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April 1999 (Volume 50, Number 11)

April 1999 (Volume 50, Number 11)

Notes from the Editors

What a fuss people made about the recent Olympics scandal. You would think the existence of bribery and corruption in the sporting world came as a great revelation, and that people had reason to expect the Olympic games to be immune to practices that are widespread not only in sports but in other commercial enterprises on this global scale.…But there’s still something interesting to talk about here—not so much about the specific case of the Olympics scandal but about the whole idea of corruption. There is something interesting about the moral indignation we’ve been hearing. For that matter, the very notion of corruption is a curious one, really. What does it actually mean?

Mandela’s Democracy

In his speech from the dock, at his 1962 trial for inciting African workers
to strike and leaving the country without a passport, Nelson Mandela described
the initial formation of his political ideas:

Political Reawakening in Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe, is a post-nationalist politics propelled by progressive currents finally on the horizon? Has fatigue associated with the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union’s (ZANU’s) malgovernance and economic mistakes finally reached a breaking point? If so, do these developments reflect a general dynamic in the broader social struggle against the globalized, neoliberal form international capitalism now takes? Will a new labor party emerge as the organizational basis for popular aspirations?

March 1999 (Volume 50, Number 10)

March 1999 (Volume 50, Number 10)

Notes from the Editors

If the United States has ever had a “welfare state,” Social Security must surely be the heart of it. In the world’s most predatory capitalism, this is the closest thing to a humane and equitable institution. An International Monetary Fund (IMF) study has even suggested (but who trusts the IMF?) that the U.S. state pension system is more redistributive than the one in social democratic Sweden. What, then, should we make of Clinton’s proposal for “rescuing” the system?

The Geopolitics of the Asian Crisis

The Chinese character for “crisis” combines the ideas of danger and opportunity. In the span of about one year, a regional economic “miracle,” with its promise of continued high economic growth and opportunity for all, was transformed into a severe regional, and potentially global, economic collapse. It has seriously endangered the livelihood of millions of people, causing untold misery and suffering

February 1999 (Volume 50, Number 9)

February 1999 (Volume 50, Number 9)

Notes from the Editors

Back in December, while the January issue was going to press, the U.S. and Britain were bombing Iraq, and Congress was impeaching Bill Clinton. Our publication schedule spares us the temptation to say the first thing that comes into our heads when a major news story breaks. But sober reflection hasn’t changed our first reaction: if Clinton were being impeached for bombing Iraq, it wouldn’t be hard to support his removal from office—though if all U.S. presidents were fired for their imperialist adventures, impeachment would now be as normal and regular a political event as election

Progressive Globalism

Challenging the Audacity of Capital

I will address some aspects of globalization in our time and what they mean for working people. I will start with some general definitions and suggest that the most significant features of what is called globalization have always been part of capitalist development, even if the forms are different in different periods (including our own). I will then discuss the arrogance of capital as it tries to remake our world in its preferred image. In this regard, I will contrast U.S. initiatives in the area of labor standards with worker demands for labor rights. I will then consider the institutions of an internationalized capitalist regime, which seeks to impose itself using vehicles such as the International Monetary Fund and the proposed Multilateral Agreement on Investment. Finally, I will talk about resistance

Reflections on the Politics of Culture

In the academic social sciences, students are taught to think of culture as representing the customs and mores of a society, including its language, art, laws, and religion. Such a definition has a nice neutral sound to it, but culture is anything but neutral. Much of what is thought to be our common culture is the selective transmission of class-dominated values. Antonio Gramsci understood this when he spoke of class hegemony, noting that the state is only the “outer ditch behind which there [stands] a powerful system of fortresses and earthworks,” a network of cultural values and institutions not normally thought of as political

A Second Wave of National Liberation?

Not so long ago, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) promoted a semi-official series of meetings (national, regional, and tri-continental), in preparation for its periodic international plenary conferences. UNCTAD was then the UN agency most seriously concerned with problems of third-world development as they related to international economic relations. The preparatory meetings had the double aim of engaging as many third-world officials, academics, and practitioners as possible in a serious dialogue on these problems, and mobilizing as much public opinion behind the proposed solutions as it could. The second aim was as important as the first, since those solutions, more often than not, ran up against fierce first-world opposition

The U.S. Left and Media Politics

American democracy is in deep trouble. Cynicism and distrust of the political system, fueled at least in part by imposed ignorance, have grown steadily in recent years. There are several reasons for this, but few as important as the condition of our media. Many Americans, especially those on the left, know that after a generation of rampant consolidation and conglomeration, the American media are dominated by less than twenty firms—and that a half-dozen or so corporate giants hold the commanding positions. These firms use their market power to advance their own and other companies’ corporate agendas. And they increasingly commercialize every aspect of our culture. By any known theory of political democracy, this tightly-held media system, accountable only to Wall Street and Madison Avenue, is a poisonous proposition

Social Change and Human Nature

When radical social change is mentioned, apologists for present practice take a philosophical turn. In nearly every discussion of social alternatives to market capitalism, defenders of the marketplace appeal to their own conception of human nature as the final explanation of the predatory competitiveness of our age of waste and greed. We are quickly assured that the ever more unsatisfying and dangerous exploitation of our natural and social environment is an inevitable consequence of our human nature

Fusing Red and Green

James O’Connor, Natural Causes: Essays in Ecological Marxism (New York: Guilford, 1998), 350 pp., $19.95, paper.

One of the foremost Marxist social scientists in the United States, James O’Connor has produced many original insights into the political economy of the United States, and global capitalism. His Fiscal Crisis of the State (1973) revealed the structural roots of government deficit problems, and his subsequent work has focused on the development of a general theory of capitalist crisis. In Accumulation Crisis (1984) and The Meaning of Crisis (1987), he surveyed and synthesized alternative viewpoints on the economic, political, cultural and psychological crisis tendencies of late-twentieth century capitalism. Since 1988, when he co-founded the innovative “eco-Marxist” quarterly Capitalism, Nature, Socialism, O’Connor has expanded his vision of capitalist crisis and socialist movements to incorporate natural conditions more fully. Natural Causes gathers together O’Connor’s major writings over this last period, providing an excellent opportunity to assess his considerable contribution to eco-Marxist theory and practice

Braverman and the Class Struggle

Since Paul Sweezy gently rejected my first submission to Monthly Review in 1972, he and Harry Magdoff and all of the MR writers and staffpersons, living and deceased, have been my mentors, helping me to see things more clearly and to act more effectively. And Harry Braverman’s book ranks near the top of MR’s books which have deeply influenced my thinking. I remember mentioning it in my PhD defense in 1976. I told the committee that one of the weaknesses of my thesis, which was about public school teachers’ unions, was that it had not incorporated the pioneering work of Harry Braverman in Labor and Monopoly Capital. I had a suspicion that the work of teachers was not immune to the forces described so well by Braverman: detailed division of labor, mechanization, Taylorization. Today, as the fine scholar David Noble will tell us, these forces are bearing down upon the professoriate, with potentially devastating results