Before we call it a day
The reader who's gone this far is now familiar with our "method", which we'd like to make a bit more explicit before reaching our conclusions.
There's a paradox in revolutionary thinking. Marxists like R. Luxemburg took an active part in what was a large socialist worker movement (whatever we now know of its shortcomings), and they theorised the possible or likely coming of a final crisis. But the latter was no substitute for the former. The description of large scale inevitable crises showed the catastrophic course of capitalism: it strengthened what was perceived as an already existing struggle to destroy that system, but the crisis was not conceived of as the cause of the struggle. A couple of decades later, after the failure of
revolution in Russia and elsewhere, breakdown theories took on a very different character, emphasising the final crisis in the absence of and in lieu of mass revolutionary action. After Leninist substitutionism (the party would make the revolution that the proles were reluctant to make), there was another substitutionism: the ultimate crisis would force the masses into action. As communist groups became disconnected from practical working class movements, theorising "the" crisis took the place of impossible radical action.
No revolution is born out of a peaceful thriving society where antagonisms are inactive. But it's doubtful it will come out of abject misery or chaos. Large scale unemployment, mass destruction, famine, ecological or nuclear catastrophe provide conservatives and reformers with the ideal weapons to act as the restorers of a minimal order that will help the greater number to survive. Inasmuch as we learn from history, revolutionary endeavours occur at the breaking point of a relatively prosperous cycle, when the conditions of a system of production (and its socio-political environment) start to crack, when the ability of the system to fulfil the needs and expectations of its two structuring classes enters a phase of diminishing social returns, and creates the possibility of a critique of forced poverty as of promised and offered affluence.
We're not waiting for an economic slump. Big drops in production, trade and income indexes are more (massive, no doubt) effects than causes, and in themselves do not tell much about the evolution of the system.
Neither are we are looking for a breakdown in the enlarged reproduction cycles as exposed in Capital's volume II and much debated later, often with equations and figures that look very impressive: once history is turned into equations, it's simple to make the equations balance. These schemes can be useful for the case study of a particular firm, or of an economic sector dominated by a few oligopolies. But they have little relevance for capitalist society as a whole.
The only meaningful reproduction is historical. The decisive factor is the proportion or disproportion between the fundamental elements of the society ruled by capitalism. There's no objective limit here. Labour may go on accepting its lot with 10% unemployed as with 1%, and the bourgeois can go on being bourgeois even if the "average" profit rate goes down to 1%, because global or average figures have meaning for the statistician, not for social groups. There are times when the bourgeois will accept a 1% or 0% profit if he hopes thereby to continue being a bourgeois, and times when 10% is not enough, and he'll risk his fortune and position to get an unsustainable 15%. Capitalism is ruled by the law of profit, and its crises by "diminishing returns", but this diminishing can hardly be quantified. This is why there have been few figures in an essay that wishes to assess the social equilibrium between the components of the system. This means an understanding of how these components add up into a way of life which is neither a superficial nor purely subjective reality: it's the daily expression of a social pattern, and contributes to its running smoothly, or its malfunctioning because of too many tensions between groups (obviously reflected within individual behaviour): then the break-even point becomes a breaking point. We're well aware that this is treading on slippery ground, but there's no way this dimension can be bypassed.