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Frederick Allen and the Future of Capitalism

John E. King ()
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John E. King: Department of Economics and Finance - La Trobe University

History of Economic Ideas, 2004, vol. 12, issue 2, 7-28

Abstract: In March 1938 Victor Gollancz’s Left Book Club published a book entitled Can Capitalism Last?, by Frederick Allen (the pseudonym of Denis Herbert Stott, 1909-1988). This was an original and ambitious attempt to synthesise Marx and Keynes, making deficient aggregate demand the fundamental economic contradiction of capitalism, but in a dynamic context in which technical progress raises productivity faster than real wages and generates a chronic problem of surplus absorption. Allen considers the potential contributions of consumption, investment, government expenditure and imperialism as outlets for surplus, concluding that none of them is able to solve the problem of inadequate purchasing power. But he is not a breakdown theorist: the future of capitalism, he concludes, is more a political than an economic question. In both structure and content Allen’s analysis is strikingly similar to that of Baran’s and Sweezy’s Monopoly Capital 1968 [1966]. His book displays many of their strengths and all of their weaknesses.

Date: 2004
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