The long-wave model of accumulation and trends in the world economy

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Objectives of the lesson

The aim of the lesson will be to characterise the long-wave model of accumulation, its explanatory potential and some controversies and possible revisions. A long-term and global perspective will be given, focusing on the debates that have centred on the contemporary long wave, as well as the problems and possible responses to an articulation of this model in the framework of a structured economy with centres, semi-peripheries and peripheries.

Main contents - Characterisation of the dynamics of long-term capitalist accumulation: the concept of the long wave. - Socio-historical factors and the logic of capital. The components of the rate of return. Causality and multi-causality in capitalist history. The role of class struggle. - Is it possible to combine the theory of long waves and the theory of uneven development? - Controversies about the fourth long wave. Neoliberal stage, duration or rupture of the long wave, new technologies, rentierism and financialisation, what is new and what continues? - Revisions and reconstructions of Ernest Mandel's interpretative framework. - The state plays an increasing role in capitalist development. State neoliberalism and state capitalism. - Contenders for the new global hegemony: the rise of China and its limits. - Prospects for global capitalism in the aftermath of the pandemic and a multi-systemic crisis.

Debates and controversies to be worked on in groups Each group will choose a question, try to give it a focus and develop possible hypotheses of explanation, sharing any controversies that arise. It is not necessary to address all the questions.

- Mandel's model points out that the dynamics of accumulation do not follow a mechanistic logic, but must be contextualised by multiple factors. Please try to focus on some historical example you know of where class struggles influenced and compromised the course of the economy. In turn, try to point out where they started, how they took place as a process, and what were the limits they faced in those historical contexts and processes. (Suggestions of processes to choose from - taking just one -: The 1973 crisis in Europe and the two decades that followed; The period 1905-1917 in Russia; The recent constituent process in Chile...).

- Can we speak of exploitation between workers in different nations, from the centre to the periphery? Is there a transfer of value, and if so, how and between whom? Why are there central countries and peripheral ones? Why do these positions persist and deepen? Can there be exceptions and can a country change its place in the global hierarchy? Why do you think this is? Whatever your reasoning, try to substantiate it. Try to contrast non-coinciding answers.

- Try to explain what the organic composition of capital is. Normally this rate rises over time, but in certain situations it decreases or grows below the evolution of the rate of exploitation. Can you point to any historical period or situation in which this may occur? Try to explain how and what the consequences are (possible examples to choose from: relocation of industrial investments from a central country to a peripheral one, crisis of corporate solvency, war conflagration...).


Mandel E. (1986) [1980], Las ondas largas del desarrollo capitalista: la interpretación marxista, Madrid, Siglo XXI. [1] Michael Roberts (20/11/2021) “¿A dónde va la economía global” [2] Michael Roberts (2021) “Whither the global economy?“ [3] Michael Roberts: “Las razones subyacentes de la larga depresión”. [4] “The underlying reasons for the long-depression” [5] Daniel Albarracín: The crisis triggered by the pandemic and the economic policy of the European Union [6]

Powerpoint [7]

Reading materials for the lecture:

Michel Husson: The economics of Ernest Mandel, yesterday and today [8]

George Kerevan: Mandel and Capitalist Breakdown [9]