Are there Laws of Motion of Capitalism?

Robert Boyer

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    This article takes seriously the conflict of paradigms between a market economy approach and a capitalism approach. The first has recurrently shown its inability to explain the major stylized facts of the last two decades. The second now receives more attention as a possible alternative but the field has been so underexplored by so few people that the task is somehow promethean. Is it possible to explicitly state laws of motion of capitalism? Previous failed attempts justify some scepticism. A review of the multiplicity of meanings and conceptualizations of ‘economic laws’ suggests first that the existence of general quantitative regularities, which economists are fond of, is quite unlikely. Second, it is possible to identify explicit partial and temporary regularities that are indexed upon a given institutional configuration of capitalism. Third, mobilizing the results of past historical analyses and building upon the contributions of some key economists and social scientists—Marx, Polanyi, Schumpeter, Kaldor, Wallerstein and Kindleberger—the article proposes seven conjectures about possible ‘laws of motion of capitalism’.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalSocio-Economic Review
    Issue number1
    Pages (from-to)59-81
    Publication statusPublished - 2011

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