E. A. Brett, International Money and Capitalist Crisis: The Anatomy of Global Disintegration (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1983).

E. A. Brett treats the Bretton Woods international monetary system as both a reflection of and a framework for the long wave of worldwide capitalist expansion which took place under US domination from 1945 to about 1967. It explains the theoretical basis for such a system, relating the institutions of circulation of capital (the “veil” of money) to the relations of production and expansion of international capital. In this argument, the internal contradictions of the process of growth led to the structural crisis of the 1970s and 1980s in the world capitalist economic system. The dissolution of the Bretton Woods system and the growing conflict over the International Monetary Fund’s policies, in Brett’s view, both reflect and deepen this larger crisis.

Brett’s analysis concludes that the political repression and the lowering of the standard of living of the working classes now current in both center and periphery are “logical” strategies by the capitalist state to restore the rate of profit and “solve” the crisis for capital. As these strategies tend to generate yet more social and political conflict and create the potential for even deeper economic crisis, the only further possibilities are either massive wars (like those that climaxed previous eras of deep economic crisis) or serious restructuring of economic institutions in forms that have not yet been determined.

In many ways, especially in outlook, this work is comparable to Fred L. Block’s The Origins of the International Economic Disorder (California, 1977). Brett seems to be unaware of Block’s work, but the two complement each other well. Block spends much less space on theoretical discussion, while Brett clearly exposes the critical differences between the neoclassical and Marxian approaches. Block has a more readable style, stressing as he does institutional description. Block also tends to focus more on the relations between the United States, on the one hand, and Europe and Japan, on the other hand, whereas Brett treats center-periphery relations more fully.

How to cite this article:

Karen Pfeifer "Brett, International Money and Capitalist Crisis," Middle East Report 122 (March/April 1984).

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