Marx’s ideas on alienation, which had been ignored for a long time, have become quite fashionable in recent years. Frequently they are even overemphasized at the expense of other concepts of Marx, in particular, his economic concepts. This trend is sometimes due to the attempt to make Marx respectable and to win new supporters for him, especially in intellectual circles which show some interest in socialism but are still reluctant to accept the Marxian analysis of our society. These people are often told: Don’t worry about the later Marx, who wrote the Critique of Political Economy and Capital, and who was so tactless as to develop the theory of exploitation
In this issue, we reprint Albert Einstein’s article “Why Socialism?,” from vol. 1, no. 1 of MR (May 1949). Normally this would require no comment on our part, as it has become something of an MR tradition to run this essay in our May issue. This year, however, there are two special circumstances that require some discussion. The first is Time magazine’s treatment of Einstein’s political views in its December 31, 1999, issue on “Albert Einstein: Person of the Century.” The second is the recent release, on the FBI’s web page, of Einstein’s FBI file to the general public
It is an old axiom, common to both Marxian and Keynesian economics, that uneven, class-based distribution of income is a determining factor of consumption and investment. How much is spent for consumption goods depends on the income of the working class. Workers necessarily spend almost all of their income on consumption, with relatively little left over for savings or investment. Capitalists, on the other hand, spend only a small percent- age of their income for personal consumption. The overwhelming proportion of the income of capitalists and their corporations is devoted to investment
The mainstream U.S. news media have been shifting rightward for at least two decades, as their corporate owners enforce tighter ideological conformity. Oliver North and Pat Buchanan, for example, are now regular commentators on television talk shows. And all of the media now refer to people as “consumers,” cogs in a capitalist machine. But still, news is less than half as profitable as entertainment, and media firms are intensifying pressures on their “news properties” for higher profits, which means the pursuit of upscale demographics.
In December 1999, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize winner from South Africa, gave the keynote address for an important conference in Miami Beach: the International Summit of Managed Care. The price for attending this conference, excluding travel, room, and meals, was $1395. The conference was sponsored by the American Association of Health Plans and the Academy for International Health Studies, and was targeted at “chief executive officers, presidents, board chairs, chief financial officers, directors of marketing, and business development officers.” In addition to Tutu, ostensibly progressive participants at the meeting included former Congressman Ron Dellums, whose legislative efforts for a U.S. national health service have inspired health activists since the mid-1970s. Dellums took part in his new role as president of Healthcare International Management
In the early summer of 1999, libertarian John Stossel from ABC Television interviewed me at length on my views of unemployment and inequality in Europe and the United States. In the end, only a tiny video bite aired. In it, I stated that I did think Europeans might learn something from recent U.S. experience. Stossel portrayed this as a conversion to his own free-market views. It was a gross misinterpretation of the views I actually hold, as was quickly pointed out by the advocacy group FAIR, and eventually also in a story on Stossel by Brill’s Content early this year
At one time, a defeated left in the United States, facing the onslaught of neoliberalism in the 1980s, pointed defensively to social democracy in Europe. This reduced socialist vision was founded on a static analysis that ignored emerging capitalist contradictions, already tearing apart even the Swedish model. Exemplifying the impoverishment of this kind of thinking, James Galbraith now designates the United States as a social democratic model for Europe—even after the social safety net has been further torn by Clinton’s Democrats. This is a so-called social democracy without a social democratic party (let alone government), with the lowest levels of unionization in the advanced capitalist world, no universal public healthcare program, the largest prison population anywhere, and a lower life expectancy for blacks than in many “underdeveloped” countries
Lost Woods brings Rachel Carson back into the public realm. This collection of her writings, selected by her biographer, Linda Lear, reminds us yet again of the extraordinary range of her talents and the equally extraordinary use to which she put them. The book offers, in one modest volume, a taste of all the pleasures to be found in Carson’s longer works. Through a careful choice of speeches, articles, field notes, and letters, presented in chronological order, Lear allows us to witness, in Carson’s own words, her transformation from a natural scientist to a political advocate for the environment
This space has, from its earliest years, been devoted to MR affairs, viewing the readers as part of a larger family. Recently, we began to use the space for commentary on political and economic developments also. The occasion of Paul’s 90th on April 10, however, calls for something very different. If you guess that this will be a love letter, you are not mistaken. I have long wanted to express publicly my feelings about Paul. A review of his contributions to knowledge and theoretical analysis about capitalism and socialism would require a long essay. I prefer to say a few words about him as my friend and comrade
Economic analysts, as everyone knows, have widely differing views on the way the economy works. The single most important division lies between right and left—a division that has its roots in class. But even among those on the left there are areas of sharp disagreement. One of these is over the centrality of the Keynesian revolution to the development of economics. Did the revolution in economic thought, associated with thinkers such as Keynes and Kalecki, teach things that Marxist political economists should view as essential? Another disagreement is over the role of monopoly and competition. How central is the concentration and centralization of capital to our understanding of the workings of capitalism today—a full century after Marxists and other radicals first raised the question of monopoly capitalism? Whatever one’s abstract theory is—and all theories by definition rely on a degree of abstraction—its usefulness lies in its capacity to make sense of everyday reality, while providing the strategic analysis necessary for practical revolutionary solutions.
In Marxist theory the treatment of technology has generally referred to production, the means of production, the character of the labor process, and related matters. This follows the example set by Marx himself in his justly famous chapter on machinery and modern industry in Volume 1 of Capital which occurs in the part devoted to the production of relative surplus value. Neither there nor anywhere else in Capitalis there any discussion or analysis of the impact of technology on consumption and via consumption on processes of capital accumulation and social development
Before the founding of Monthly Review, Paul Sweezy had been an instructor at Harvard and the author of germinal works on the American economy. But his teaching and writing were always accompanied by vigorous engagement with the political movements of the time: he helped organize the Harvard Teachers’ Union, taught economics at the leftist Samuel Adams School in Boston, and, in 1948, took a leading role in Henry Wallace’s presidential run on the pro-New Deal and anti-Cold War Progressive Party ticket in his home state of New Hampshire. As he often did, Sweezy combined his support of the Wallace third party challenge with his ongoing advocacy of socialism
In honor of Paul’s 90th birthday, we asked a number of people from different walks of life—trade unionists, radical activists, academics, and longtime friends—to write short tributes to Paul
What do Helmut Kohl and Elián Gonzáles have in common? What could possibly unite the destinies of the huge former Chancellor of Germany, who for so many years dominated European politics and played the part of senior statesman on the global stage, and the little boy whose only political role so far has been as pawn in the hands of fading right-wing Cuban fanatics in Miami?