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1998

1998 issues

December 1998 (Volume 50, Number 7)

December 1998 (Volume 50, Number 7)

Back in 1972, when one of us was living in Toronto, the Canadian national hockey team played a series of much publicized games against the Soviet Union. Horror of horrors, the Soviet team started winning. The defeat of Canada’s favorites at its own national sport, and, worst of all, at the hands of Communists, was an occasion for some deep national soul-searching in the mainstream press. There were some astonishing editorials, which came very close to questioning the fundamental values of capitalism if it could so weaken the moral fiber of Canadians as to lead them to defeat by the Communist adversary at their very own game … | more |

Malthus’ Essay on Population at Age 200

A Marxian View

Since it was first published 200 years ago in 1798, no other single work has constituted such a bastion of bourgeois thought as Thomas Malthus’ Essay on the Principle of Population. No other work was more hated by the English working class, nor so strongly criticized by Marx and Engels. Although the Malthusian principle of population in its classical form was largely vanquished intellectually by the mid-nineteenth century, it continued to reemerge in new forms. In the late nineteenth century it took on new life as a result of the Darwinian revolution and the rise of social Darwinism. And in the late twentieth century Malthusianism reemerged once again in the form of neo-Malthusian ecology … | more |

November 1998 (Volume 50, Number 6)

November 1998 (Volume 50, Number 6)

There’s been a lot of discussion in MR about the implications of “globalization.” We don’t intend to repeat the arguments here, but we recently received a communication that brings into focus one major aspect of this much debated issue: what it means for workers to “think globally, act locally.” … | more |

On Gender and Class in U.S. Labor History

The relationship between gender and class, central to understanding the history of the labor movement, raises important issues for Marxist analysis in general. Grappling with the complexities of this relationship forces us to confront a wide range of theoretical and practical questions. What is the connection between “material conditions” and “identity”? What role do culture, discourses, sexuality, and emotions play in shaping people’s responses to their material conditions? How are the varieties of consciousness of class related to other identities and affiliations? These questions challenge us theoretically and politically, as we seek to develop a working-class politics that incorporates struggles against all forms of oppression … | more |

Globalization and Internationalism

How Up-to-date is the Communist Manifesto?

The Communist Manifesto is the best known of all writings by Marx and Engels. Indeed, with the sole exception of the Bible, no other book has been translated so often or republished so many times. But what does it have in common with the Bible? Not very much, except for the denunciation of social injustice in some of the prophetic books. Like Amos or Isaiah, Marx and Engels spoke out against the vileness of the rich and powerful and raised their voices in solidarity with the poor and humble. Like Daniel, they read the writing on the walls of the New Babylon: Mene, Mene, Tekel Upharsin: thy days are numbered. But unlike the prophets of the Hebrew Bible, they put none of their hopes upon any god, any messiah, any supreme savior: the liberation of the oppressed is to be the work of the oppressed themselves … | more |

October 1998 (Volume 50, Number 5)

October 1998 (Volume 50, Number 5)

Even at the height of Hollywood’s political consciousness, which ended in the notorious Cold War repression of the Hollywood Ten and many others in the industry, American movies usually rendered their politics in code. But there’s nothing coded or coy about Bulworth. Whether you like the movie or not, whether you like its humor or not, its politics is definitely in your face. And, as far as it goes, that politics is much more left than anything we’ve seen in the U.S. for a very long time … | more |

Capitalist Change and Generational Shifts

Ask anyone what single event has most decisively shaped the culture of the left in the late 20th century, and they are almost certain to tell you that it was the “collapse of Communism.” Yet look at any of the dominant intellectual currents on the left today and you will find that, even while they invoke that historic Götterämmerung, they situate the great cultural and political rupture of our era somewhere else, and earlier … | more |

“The State in a Changing World”

Social-Democratizing Global Capitalism?

There are two central developments that define our era. One of these is the historic failure of the socialist project of the mass working-class parties, both Communist and Social Democratic. The other is, of course, what has commonly come to be known as the “globalization” of capitalism. These two developments are certainly related to one another, but they cannot be reduced to one another. Each also has its own specific dynamics which need to be analysed separately … | more |

September 1998 (Volume 50, Number 4)

September 1998 (Volume 50, Number 4)

The left has more than once heard calls for a “third way”. In decades gone by, people talked about a “third way” between Communism and capitalism, which was social democracy. Now that both the Communism of that period and the social democratic alternative have both more or less died, we’re beginning to hear about a new “third way”. The main exponent of this new alternative is the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair. But there’s talk of a “third way” partnership between Blair and Clinton, or even a troika with the man who may become the next Chancellor of Germany, the German Social-Democratic Party’s Gerhard Schroder … | more |

Globalization on Trial

Crisis and Class Struggle in East Asia

What a difference a year makes. As recently as last summer, economic pundits and global investors were singing the praises of the “Asian tigers.” The World Bank basked in the glow of its 1993 report, The Asian Miracle. Throughout ruling circles, the “Asian model” was touted as proof that open markets and the free flow of capital would be the salvation of humankind … | more |

