Regulation Theory: A Critique
Regulation Theory has proven to be an immensely attractive research program. From its beginnings with the publication of Aglietta’s A Theory of Capitalist Regulation (1979) in the mid-1970s, it has continued to attract many adherents through the 1980s to become probably the largest and most influential school of Marxian political economy. Part of its attractiveness is due to its being a highly flexible research program able to absorb criticisms and develop variations. Indeed, the variations are sufficiently different and numerous to support viewing Regulation Theory not as a single approach but as a cluster of approaches unified by “family resemblances” but no core. In a recent article Jessop (1990, 154) attempts not only to counteract the centripetal tendencies of Regulation Theory, but also attempts to counter adaptations of it that would neglect class struggle in favour of concern with “structural cohesion”. In order to carry out this project, Jessop claims that it is important to return to the pioneering texts. I shall also return to the pioneering texts, particularly Aglietta’s (1979) A Theory of Capitalist Regulation, but my orientation and purpose will be quite different from Jessop’s. My aim is to point to weaknesses and to options missed in Aglietta’s pioneering text in order to support an approach that can be viewed either as a substantial reform of regulation theory or as an alternative approach with some important similarities.
KeywordsWage Relation Reproduction Schema Capitalist Society Logical Time Capitalist Development
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