Periodic Crises of Overproduction

Periodic Crises of Overproduction

By Albert Aftalion
Edited by Ivano Cardinale
D’Maris Coffman
Roberto Scazzieri

Economic Ideas that Built Europe

Albert Aftalion’s Periodic Crises of Overproduction is an enlightening complement to Keynes’ General Theory, as it develops key macroeconomic concepts such as the accelerator principle from a detailed investigation of the interdependencies and temporal asymmetries of an industrial economy. It is an essential foundation for the economics of the medium term.

PDF, 250 Pages


March 2023

£60.00, $80.00

EPUB, 250 Pages


March 2023

£60.00, $80.00

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About This Book

Albert Aftalion’s exploration into the theory of periodic, general economic crises in an industrial economy outlines a conceptual framework based upon the distinction between the structural conditions that make a crisis possible and the historical triggers that give any particular crisis its specific character. This distinction is key to Aftalion’s theory and policy of the medium term and makes his contribution a forerunner of the principle of contextual emergence in complex dynamics.

This approach allows Aftalion to distinguish between different, but hierarchically related, causal layers: (i) the fundamental relationship between production and needs: capital formation is a necessary condition in order to achieve an equilibrium between production and needs compatible with increasing (or non-diminishing) per capita welfare; (ii) the more historically specific causal layer at which the lengthening of production processes as a result of the increasing utilization of fixed capital items becomes a central feature and makes it necessary to allow for adjustment periods during which the economic system is out of equilibrium and lack of time co-ordination between production and needs may generate crises; (iii) the most specific level of causation at which different institutional arrangements (e.g., private- versus social-ownership economy) determine the response patterns of individuals and groups to the mismatches characterizing out-of-equilibrium situations.

Aftalion’s approach highlights causal pluralism in economic dynamics while emphasizing that the different causal triggers are systematically related to one another in a hierarchical way. This intertwining of causal layers is especially relevant in the medium term, which makes the context of medium-term policy decisions the most difficult to detect and, at the same time, of critical importance to the success of policy measures.


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Author Information

Ivano Cardinale is Senior Lecturer in Economics at Goldsmiths, University of London. He also lectures on the history of economic thought at the Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.

D’Maris Coffman is Professor in Economics and Finance, Head of Department and Director of the Bartlett School of Construction and Project Management at University College London. 

Roberto Scazzieri is Professor of Economic Analysis at the University of Bologna; Fellow of the National Lincei Academy, Rome; a Senior Member of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge; and Life Member of Clare Hall, Cambridge.


Economic Ideas that Built Europe

Table of Contents

Volume One: Periodic Variations in Prices and Incomes: the Prevailing Theories: Book I: Periodic oscillations of prices; Book II: Periodic oscillations of incomes; Book III: Periodic oscillations of costs and productivity; Book IV: Prevailing theories and their explanations of crises; Volume Two: Periodic Variations in Production: Outline of a Theory: Book V: The rhythms of production in general: a first attempt at explanation; Book VI: The rhythms of the production of industrial equipment and raw commodities; Book VII: Cyclical fluctuations in the production of consumption goods; Book VIII: A second attempt at explaining the recurrent rhythms of prices; Book IX: The recurrent rhythms of demand and its influence on prices; Book X: The theoretical possibilities of general overproduction and underconsumption; Book XI: Causes of the cyclical dynamics of production.


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