It was just over a year ago that we asked John Bellamy Foster and Robert W. McChesney to serve as acting co-editors of Monthly Review, with a view to having four co-editors. Although Foster and McChesney were naturals for undertaking this responsibility—they are longtime MR contributors and MR Press authors—the type of collegiality necessary to make a publication like MR tick is delicate and difficult to predict. We therefore thought it desirable that they be acting co-editors, to provide for a trial period. In the past year we have worked together in a truly collective way, published some of our best issues, and circulation has grown at a rapid pace. In addition to political economy and socialist education, John and Bob have opened MR up to new areas where we are now on the cutting edge. John is among the three or four leading environmental sociologists, and Bob holds similar distinction as a media and communications scholar. Moreover, both John and Bob have been active in radical movements for much of the past two decades. There is a lot of ballyhoo nowadays about public intellectuals. In John and Bob we have two of the very best of the breed. To top it off, they are genuinely warm and loving individuals with whom everyone enjoys working. MR’s morale has not been this high in a very long time. We are thus happy to announce that these two younger friends and colleagues are joining us as permanent—no longer acting—co-editors of Monthly Review
Volume 52, Issue 11 (April)
In the last few years the idea of a New Economy has gained wide currency, almost rivaling globalization as a neologism that characterizes our era. Thus The Economic Report of the President, 2001, begins: Over the last 8 years the American economy has transformed itself so radically that many believe we have witnessed the creation of a New Economy. This New Economy is seen, first and foremost, as consisting of those firms and economic sectors most closely associated with the revolution in digital technology and the growth of the Internet. The rapid convergence of information technologies—including computers, software, satellites, fiber optics, and the Internet—has, it is believed, fundamentally altered the economic landscape. Since the mid-1990s, these revolutionary technological developments have, it is argued, spilled over into the wider economy, generating higher productivity growth, a sustained acceleration of economic growth, lower unemployment, lower inflation, and an attenuation of the business cycle
What can we say about the assertion that there is a New Economy? That depends on what we mean by this term. It is nonsense to claim, and few do any more, that the business cycle has been eliminated or that the contradictions of capitalism have been resolved. In 2000 we witnessed a massacre of technology and Internet stocks ending what many considered the country’s biggest financial mania of the past hundred years. The NASDAQ lost over half of its value, a paper loss of 3.33 trillion dollars, the equivalent of a third of the houses in the United States sliding into the ocean, as one Wall Street wag tells us. While only a few months ago, all we heard about was the magic of the market and that crises are the result of bad government policies, whether crony capitalism or simply failure to make information available to markets in a full and timely fashion, and that the new information technology now makes markets even more efficient; all of this talk is now shown to be the usual exaggeration we find in the up stage of most long expansions. As in the past it disappears as the economy weakens. Indeed as inventories pile up the nature of capitalism becomes clear to even the financial press and the politicians
A New Economy? Today, we hear a lot of talk about the New Economy, much of it unsubstantiated and hyperbolically stated. In the United States, for example, consumers are supposedly concerned, as never before, with high-quality goods and services tailored specifically to their individual needs. Rapidly changing technology continually creates new, high-quality products, so consumer needs are perpetually changing as well. This rapid change places new demands on businesses. They must be maximally flexible, capable of changing product lines quickly, and able at all times to meet discerning and highly individualized consumer needs. Everything must be geared to customer satisfaction; a firm that does not quickly and consistently please its customers will lose business sooner than at any time in the past. The tremendous range of choices available means that customers will not be loyal to any company that cannot offer speedy gratification. Recently an Internet book company opened that promised same-day delivery!
Doug Henwood, author of Wall Strr£t:How It Works andfur lWIom (Verso, 1997) and publisher and primary author of the newsletter Left Business Observer; is a fre- quent contributor to Munthly Review. Doug was interviewed earlier this year for the San Francisco Ba:y Guardian by another good friend of ours, Christian Parenti-author of 1.JxiuJnam Ameriaz (Verso, 1999), reviewed in last month’s MR At the end of February we asked a few additional questions of Doug. The composite interview follows
Recent presidential elections in the United States have obfuscated, more than clarified, the social divisions of American society. While the Democrats project a well-worn image of protecting working Americans the Republicans declare the need to defend traditional American values. In reality, the consensus between the two parties on the superiority of American government and the beneficence of capitalism rules any challenge to the status quo politically out of bounds (even the candidacy of longtime policy activist Ralph Nader was seen as beyond the pale). The contest between Albert Gore and George W. Bush—a contest between patrician familial dynasties that could only occur in the United States—was no exception