Review of Political Economy, 2 March 2022
In Praise of ‘general laws’ of Capitalism: Notes from a Debate with Daron Acemoglu
by Emiliano Brancaccio and Fabiana De Cristofaro
This essay develops the topics of a debate between Daron Acemoglu and Emiliano Brancaccio hosted by the Feltrinelli Foundation in June 2021. Acemoglu argues that Marx’s and his epigon Piketty’s attempts to unveil ‘general laws of capitalism’ are doomed to failure as they neglect institutions’ heterogeneity and their dynamics. Acemoglu provides historical and empirical evidence in support of the idea that such ‘laws’ are denied by ‘counterfactuals’. In this paper, we criticize Acemoglu’s epistemological view by arguing that the dynamics of institutions could strengthen general ‘laws’ rather than defeat them. We also show that Acemoglu empirical results can be overturned: a revision of his tests shows that Piketty’s law and the Marxian law of capital centralization find support in the empirical analysis. It is therefore appropriate to continue the investigation about the relevance of these ‘laws’, also for their possible implications on the future of liberal-democratic capitalism.
Brancaccio, E., De Cristofaro, F. (2022). In Praise of ‘general laws’ of Capitalism: Notes from a Debate with Daron Acemoglu. Review of Political Economy. First published online: 2 March. DOI: 10.1080/09538259.2022.2037930.