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
Volume 51, Issue 11 (April)
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