Recently, we were talking about the environment to a well-known sociologist and got into a fairly heated debate about the ecological effects of capitalism. He insisted that capitalism has nothing to do with it. All human practices, he said, inevitably affect the natural environment and have done so since the dawn of history. This seemed to us a pretty simplistic and ahistorical argument
Volume 51, Issue 07 (December)
The economic crisis that has been affecting the global economy for the last two and a half years started in East Asia. We’ve heard story after story about the problems in Thailand, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, China, and even Japan—but we’ve heard almost nothing about the situation in the Philippines. Is there something that the U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank don’t want us to know about the situation there?
Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is the name for a series of meetings that has taken place in various Asian and Pacific capitals since 1989. For September of this year, the venue was Auckland, a city of a million people in the North Island of New Zealand. According to Joan Spero, U.S. Undersecretary for Economic Affairs, “APEC is about business not about governments;” however, the role of governments has been crucial. In the past, laws and regulations used to protect economies had to be revoked by governments, if untrammelled entry of trade and investment was to take place. And getting rid of barriers erected by governments is what APEC is all about. It is part of the attack—by the World Trade Organization (WTO), the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)—on those economies that try to maintain some degree of autonomy in the face of capital’s demand for open entry everywhere
The postwar economy is widely understood to have gone through two major phases. During the long boom between the end of the 1940s and the early 1970s, most of the advanced capitalist economies (outside the United States and the United Kingdom) experienced record-breaking rates of investment, output, productivity, and wage growth, along with low unemployment and only brief, mild recessions. But during the long downturn that followed, the growth of investment fell significantly, resulting in much-reduced productivity growth, sharply slowed wage growth (if not absolute decline), depression-level unemployment (outside the United States), and a succession of serious recessions and financial crises. My goal in The Economics of Global Turbulence was to explain why the long boom gave way to a long downturn, to reveal why stagnation has persisted on an international scale for such an exceedingly long period, and finally to demonstrate how the failure to resolve the problems underlying the long downturn opened the way to the world economic crisis of 1997-1998
At a time when politicians, academics, and media pundits celebrate the demise of Marxism as a credible school of thought, and hegemonic “postisms” (e.g., poststructuralism, postfeminism, post-Marxism) have succeeded in producing a generation of young academics for whom everything (themselves included) is “socially constructed” and open to “deconstruction,” in an endless game of shifting identities and “stories,” a book about Marxism and human nature seems hopelessly outdated. It is, however, precisely at this time that this book should be welcome, not only because it is full of illuminating insights that dispel many common stereotypes about Marx and Marxism, but also (and most importantly) because it demonstrates how Marx’s theory of human nature, and its social and moral implications, offer a necessary alternative to the current “antinomies of bourgeois thought” (e.g., essentialism vs. anti-essentialism; humanism vs. antihumanism; determinism vs. social constructionism). (I have borrowed this phrase from Georg Lukacs in History and Class Consciousness.)