Journal Article

Are there laws of motion of capitalism?

Robert Boyer

in Socio-Economic Review

Published on behalf of Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics

Volume 9, issue 1, pages 59-81
Published in print January 2011 | ISSN: 1475-1461
Published online November 2010 | e-ISSN: 1475-147X | DOI:
Are there laws of motion of capitalism?

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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’.

Keywords: capitalism; varieties of capitalism; markets; institutional political economy; regulation theory; financial crisis; B51 current heterodox approaches: socialist, Marxian, Sraffian; B52 institutional, evolutionary; E02 institutions and the macroeconomy; O11 macroeconomic analysis of economic development; P16 political economy

Journal Article.  8620 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Moral Philosophy ; Corporate Social Responsibility ; Welfare Economics ; Political Economy ; Economic Sociology

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