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December 2010, Volume 62, Number 7

December 2010 (Volume 62, Number 7)

Notes from the Editors

On October 16, MR editor John Bellamy Foster attended a lecture in Eugene, Oregon given by James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Hansen is the leading U.S. climatologist and the world’s foremost voice for carbon emissions reductions. According to Hansen, we are facing two major tipping points associated with climate change: (1) ice sheet disintegration in Antarctica and Greenland, leading to a massive global sea level rise; and (2) a sudden acceleration in species extinction rates (already 100 to 1,000 times the preindustrial “background rate”), as climate zones begin to move much faster than species can move in response.… Hansen’s message was clear: the future of the planet will be in many ways determined by what we do “in the next several years.” This, he insists, is not a problem to be left to the next generation, since we “could create a situation out of the control of young people by the time they become adults.”

ALBA and the Promise of Cooperative Development

Existing international economic institutions and relations operate in ways detrimental to third world development. That is why eight Latin American and Caribbean countries—led by Venezuela, Cuba, and Bolivia—are working to build the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), a regional initiative designed to promote new, nonmarket-shaped structures and patterns of economic cooperation.… In response to worsening international economic conditions, ALBA has recently stepped up efforts to promote a full-blown regional development process.… Although the precise terms of the agreement are still to be negotiated, official statements point to the creation of an integrated trade and monetary zone, with a new regionally created currency, the sucre.

Blood on the Path of Love

The Striking Workers of Faisalabad, Pakistan

The government and the bosses go hand-in-hand; more often than not, the bosses are the government.…today’s Pakistani elite are incestuously interconnected via family relations and marriages with a large patronage network of squabbling, but self-serving, interest groups. Their rationale is to keep the country and its resources for themselves: they negotiate among themselves and take the spoils from any sales to the international elite.… Against these latter-day pharaohs stand the conscious and spirited workers.… Mian Qayyum, Bawa Lalif Ansari, and Muhammad Rana [are contemporary narrators of their struggle].

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Test Scorer

Standardized testing has become central to education policy in the United States. After dramatically expanding in the wake of the No Child Left Behind Act, testing has been further enshrined by the Obama administration’s $3.4 billion “Race to the Top” grants. Given the ongoing debate over these policies, it might be useful to hear about the experiences of a hidden sector of the education workforce: those of us who make our living scoring these tests.

Two Letters on Monopoly Capital Theory

Paul Baran and Paul Sweezy’s voluminous correspondence in the 1950s and early 1960s ranks as one of the crucial exchanges of letters between Marxist political economists in the second half of the twentieth century, and, indeed, in the entire history of Marxist thought.… Only a few letters in their extensive correspondence have been published so far.… We have thus chosen to publish two additional letters here in recognition of the joint centennial of the births of the two Pauls: Paul Baran (1910-1964) and Paul Sweezy (1910-2004).

The Indiscreet Banality of the Bourgeoisie

The Church of LEED, Passive House, and the Dangers of Going Green

Pat Murphy, The Green Tragedy: LEED’s Lost Decade (Yellow Springs, OH: The Arthur Morgan Institute for Community Solutions, 2009), 96 pages, $12.95, paperback.

Pat Murphy’s new book, The Green Tragedy: LEED’s Lost Decade, is a dry but worthwhile effort to debunk the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) claims regarding its flagship LEED program. Anyone interested in solid accounting of the shortcomings of the LEED rating system and the buildings it certifies will find his book compelling.… While his critique of LEED is valid, Murphy alternatively advocates for the hyper-rationality of the Passive House as a response to the ecological crisis, failing to understand that the crisis is social in origin.

Free-Market Feminism

Hester Eisenstein, Feminism Seduced: How Global Elites Use Women’s Labor and Ideas to Exploit the World (Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers, 2010), 272 pages, $26.95, paperback.

Feminism Seduced, written for a general audience, presents a powerful, historically grounded critique of liberal feminism. Drawing on three decades of writing by socialist/Marxist feminists and women-of-color feminists, Eisenstein weaves a compelling account of how the central ideas of “hegemonic feminism” have legitimized the corporate capitalist assault on the working class in the United States and on small farmers and workers, both urban and rural, in the global South.… However, when Eisenstein moves from critique to offering an alternative strategy, she only recycles dualisms that have, as she acknowledges, bedeviled the women’s movement for well over one hundred years.

