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.”
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)
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
During the period stretching from the 1970s through the 1990s, Monthly Review, under the editorship of Harry Magdoff and Paul Sweezy, stood apart in its analysis of the tendency to economic stagnation in advanced capitalism and its view that the economic slowdown beginning in the 1970s was a manifestation of this secular tendency. The financial explosion that also emerged in these years was seen as an attempt by the system to stave off stagnation by means of credit-debt expansion, but at the cost of increasing financial fragility
For those wishing to understand the theory and practice of “socialism for the 21st century,” the publication this summer of Michael Lebowitz’s The Socialist Alternative: Real Human Development (Monthly Review Press) is a major event. Like Marta Harnecker, whose work, “Latin America and Twenty-First Century Socialism: Inventing to Avoid Mistakes,” forms the content of this issue of Monthly Review, Lebowitz is associated with the Centro Internacional Miranda research institute in Venezuela, is an advisor to President Hugo Chávez, and is a major Marxian theorist and political economist. He is also author of Beyond Capital: Marx’s Political Economy of the Working Class, and, more recently, Build it Now (Monthly Review Press, 2006)
The World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth held April 20-22, 2010, in Cochabamba, Bolivia, will undoubtedly be remembered as a major historical turning point in the struggle over climate change. Over 35,000 people from 142 countries attended….For perhaps the first time, the issue of the planetary environmental crisis was wrested entirely from the ideological control of the rich countries of the North in a major international forum, leading to the development of a radical South-based perspective.
The more serious the problem of climate change becomes, the more revolutionary the change needed to address it—the more we can expect powerful economic and social interests to deny the seriousness of the problem: playing up scientific uncertainties that always exist, and casting doubt on climate science itself. The object of such a response is to manipulate public opinion so as to sow confusion and arrest any attempt to alter business as usual.
April 10, 2010, marks the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Paul Sweezy (1910-2004), and December 8, 2010, will mark a century since the birth of Paul Baran (1910-1964). Their joint work, Monopoly Capital: An Essay on the American Economic and Social Order ,was published by Monthly Review Press in 1966. Between this month and December, we intend to commemorate the Baran-Sweezy Centennial through items to appear in Monthly Review, MRzine, and the MR Webpage. We will also commemorate this year the work of their close friend and colleague Harry Magdoff, born August 21, 1913, whose writing is inextricably connected to theirs.
Twice recently, Monthly Review—in “The Vulnerable Planet Fifteen Years Later” (December 2009) and in “Why Ecological Revolution?” (January 2010), both by John Bellamy Foster—has highlighted the fact that the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned in its most recent (2007) report that the Himalayan glaciers could vanish altogether by 2035. Since the appearance of the January issue of MR, however, this has been revealed as an error on the part of the IPCC—a claim that, according to the IPCC itself, should never have appeared in its report.…Global warming deniers, mostly on the right, are making all they can out of this mishap in the IPCC’s report, using it to throw scorn on the whole process of climate change science. Both the mistake itself and the dissemination of the error by scientists, environmentalists, and the news media are being dubbed “glaciergate” by the IPCC’s critics.…Yet science should never be regarded as error free. Indeed, crucial to the working of the scientific method is that science is self-correcting. This particular mistake has already been acknowledged by the IPCC and will be followed up by detailed scientific studies in this area, coupled with attempts to improve IPCC review procedures.
If it is the best of times for the bankers, it is the worst of times for workers. The titans of Wall Street came calling in Washington, D.C. just a few months ago, and were given the keys to the Treasury’s vault. So successful has been the government’s multi-trillion-dollar bailout that even those giant financial institutions in the worst shape are paying back what they owe, mainly to get out from under what they consider to be onerous public interference in their extraordinarily lucrative business activities.…Where bankers once sat quietly while the people’s presumed tribunes in Congress scolded them for their errant ways, now they are dictating the terms of financial “reform” and feeling bold enough to phone in their regrets when fog delayed their plane and they couldn’t make a White House meeting with President Obama, who is begging them day and night to start making loans.