The 2015 JSPE-Routledge Book Prize winner

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The JSPE-Routledge Book Prize

The Japan Society of Political Economy (JSPE) is pleased to announce the 2015 JSPE-Routledge Book Prize. The JSPE is an interdisciplinary association devoted to the study, development, and application of political economy to social problems. It has been the largest organization of heterodox economists in Japan since its foundation in 1959, providing important occasions for developing and debating ideas about capitalism and its dynamics. The book prize is financially supported by Routledge, which is the world's leading academic publisher in the Humanities and Social Sciences, serving scholars, instructors, and professional communities worldwide. The prize promotes the study of heterodox economics throughout the world with the aim of challenging the dominant position of orthodox neo-liberal economics among economists and policy-makers. The winner of this prize in any given year will be invited to the JSPE annual conference in Japan and will receive an award certificate and monetary grant (sponsored by Routledge). The prize will be awarded to a living political economist based on his or her "lifetime achievement" as embodied in a distinguished book (or books) which reflects the analytical perspectives represented by the Japan Society of Political Economy.

The 2015 JSPE-Routledge Book Prize winner

The 2015 prize winner is Professor Makoto Itoh (The University of Tokyo) based on his two books Political Economy for Socialism, Macmillan, 238 pages, 1995, and The Japanese Economy Reconsidered, Palgrave, 153pages, 2000.

Professor Makoto Itoh started his academic career with his doctoral research on business cycle and crisis. He worked out the formation of Marx’s crisis theory mainly by comparing Grundrisse, Theories of Surplus Value and Capital. He found that the labour shortage type of over-accumulation theory of crisis was presented for the first time in Capital, and that the credit system played an important role in Capital. His doctoral dissertation was published in 1973 as Credit and Crisis and was highly acclaimed in Japan.

A turning point in Professor Itoh’s career came when he had an opportunity to undertake research in 1974-75 in the UK and the USA. A renaissance in the study of Marx in the field of economics had been underway in these countries and in Europe since 1970; however, this renaissance was little known to Japanese economists. At the same time, the substantial body of Japanese contributions to Marxist economics were little-known by Western colleagues. Considering this situation, Professor Itoh made an effort to build connections between Western and Japanese political economy. In his attempts to bridge the Western and Japanese traditions, he helped to expand the scope and depth of scholarly exchange among Marxian scholars.

Among his own scholarly achievements, contributions in four major areas should be highlighted, as follows.

In his earlier works Itoh contributed to the theory of value and the theory of credit and crisis (Value and Crisis, Monthly Review, and Pluto, 1980, and The Basic Theory of Capitalism, Macmillan, 1988). On value theory, following Kozo Uno, Professor Itoh dimensionally distinguishes prices of production as a form of value and labour-time embodied in commodities as the substance of value. Professor Itoh’s three-tables approach in the transformation problem starts from the first table on the substance of value produced, and arrives at the third on the substance of value acquired through the second on the prices of production deducted from the first. He argued that Marx’s propositions of equality between total value and total prices, as well as between total surplus value and total profit, should be understood as concerning the relations between the first and the third table, not between the first and the second. He also presented new interpretations of negative value and negative surplus value, and also of complex labour. Second, on the theory of credit and crisis, he clarified the relationship between the Marxist political economy of money and finance and crisis theory, and emphasized the role of growing speculative trading and credit mechanism in bringing about the end of prosperity.

On contemporary capitalism (Itoh 2000), he demonstrated that an underlying cause of the end of high post-World War II economic growth, and of the 1973-75 economic crisis which followed it, was the over-accumulation of capital in relation to the inelastic supply of both of labour power and primary products. He then argued that the advances in information technology that accompanied the process of restructuring induced three reversals in the historical pattern of capitalist development that had prevailed during the 20th century: (1) capital investment became lighter and flexibly mobile, thus intensifying competition and globalization; (2) trade unions weakened as workers were more flexibly (and irregularly) employed; (3) the role of the state was reduced, as the era of neoliberalism emerged.

Finally, Professor Itoh applied his theory of value and crisis to the basic issues of socialism (Itoh 1995). Adopting his theory of the transformation problem, he argued that if Lange’s method of trial and error method is used to achieve equilibrium prices in a socialist economy – and thus to achieve a full “s-wage model of economy,” wherein the entire net national product is initially distributed among workers – then the relationship between embodied labour time and socialist prices can be fully specified. He also argued that his theory of money and finance could be applied to the socialist economy. Building a stages theory of socialist development, Professor Itoh clarified that a single model of socialism should not be defined as a uniquely correct scientific path to be followed; various possibilities for socialism might be chosen by people according to their social and historical conditions.

In sum, Professor Itoh has, during the course of his career, extended Marx’s theories as well as Uno’s theories so as to contend with important issues in political economy. In so doing, he has made contributions that offer useful guidance for identifying better futures for people around the world. His intellectual achievement richly merits the JSPE Routledge Book Prize; it is a pleasure to award the 2015 Prize to Professor Makoto Itoh.