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1998

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)

Notes from the Editors

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)

Notes from the Editors

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 the friendly advice and frustrated pleas of its partners in the developed capitalist world.

What do they want Japan to do? Simple: they want Japan to “be like us.” Open its markets, deregulate its financial and trading systems, and then step on the economic accelerator—reduce taxes, especially on the higher incomes,

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)

Notes from the Editors

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, March 22, after a mild and benign winter—supposedly the gift of EI Niño, the fickle Christ Child who evened things up by punishing Florida and California—was abominable, a mixture of sleet, freezing rain, and snow that left many of the approaches to the city clogged with traffic jams and minor

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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