A heuristic is something that makes a complicated thing easier to understand – they usually involve simplifying things so that complicated things become easier to understand. But sometimes I think people mistake for a heuristic something which in facts makes things more complicated.
Chris’s adoption Marglin and Bhaduri terminology of “stagnationist” and “exhilarationist” for describing post-war economic institutions looks like a heuristic but really makes things more complicated. The theory goes that up until the 1970s capitalists gained from statist interference and support for the working class as the economy would have otherwise stagnated. This flipped in the 1980s as capitalists needed a more easily exploitable working class and they used the state to weaken the bargaining power of the working class.
I have two critiques.
One is that the post war world was one with incredible investment opportunities, lots of easily monetizable technological progression with a great deal of catch-up growth possible too: the UK never caught up with the US in terms of living standards. US standards of living and rates of investment were clearly seen as sustainable from this side of the pond so why state support would be necessary is unclear.
To make my second point, I have negotiated the thicket of the ONS. The vast, vast majority of economic activity is so utterly mundane that it seems bizarre to suggest that it is possible for the economy to be “stagnationist” or “exhilarationist.” Most sectors just plug along, so any “stagnationist” or “exhilarationist” impulses would be driven by very small sectors of the economy.
The top seven or so categories of production in the national accounts are: Total government, health and education; Total distribution, transport, hotels and restaurants; Total production; Total professional and support; Wholesale, retail, repair of motor vehicles and m/cycles; Total manufacturing; Real estate; Financial and insurance; Total human health and social work activities.
That is some mundane shit and I’m not sure that the heuristics mentioned above are useful in describing an economy so boring.