development and the management of the economic crisis since the 1970s generates problems for a simplistic interpretation of war reconstruction crisis cycle