A Report from Minsk

In Minsk, in the summer of 1992, I spoke to a militia officer (our term for the local police) who worked at the department responsible for the fight against organized crime. As a writer I was particularly interested in the activities (and thought patterns and language) of the newly emerging private business. The officers of the department were well informed, and they were in a despondent and confused mood. “I returned recently from the U.S.A., where I spent some time working in an American police department,” the chief of the unit told me.” An American policeman explained to me what we here in Belarus should be doing. ‘You want to build capitalism,’ said he, ‘good.’ ‘But where will your people get money to start a business, or to buy factories from the state? From what you tell me, they cannot obtain money legally. So you, the cops, should close your eyes to crimes that only involve money. Your job now is to see that people don’t kill each other in the streets—nothing more. When the ones who have stolen enough money take power they will adopt their own laws. And then you can do your best to achieve law and order in the country.’” … | more |

July-August 1998 (Volume 50, Number 3)

July-August 1998 (Volume 50, Number 3)

We write in early June, and these will be the last “Notes from the Editors” until some time in September when things will surely be a lot different from what they are now. Meanwhile you should not spend too much time trying to figure out what the difference will be. We are clearly in the last stages of one of capitalism’s periodic “business cycles,” and these are always periods of severe contradictions and much confusion. Later on, when things have calmed down a bit and the course of events seems to be following a more coherent pattern, there will be time enough to analyze the various tendencies and counter-tendencies that are combining to shape this phase of the twentieth century’s final cycle … | more |

Introduction to Hungry for Profit

The conventional view that agriculture was displaced by industry in two stages—by the industrial revolution in the late nineteenth century, and as a result of the rise of the agribusiness system in the mid-twentieth century—has left many observers of the contemporary political economy with the impression that to deal with agriculture is essentially to focus on political-economic history rather than contemporary political economy. Nothing could be further from the truth. The purpose of this special issue of MR is to help compensate for the neglect that agriculture has often suffered in political-economic literature of the late twentieth century. In so doing we will continue with a line of argument that was introduced in MR more than a decade ago in the July-August 1986 special issue Science, Technology, and Capitalism, edited by Steffie Woolhandler and David Himmelstein, which included landmark essays on U.S. agriculture and agricultural research by Richard Lewontin and Jean-Pierre Berlan … | more |

The Agrarian Origins of Capitalism

One of the most well established conventions of Western culture is the association of capitalism with cities. Capitalism is supposed to have been born and bred in the city. But more than that, the implication is that any city—with its characteristic practices of trade and commerce—is by its very nature potentially capitalist from the start, and only extraneous obstacles have stood in the way of any urban civilization giving rise to capitalism. Only the wrong religion, the wrong kind of state, or any kind of ideological, political, or cultural fetters tying the hands of urban classes have prevented capitalism from springing up anywhere and everywhere, since time immemorial—or at least since technology has permitted the production of adequate surpluses … | more |

June 1998 (Volume 50, Number 2)

June 1998 (Volume 50, Number 2)

What’s the matter with Japan? According to today’s conventional wisdom—i.e., what we are told by the media and the syndicated pundits—almost everything. Its economy, the second largest in the world, is in a long-term crisis that affects on everyone else, most severely the United States, and it stubbornly refuses to do anything about it despite […]… | more |

The Reconstruction of Bourgeois Order in Northern Ireland

In April, the Northern Ireland process finally resulted in an agreement reached under the chairmanship of U.S. Senator John Mitchell. The so-called Good Friday Agreement, which is to be put to a referendum on May 22, proposed the establishment of a power-sharing Northern Ireland Assembly (with the prospect of Sinn Fein actually joining a Northern Ireland executive), a cross-border Council of Ireland to reassure the Nationalist community that their interests are protected, and a British Council to similarly reassure the Unionists. A major concession to the Unionists is the proposal that the Irish Republic drop its constitutional claim to the North. There is also an understanding that the prisoners from those paramilitary organizations accepting the agreement will be released within two years of its implementation.… | more |

Science in a Skeptical Age

John Gillot and Manjit Kumar, Science and the Retreat from Reason (Monthly Review Press, 1997), 288 pp., $18.

We live in a skeptical age. All of the basic concepts of the Enlightenment, including progress, science and reason are now under attack. At the center of this skepticism lie persistent doubts about science itself, emanating both from within and from without the scientific community. Recent titles by scientists give an idea of the extent of the crisis in confidence within science: Science: The End of the Frontier? (1991) by Nobel prize winner Leon Lederman; The End of Certainty (1996) by Nobel laureate Ilya Prigogine; and The End of Science (1996) by Scientific American writer John Horgan … | more |

May 1998 (Volume 50, Number 1)

May 1998 (Volume 50, Number 1)

The fifteenth annual Socialist Scholars Conference (SSC) was held this year on the weekend of March 22–23, several weeks earlier than usual, but at the accustomed venue, the Borough of Manhattan Community College, way down on the west side, a couple of blocks from the Chambers Street subway station. The weather on the first day, […]… | more |

Why Socialism?

Why Socialism?

Is it advisable for one who is not an expert on economic and social issues to express views on the subject of socialism? I believe for a number of reasons that it is.… | more |

The Communist Manifesto Today

I’ve probably read the Communist Manifesto a dozen times, more or less. But it never struck me as old hat. It was always worth reading again. So I thought that in preparation for this panel, I should read it once more, this time with special attention to insights and formulations that seem particularly relevant to the problems we face in the world as the twenty-first century approaches … | more |

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