capitalism is not able to allow everyone to work for their own well-being or that of the community ”

Chronic. Only one of the landmark articles by American economist Stephen Marglin has been translated into French: “What are the bosses for?” And again, it was in an abridged form in a collective work published in 1973 under the direction of André Gorz – it was republished in full version and commented in 2004 (Bruno Tinel, ENS Editions).

In it, the Harvard professor, who started out as a brilliant neoclassical economist (he was in 1969 one of the youngest Harvard researchers to obtain a tenure – top of the academic hierarchy), took the opposite view of the then dominant economic theory, according to which the level of wages is fixed by the market equilibrium between supply and demand for labor. He demonstrated in fact that he could also (and above all) be explained by the relations of domination within the company – thus becoming a figurehead of what we call in the United States the “radical” economists, and in France the “heterodox”.

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Stephen Marglin published a book crowning his long career this summer: Raising Keynes. A Twenty-First-Century General Theory (“Rediscovering Keynes, a general theory for the XXIe century ”, Harvard University Press, 928 pages, untranslated), which he presented on November 22 at a seminar at the University of Geneva. He offers a new reading of the major work of the British John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946), General theory of employment, interest and money (first published in the United States in 1936), because, according to him, the reading of neo and post-Keynesian economists would have betrayed its true purpose. They indeed used the analysis of the dysfunctions of capitalism proposed by Keynes to build models allowing to correct these dysfunctions.

A liberal and democratic state cannot be only a “regulator” correcting market failures, but must be a full-fledged economic player

This interpretation is the basis of the instruments of economic policy deployed for fifty years to find the “natural balance” between prices, wages and production: inflation target, “softening” of the labor market, deregulation to “liberate” growth. , etc. But for Stephen Marglin, Keynes actually demonstrates that capitalism does not have the capacity for self-regulation; its dysfunctions are intrinsically linked to its functioning, the description of which includes the formation of monopolies and oligopolies, the destruction of resources, unemployment, income inequalities, financial crises. It is not a question of “externalities” which could be “internalized” by a better functioning of the markets, but of the functioning of the markets themselves.

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