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Introduction to Special Issue on the Critique of Economics

Fifty years ago this month two chapters, ’The Giant Corporation” and ’On the Quality of Monopoly Capitalist Society—I,” of Paul Baran and Paul Sweezy’s then forthcoming book, Monopoly Capital, were published in a special issue of Monthly Review.1 Among the other chapters in rough draft form by the end of 1962 were ’Some Implications for Economic Theory” (later to be re-entitled ’Some Theoretical Implications”) and ’On the Quality of Monopoly Capitalist Society—II.” However, Baran’s death in March 1964, before the book was finished, left some unresolved questions with regard to these chapters. Consequently, Sweezy decided to leave these two chapters out of the book when it was finally published in 1966.

This special issue of Monthly Review is organized around the publication of one of these missing chapters of Monopoly Capital: ’Some Theoretical Implications.” The story associated with it is told in John Bellamy Foster’s introduction. Fifty years after it was first drafted we believe this chapter, which engages in a critique of orthodox economic theory and presents a radical extension of Marxian economic theory, is even more important than when it was written. It provides vital insights into the growing irrationality and waste of monopoly capitalist society and provides a powerful critique of received economics on that basis.

To complement this missing chapter of Monopoly Capital in this issue we asked four leading figures in Marxian and heterodox political economy to write articles in the critical spirit of Monopoly Capital.

Samir Amin, in his article ’The Surplus in Monopoly Capitalism and the Imperial Rent,” writes of the enormous extension of Department III expenditures (the residual after investment goods and wage goods) in the center economies of the world capitalist system, and explains how this is fed in part by the growing imperial rent extracted from the periphery.

John Smith scrutinizes ’The GDP Illusion” from the standpoint of the critique of imperialism, explaining that much of what is counted as ’value added” and included in the GDP of the rich countries of the center of global capitalism is in reality ’value captured” from the periphery. He demonstrates this by analyzing the global production and profits associated with various goods from iPods to T-shirts.

Nina Shapiro’s article, ’Keynes, Steindl, and the Critique of Austerity Economics,” focuses on the critique of today’s austerity economics from the standpoint of Josef Steindl, the author of Maturity and Stagnation in American Capitalism (a work that directly inspired Monopoly Capital).2 She explores what Steindl called ’the return of the Bourbons”—that is, the counterrevolution in economics and the return to pre-Keynesian notions of a self-regulating market—in order to highlight the extreme irrationality of current economic policy.3

Howard J. Sherman, who wrote a review of ’Monopoly Capital” for the American Economic Review in 1966, has contributed a short piece entitled ’The Two Pauls.”4 In it he relates some of his memories of Baran and Sweezy.

Our current plan is to follow up this issue by publishing next year the second of the two missing chapters of Monopoly Capital—’On the Quality of Monopoly Capitalist Society—II”—dealing with culture, communications, and mental health.

The Editors


  1. In our discussion here we have used the original title ’On the Quality of Monopoly Capitalist Society—I” in referring to the first of these chapters. This was the planned book title for that chapter. However, when it was later published as a chapter of Monopoly Capital the Roman numeral I was dropped. This was because ’On the Quality of Monopoly Capitalist Society—II,” which was originally meant to follow it, was left out of the published volume.
  2. Joseph Steindl, Maturity and Stagnation in the American Economy (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1976).
  3. Josef Steindl, ’Reflections on the Present State of Economics,” Monthly Review 36, no. 9 (February 1985): 35.
  4. Howard J. Sherman, review of ’Monopoly Capital,” American Economic Review 56, no. 4 (September 1966): 919–21.
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