Michael Roberts

Interview - Global economy on the edge

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Socialist Review spoke to Marxist economist Michael Roberts about mounting debt, the long recession, and the future prospects for capitalism in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic

Companies and states have taken on a massive amount of debt. What are the implications of this?

Even before the pandemic global levels debt levels were at post-war highs. This was not just public sector debt built up after bailing out the banks and other sectors during the great recession of 2008-09.

It included a huge build up of corporate debt as companies in the advanced economies borrowed at very low interest rates made possible by central banks.

Can robots usher in a socialist utopia or only a capitalist dystopia?

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Robots and artificial intelligence should improve and ease our working lives, but they always seem to mean job losses and deskilling instead. The age of artificial intelligence is often proclaimed, but is it really just around the corner?

Are robots and artificial intelligence (AI) set to take over the world of work and thus the economy in the next generation? And what does this mean for jobs and living standards for people? Will it mean socialist utopia in our time (the end of human toil and a superabundant harmonious society) or capitalist dystopia (more intense crises and class conflict)?

What's wrong with the Keynesian answer to austerity?

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As austerity measures bite while the economy continues to flatline, arguments for a Keynesian response to the recession are gaining traction. Marxist economist Michael Roberts casts a critical eye over the Keynesian case, arguing that it misunderstands the causes of capitalist crisis

A new radical think-tank kicked off last year in the UK. It's got a great name: Class: the Centre for Labour and Social Studies. Sounds socialist, even Marxist, doesn't it? Unfortunately, at its first meeting the speakers, especially the economists, were all Keynesians. All the arguments against austerity were Keynesian. Apparently, a Marxist analysis has no contribution to make in explaining the Great Recession and the ensuing long depression - or what to do about it.

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