As this issue goes to press, the Copenhagen climate summit, which Nicholas Stern, author of The Economics of Climate Change, has referred to as “the most important meeting since the Second World War,” is about to begin. The summit was supposed to herald a new global climate treaty, to replace the failed and expiring Kyoto Protocol. The goal was to create an ambitious, binding international agreement on emissions reductions. Yet, barely a week before its commencement (as we write this) it seems destined to fail.
In this issue we are reprinting C. Wright Mills’s “Psychology and Social Science” from the October 1958 issue of Monthly Review. The argument of this piece was subsequently incorporated in Mills’s Sociological Imagination, which appeared fifty years ago this year, and constituted a powerful indictment of mainstream social science. Both “Psychology and Social Science” and the larger Sociological Imagination were strongly influenced by “the principle of historical specificity” as described in Karl Korsch’s Karl Marx. Mills used this to construct a radical challenge to the prevailing notion of a permanent “human nature,” applicable to all societies and social situations. He later referred to The Sociological Imagination — in a letter to an imaginary Soviet correspondent (part of a work he was writing, to be called Letter to a Russian Intellectual) — as “a kind of ‘Anti-Duhring,’” constituting his radical break with ahistorical social science.
The Monthly Review sixtieth anniversary celebration at the New York Society for Ethical Culture on September 17, 2009, was a great success. A large crowd turned out to hear Grace Lee Boggs, John Bellamy Foster, Robert W. McChesney, Fred Magdoff, Michael Tigar, Toshi Reagon (providing music), and the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, and to celebrate MR’s birthday. We would like to thank all those who participated in this extraordinary event. Dr. Wright captured the tone of the evening, declaring that: “Militarism, capitalism and racism, domestic oppression, foreign military aggression, victims of neo-colonialism, victims of community and national racism, and the Cold War days in its infancy to the needless war in Vietnam in its [MR‘s] second decade, through wars of greed in Afghanistan and Iraq in [its] sixth decade” were all incisively covered by the magazine. He spoke of Monthly Review‘s indefatigable insistence on the need to put “people before profits,” and its unflinching criticisms of inequality, injustice, and the realities of capitalism. (See Daa’iya L. Sanusi, Amsterdam News, September 24-30, 2009)
We recently received a very thoughtful letter from Ted Trainer, an Australian ecological socialist (author of Abandon Affluence! and Saving the Environment) who teaches at the University of New South Wales, asking us about the “surplus problem” and its relation to borrowing in the present economic crisis. We wrote a short reply with our answers. —Eds.
At the time of this writing (late August), the business news in the United States is full of discussions of “recovery” from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Yet, while the economy appears to have bottomed out and a recovery of sorts may be in the works, this is in many ways misleading. Although a technical or formal recovery seems quite likely by the end of the year — with a small increase in economic growth mainly due to inventory restocking — it is unlikely to feel like a recovery to most individuals in the society. This is because official unemployment is projected to rise to the low double-digits by the end of this year or the beginning of next year — with the numbers of those dropping out of the labor market due to discouragement, or seeking part-time work because they are unable to obtain a full-time job, also growing. All of this points to a “jobless” and “wageless” recovery. As New York University economist Nouriel Roubini wrote in an August 13 column for Forbes.com, “It is very difficult to argue that the U.S. economy is not still in a recession while the labor market is still weak.” Indeed, what is really at issue is not simply recession and recovery but the longer-term structural crisis of capitalism. This is the subject of the Review of the Month, which seeks to place the current crisis in the context of the long-term development of capital accumulation and crisis.
This month’s Review of the Month by Martin Hart-Landsberg, which addresses the Bolivarian Alternative for the America’s (ALBA), was written before the June 28, 2009, military coup d’état in Honduras (an ALBA member country) that deposed democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya, expelling him from the country. Here are seven facts on the coup:
A new book by economist Frank Ackerman, Can We Afford the Future?: The Economics of a Warming World (Zed, 2009), presents an important and startling thesis: “As the climate science debate is reaching closure, the climate economics debate is heating up. The controversial issue now is the fear that overly ambitious climate initiatives could hurt the economy”(6). With climate-change skeptics losing influence, mainstream economists—always the ultimate ideological defenders of the capitalist system—are stepping into the breach to ensure inaction on global warming. Armed with cost-benefit analyses, they report that saving the planet for its inhabitants may be all very well and good… but it is simply too expensive for the capitalist economy to afford.
The grim state of the U.S. economy in early 2009 was brought into sharp relief by economic data released at the end of April. Industrial production in the first quarter of this year dropped by an annual rate of 20 percent, while manufacturing capacity utilization (the operating rate of manufacturing plant and equipment) sank to 65.8 percent in March, the lowest level since the Federal Reserve Board series was introduced in 1948 (industrial capacity utilization as a whole is currently at 69.3 percent, its lowest point since that measurement began in 1967).
This issue of Monthly Review marks the sixtieth anniversary of the magazine. We are reprinting here Albert Einstein’s classic article “Why Socialism?,” written for volume 1, no. 1, of Monthly Review (May 1949). On Thursday, September 17, we will meet together at the Ethical Culture Society in Manhattan to celebrate and to promote a global socialism for the twenty-first century. We invite all our subscribers and friends.
It is now universally recognized that the U.S. economy is experiencing a deep downturn unlike anything seen since the 1930s. Hence, the question continually arises: How close is this to a depression? One way of answering is to look at the unemployment rate. The Great Depression hit bottom in 1933 when unemployment peaked at 25 percent. Today the United States is losing jobs at the rate of 600,000 a month. But the official unemployment rate currently stands at 8.1 percent (seasonally adjusted, February 2009). This is the highest rate of official unemployment in a quarter-century, but hardly what is considered a depression-level rate, which is usually thought of as well into the double-digits.