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Notes from the Editors, June 2005

» Notes from the Editors
Notes from the Editors, June 2005
» Notes from the Editors

Andre Gunder Frank, one of the leading radical social scientists of the late twentieth century and a long-time friend and contributor to Monthly Review and Monthly Review Press, died on April 23, 2005, at age seventy-six.

Frank (known to his friends as Gunder) was born in Berlin on February 24, 1929. His father, a pacifist and novelist opposed to the rising Nazi movement, removed him to a Swiss boarding school when he was four years old. In 1940–41 they went to the United States, first to Hollywood and then Gunder joined his mother in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He studied economics at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, embracing the Keynesian perspective. In 1950, without realizing what it meant, he enrolled in the Ph.D. program in economics at the University of Chicago, where he had none other than Milton Friedman as a teacher. Finding himself in a den of right-wing economists, he managed to pass all of his exams with flying colors, but rejected much of what he was being taught. The Chicago economics department responded by sending him a letter advising him to leave due to his “incompatibility” with their program.

He studied economics for a while at the University of Michigan, before dropping out altogether, as he was later to write, in order to become “a beatnik at the Vesuvius café in San Francisco’s North Beach before Jack Kerouac arrived there On the Road,” and then reentered the University of Chicago by the back door through Bert Hoselitz’s research center on Economic Development and Cultural Change. He ended up writing a dissertation for the Chicago economics department on productivity in Soviet agriculture and industry, during the preparation of which he spent a summer researching in Kiev in the Ukraine. But he was more interested in issues raised by Hoselitz and others on the relationship between economic development and cultural change and ended up spending most of his time at Chicago associating with and learning from anthropologists rather than economists.

In 1960 he decided to find out for himself about conditions in the third world and visited Cuba shortly after the revolution as well as traveling to Nkrumah’s Ghana. He subsequently gave up a position he had taken as assistant professor of economics at Michigan State University and relocated to Latin America, beginning with Mexico. From there, via Peru and Bolivia, he arrived in Chile, where he met his future wife and collaborator Marta Fuentes.

There and in Brazil and Mexico he was to do his most important early work, publishing his essay “The Development of Underdevelopment” in Monthly Review in September 1966 and his enormously influential book Capitalism and Underdevelopment in Latin America with Monthly Review Press in 1967. In these works, closely related to Paul Baran’s The Political Economy of Growth (Monthly Review Press, 1957) but rooted in the close study of Latin American conditions, he argued that the reformist approach of almost all development theories was wrong. “Underdevelopment,” he wrote in his classic 1966 article, “is not due to the survival of archaic institutions and the existence of capital shortage in regions that have remained isolated from the stream of world history. On the contrary, underdevelopment was and still is generated by the very same historical process which also generated economic development: the development of capitalism itself.” In this view what was being reproduced along with the development of the states at the center of the capitalist world economy was the underdevelopment and under normal circumstances permanent subordination of those states in the periphery.

Frank’s analysis, together with a whole body of work emanating from the third world, constituted what was to be known as dependency theory and pointed to the necessity of social revolution in those countries experiencing the development of underdevelopment. His article on “The Development of Underdevelopment” in MR was seen by the U.S. government as constituting a threat to its empire in the Americas and he was sent a letter from the U.S. attorney general telling him that he would not be allowed reentry into the United States. This decision was finally overturned in 1979 when Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) intervened to permit him and Ernest Mandel, the author of Marxist Economic Theory (Monthly Review Press, 1968) to teach a seminar at Boston University.

Hence for many years Frank had the role of itinerant, world-intellectual. In 1976 he published Economic Genocide in Chile: Equilibrium on the Point of a Bayonet in response to the trip of his former University of Chicago economic professors, Milton Friedman and Arnold Harberger, to Chile to advise Pinochet’s military government following the bloody coup against Allende’s socialist government. In the 1970s he was to devote his work primarily to the analysis of the world economic crisis and to what was to become known as world system analysis, in which he was a pioneer and one of the foremost developers up to the present. A landmark in this respect was his World Accumulation, 1492–1789 (Monthly Review Press, 1978).

We are publishing in this issue a short tribute to Gunder by his friend and ours Samir Amin. Those wishing for more information about him and his work are encouraged to look at his Web site at http://rrojasdatabank.info/agfrank.

Astrophysicist Philip Morrison, who died on April 22, aged eighty-nine, was an early and militant opponent of the nuclear arms race and, in the 1950s and ’60s, the author of numerous articles on science and its political implications for Monthly Review. Morrison did his graduate study in electrodynamics at Berkeley under J. Robert Oppenheimer; the two were also political comrades in the late ’30s, opposing Spanish fascism and supporting union organization, among other causes. In the ’40s Morrison followed Oppenheimer to wartime Los Alamos where both worked on the development of the atomic bomb. But at the war’s end, Morrison saw the dangers of nuclear proliferation and helped found the Federation of American Scientists. He later went on to teach at Cornell and MIT, to face down a red scare attack, and to lead the way in the popularization of scientific knowledge in more than a thousand book reviews for Scientific American, many articles in popular magazines (while he continued to write for MR), and television programs on scientific subjects for PBS. Morrison also continued to campaign against the arms race and for a wide range of social justice causes. He remained a committed socialist and a friend—though occasionally critical—of this magazine throughout his life.

Morrison was one of a group of mid-twentieth century radical physicists who, while innovative in their field, saw public knowledge about science as a tool in the struggle for social justice. MR plans to publish an article examining their work and influence this fall.

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