The two lead articles in this issue of Monthly Review are both outgrowths of important new books published by Monthly Review Press. Samir Amin’s article, “The Trajectory of Historical Capitalism and Marxism’s Tricontinental Vocation,” is based on recent developments in his theoretical outlook presented in The Law of Worldwide Value…. A substantially revised and extended version of his earlier work, The Law of Value and Historical Materialism (Monthly Review Press, 1978), The Law of Worldwide Value also incorporates new conceptual breakthroughs, making it a major advance in itself.… The article by Richard York and Brett Clark entitled “Stephen Jay Gould’s Critique of Progress” is taken from their book The Science and Humanism of Stephen Jay Gould…. Gould’s far-ranging work in natural history, biology, and paleontology—even extending to the humanities and the social sciences—has fascinated countless readers, but the complexity of his thought and the extent of his intellectual commitments have defied previous attempts to bring out the unity of his work.
Volume 62, Issue 09 (February)
The long history of capitalism is composed of three distinct, successive phases: (1) a lengthy preparation—the transition from the tributary mode, the usual form of organization of pre-modern societies—which lasted eight centuries, from 1000 to 1800; (2) a short period of maturity (the nineteenth century), during which the “West” affirmed its domination; (3) the long “decline” caused by the “Awakening of the South” (to use the title of my book, published in 2007) in which the peoples and their states regained the major initiative in transforming the world—the first wave having taken place in the twentieth century. This struggle against an imperialist order that is inseparable from the global expansion of capitalism is itself the potential agent in the long road of transition, beyond capitalism, toward socialism. In the twenty-first century, there are now the beginnings of a second wave of independent initiatives by the peoples and states of the South.
A question of central importance in the interpretation of patterns of evolution is whether history had to turn out the way it did. From before Charles Darwin’s time up to the present it has been commonly assumed that history, both human history and the history of life in general, unfolded in a somewhat deterministic manner, that the present was inevitable, either ordained in Heaven or, in the scientific view, mechanically produced by deterministic natural laws. This view contrasts with that of the historian: that the quirks, chance events, and particularities of each moment make history, and that the world could have been other than it is.… The renowned paleontologist and evolutionary theorist Stephen Jay Gould.…developed a sophisticated and nuanced position that recognized both the importance of general laws and the role of contingency.… If contingency played little part in how history turned out, if the present was inevitable, then it makes little sense to challenge the status quo. However, if contingency dominates history, the future is open, and the world can be another way, as radicals of all varieties have long believed.
According to the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, camps—for example, concentration camps, refugee camps, and internally displaced persons (IDP) camps—risk replacing nation-states as the most representative political spaces of our time. Agamben’s definition of “the camp” includes extra-judicial detention centers such as Guantánamo Bay; airport hotels that hold would-be immigrants awaiting deportation; the marginalized, segregated outskirts of Europe’s large cities; and even gated communities in the United States, with their private security firms and individualized “laws” that govern entry and exit. What all these spaces share is the suspension of national, territorial law and its replacement by police power. Those who reside in these legal dead zones are no longer “citizens”; they live in a state of exception to the law of the land—”exceptions” that are becoming more and more the rule.… Haiti’s IDP camps are indeed “states of exception” that risk becoming permanent fixtures in the post-earthquake urban landscape in and around Port-au-Prince.
For more than forty years, defenders of the Rosenbergs have offered an argument unchanged in its essentials. The prosecution obtained the ultimate punishment…[—and that] punishment…was disproportionate and barbaric. However, the Rosenbergs’ defenders now concede that “Julius Rosenberg, code-named ‘Antenna’ and later ‘Liberal,’ had worked as a spy for the Soviet Union.”… The reason for this turnaround is that in 1995 the federal government made public a series of cables, referred to as the “Venona” messages, which were exchanged between the Soviet government and its operatives in the United States during and after the Second World War.… At the end of the play [Waiting for Lefty] a man runs up the center aisle carrying important information that the title character has been killed. These days, I want to shout out to the audience, as did that man, but with a different message. My imagined dramatic scene goes as follows. “Wait, wait!… Listen to me. Please listen.… You’ve heard the Thesis of the defense. You’ve heard the Antithesis of the prosecution. Don’t you want to hear the Synthesis?”
Monthly Review has long been on record as opposed to the expansion of nuclear energy. Most recently, some of the dangers of nuclear power, both in its present form and with continuing new technological developments, were spelled out by Robert D. Furber, James C. Warf, and Sheldon C. Plotkin of the Southern California Federation of Scientists, in their article on “The Future of Nuclear Power” (MR, February 2008).… The following correspondence consists of a letter from Brian Lindquist, Walt McCarron, Robert D. Furber, and Sheldon C. Plotkin associated with the Southern California Federation of Scientists, writing in response to John W. Farley’s review, in the September 2010 issue of MR, of James Hansen’s Storms of My Grandchildren. This letter and Farley’s response offer two widely divergent perspectives on this critical issue.
H. Rae Aston is a sculptor, poet, and former journalist. He lives on the shore of the Mille Îles River, north of Montreal, and has been for most of his life an advocate and fighter for socialist governance. Those efforts continue.
Anarcho Grow Pura Vida in Costa Rica is a modern story that carefully blends author T.A. Sedlak’s knowledge of Costa Rica and cannabis cultivation with socialist ideals in an American capitalist dominated world.… Protagonist Ben Starosta travels through Latin America under the guise of teaching English while helping small agrarian communities develop illicit crops and reach new markets. His expertise in the risky cannabis trade funds community projects like schools and libraries, and earns him the loyalty of the communities he helps. Tension builds, as his dedication to the people is viewed as dangerous criminal activity by the CIA agents assigned to his case.