Growth and distribution: a revised classical model
Luiz Carlos Bresser-Pereira
Brazilian Journal of Political Economy, vol. 38, nº 1 (150), pp. 3-27, January 2018. Paper presented to the conference "Economic Growth and Distribution: On the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations". Lucca, June 16-18, 2004.
This paper discusses distribution and the historical phases of capitalism. It assumes that technical progress and growth are taking place, and, given that, its question is on the functional distribution of income between labor and capital, having as reference classical theory of distribution and Marx's falling tendency of the rate of profit. Based on the historical experience, it, first, inverts the model, making the rate of profit as the constant variable in the long run and the wage rate, as the residuum; second, it distinguishes three types of technical progress (capital-saving, neutral and capital-using) and applies it to the history of capitalism, having the UK and France as reference. Given these three types of technical progress, it distinguishes four phases of capitalist growth, where only the second is consistent with Marx prediction. The last phase, after World War II, should be, in principle, capital-saving, consistent with growth of wages above productivity. Instead, since the 1970s wages were kept stagnant in rich countries because of, first, the fact that the Information and Communication Technology Revolution proved to be highly capital-using, opening room for a new wage of substitution of capital for labor; second, the new competition coming from developing countries; third, the emergence of the technobureaucratic or professional class; and, fourth, the new power of the neoliberal class coalition associating rentier capitalists and financiers.