Monthly Review Volume 62, Number 6 (November 2010)

November 2010 (Volume 62, Number 6)

» Notes from the Editors

Although the Great Recession officially ended in the U.S. economy more than a year ago (June 2009), for most people—especially the long-term unemployed, minorities, and youth—the effects are far from over. Indeed, it is a measure of the economic malaise in which the industrialized countries remain mired that the specter of stagnation is once again haunting mainstream discourse. As Paul Krugman recently observed, the U.S. economy is experiencing “what looks increasingly like a permanent state of stagnation and high unemployment” akin to the 1930s (“This is Not a Recovery,” New York Times, August 26, 2010)

Capitalism and the Curse of Energy Efficiency

The Return of the Jevons Paradox

The curse of energy efficiency, better known as the Jevons Paradox—the idea that increased energy (and material-resource) efficiency leads not to conservation but increased use—was first raised by William Stanley Jevons in the nineteenth century. Although forgotten for most of the twentieth century, the Jevons Paradox has been rediscovered in recent decades and stands squarely at the center of today’s environmental dispute

The Humanization of the Cosmos—To What End?

Society is increasingly humanizing the cosmos. Satellites have for some time been central to the flow of information, to surveillance, and to the conduct of warfare. As these examples suggest, however, the humanization of the cosmos is primarily benefiting the powerful. These include major economic and military institutions. Furthermore, the forthcoming commodification and colonization of the cosmos is again likely to enhance the interests of the powerful, the major aerospace companies in particular. The time has come to consider alternative forms of cosmic humanization. These would enhance the prospects of the socially marginalized. They would also allow humanity to develop a better understanding of the cosmos and our relationship to it

Mexico: “Failed States,” New Wars, Resistance

A social volcano is bubbling in Mexico. Nearly half the country’s eligible voters showed their disgust with the country’s political parties by staying away from the polls in the off-year elections of July 2010. All the major political parties have become neoliberal and corrupt. Broad-based social movements are resisting a right-wing offensive, which, building on twenty-eight years of neoliberal economic policies, has led to the country’s increasing militarization. Following the 2006 fraudulent election of Felipe Calderón,1 a reign of terror was unleashed by means of his unconstitutional, self-declared “war” ostensibly against drug cartels involved in bloody internecine strife

Dreams of Revolution: Oklahoma, 1917

In August 1917, tenant farmers and sharecroppers in several eastern and southern Oklahoma counties took up arms to overthrow the United States government, to stop military conscription and U.S. entry into the war in Europe. Renegade Socialists, organized in their own “Working Class Union” (WCU), white, black, and Indian, they believed that millions of armed working people across the country would march with them to take Washington

The Guilt of Capitalism

Though it is neither written nor marketed as such, Who Owns the Sun? by researcher/activists Daniel Berman and John O’Connor, is a devastating indictment of capitalism. As it has developed in the last two centuries, this system is an enormous user of energy, most of it derived from the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas). An additional—and in some parts of the world increasing—source is nuclear fission. Both of these forms of energy are dangerous and environmentally destructive to life on the planet. Burning fossil fuels generates almost all of the greenhouse gasses that have already begun to change the planet’s climate and, if continued at anywhere near the present rates, will trigger a chain reaction of lethal disasters, not in some vaguely distant future but in the next century or so—historically a relatively short span of time. Nuclear fission leaves a legacy of radioactive waste that cannot now, or perhaps ever, be safely disposed of. Clearly if humanity, not to speak of other forms of life, is to have a future, nothing could be more important than phasing out these sources of energy. So much, I believe, is what can be appropriately called ecological common sense

Monthly Review Volume 62, Number 5 (October 2010)

October 2010 (Volume 62, Number 5)

» Notes from the Editors

To understand the disaster that is present-day economics, it is crucial to recognize that we are living today, not only in the deepest economic crisis/stagnation since the Great Depression, but also—as Paul Krugman declared in his New York Times blog on January 27, 2009—in “A Dark Age of Macroeconomics,” in which the central discoveries of the 1930s have been forgotten or discarded. “What made the Dark Ages dark,” Krugman wrote, “was the fact that so much knowledge had been lost, that so much known to the Greeks and Romans had been forgotten by the barbarian kingdoms that followed.” The critical knowledge lost that gave rise to the new Dark Age in Macroeconomics, he claimed, was none other than the Keynesian Revolution centered on the critique of Say’s Law, or the notion that supply creates its own demand. In the context of arguing against government deficit spending, leading economists at the University of Chicago, the bastion of reaction in economics, have reverted to a “pure Say’s Law, pure ‘Treasury view’” by insisting that increased savings automatically lead to increased investment, while government borrowing invariably “crowds out” investment

The Financialization of Accumulation

In 1997, in his last published article, Paul Sweezy referred to “the financialization of the capital accumulation process” as one of the three main economic tendencies at the turn of the century (the other two were the growth of monopoly power and stagnation). Those familiar with economic theory will realize that the phrase was meant to be paradoxical. All traditions of economics, to varying degrees, have sought to separate out analytically the role of finance from the “real economy.” Accumulation is conceived as real capital formation, which increases overall economic output, as opposed to the appreciation of financial assets, which increases wealth claims but not output. In highlighting the financialization of accumulation, Sweezy was therefore pointing to what can be regarded as “the enigma of capital” in our time