Saturday April 19th, 2014, 3:37 pm (EDT)

Marxism & Socialism

Marxism and Socialism

The Psychology of Culture

Making Oppression Appear Normal

Carl Ratner, Macro Cultural Psychology: A Political Philosophy of Mind (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 544 pages, $69.95, hardcover.

Psychologists engage in a number of practices that, mostly unwittingly, help to sustain the cultural distortions of the ruling class and hence their exploitative rule. One of these practices is to treat human behavior as primarily driven by biology. This leads, for example, to the medicalization of mental illness.… It also supports one of capitalists’ favorite ideological ploys: individualism. We are the masters of our own fate, not society and its culture. If we fail, it is our own fault. We simply did not try hard enough or follow the right path. Individualism favors self-blame and a refusal even to look for social causes. Ratner instead argues that humans are qualitatively different from all other species precisely in terms of how culture, not constant biological traits, shape their behavior. He points out that even our closest relatives, the great apes, have not developed culture, institutions, science, religion, etc. We are truly unique.… | more |

Lenin and the “Aristocracy of Labor”

Eric Hobsbawm, who died last October 1, aged ninety-five, has been much celebrated as one of the twentieth century’s greatest English-language historians despite his steadfast advocacy of socialism and use of the tools of Marxian analysis. But, if asked, the founding editors of Monthly Review, Leo Huberman and Paul Sweezy, his lifelong colleagues and comrades, would have differed a bit. They would have said that it was precisely because Marxism was intrinsic to his theory, understanding, and action that he gained his preeminence.

What Makes the Working Class a Revolutionary Subject?

Those who conclude that the working class is not a revolutionary subject because capitalism has changed the working class reveal that they do not understand the ABCs of Marxism. The working class makes itself a revolutionary subject through its struggles—it transforms itself. That was always the position of Marx—his concept of “revolutionary practice,” which is the simultaneous changing of circumstances and self-change. The working class changes itself through its struggles. It makes itself fit to create the new world.… | more |

The Struggle for Socialism in China

The Bo Xilai Saga and Beyond

From Tahrir Square to Wall Street, from Athens to Montreal, dreams of emancipation are mobilizing a new wave of revolts all over the world. Simultaneously the forces of repression are being unleashed everywhere to impose “new mechanisms of social control” with the aim of establishing “new conditions for achieving surplus value” in the aftermath of a protracted capitalist economic crisis.1 Some anticipated a Chinese popular uprising following the Arab Spring. Instead, since spring 2012 the world has seen a sensational drama of elite struggle surrounding the ousting of the Chongqing head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and Politburo member Bo Xilai, including a crackdown on his Chongqing Model of development. Even though the CCP has been able to contain large-scale social unrest, divisions amongst the elite became a focal point of political struggle during this dangerous year of power transition in China. [T] … | more |

Medicine and Empire

Howard Waitzkin, Medicine and Public Health at the End of Empire (Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers, 2011), 256 pages, $25, paperback.

For the past three decades Howard Waitzkin has been (along with Vicente Navarro) the leading social medicine theorist in the United States. Medicine and Public Health at the End of Empire provides a superb sampling of Waitzkin’s wide-ranging work, and a readily accessible introduction to the searching insights offered by a Marxist view of medicine.… | more |

Some Theoretical Implications

Some Theoretical Implications

That all is not well in the realm of bourgeois economic theory is strongly felt by its closest observers. Professor Mason’s blunt statement that “the functioning of the corporate system has not to date been adequately explained,” could hardly be contradicted by anyone familiar with contemporary economic literature. Its most conspicuous feature is, indeed, this very failure to come to grips with the most important aspects of what, one would think, should constitute its central problem.… The reasons for this striking reluctance to place the realities of modern capitalism where they belong: at the center of theoretical attention, are not far to seek… There can be no doubt that the model of a perfectly competitive market economy is “more tractable,” that the examination of its manifold properties is more readily achievable by means of conventional tools of economic analysis than that of a system dominated by oligopolistic corporations. It may not be economics’ claim to applause, but it is understandable that most of its practitioners prefer not to tackle “intractable” matters, but to move along the line of the least theoretic resistance.… | more |

Two Pauls

In 1957, when I was young and thought I knew everything, I was just about to go to graduate school in economics. Then I read Paul Baran’s The Political Economy of Growth. I immediately sent him an eight-page, single-spaced review of his book. I said that I liked it very much, but had some questions about it. Paul wrote back asking me to become his research assistant and study at Stanford. Unfortunately he could pay so little that it covered only half the tuition. I could not afford it.… [But] I did visit Paul about once every two weeks. He welcomed me because his colleagues had isolated him due to their fears of the witch hunt. The reason he had offered me so little was that Stanford would not give him more money for any purpose. Paul had tenure, but the alumni were angry that he was not fired for his outspoken opposition to U.S. imperialist aggression against Cuba.… | more |

Joan Acker’s Feminist Historical-Materialist Theory of Class

Marxism and feminism are usually seen as divorced from each other today, following the breakup of what Heidi Hartmann famously called their “unhappy marriage.” Yet, some theorists still show the influence of both. In my view, Joan Acker is both one of the leading analysts of gender and class associated with the second wave of feminism, and one of the great contributors to what has been called “feminist historical materialism.” In the latter respect, I would place her next to such important proponents of feminist standpoint theory as Nancy Hartsock, Dorothy Smith, and Sandra Harding. These thinkers, as Fredric Jameson has rightly said, represent the “most authentic” heirs of Lukács’s critical Marxist view articulating the proletarian standpoint—giving this dialectical insight added meaning by applying it to gender relations.… | more |

Fredric Jameson on the Reserve Army

In the opening pages of The Limits to Capital, published in 1984, David Harvey jokes that everyone who reads Marx’s Capital seems bound to write a book about it. In 2012, we might well ask: Just one? Last year, many of the long-standing academic Marxists unleashed new introductory works, including Terry Eagleton, David Harvey, Eric Hobsbawm, and, unsurprisingly, Fredric Jameson. In Representing Capital, Jameson has written the best of the bunch: a surprising, energetic, and concise representation of the “totality” of capital.… | more |

Structural Crisis Needs Structural Change

When stressing the need for a radical structural change it must be made clear right from the beginning that this is not a call for an unrealizable utopia. On the contrary, the primary defining characteristic of modern utopian theories was precisely the projection that their intended improvement in the conditions of the workers’ life could be achieved well within the existing structural framework of the criticized societies…. As we also know, the high-sounding “utilitarian” moral principle of “the greatest good for the greatest number” came to nothing since its Benthamite advocacy. The problem for us is that without a proper assessment of the nature of the economic and social crisis of our time—which by now cannot be denied by the defenders of the capitalist order even if they reject the need for a major change—the likelihood of success in this respect is negligible.… | more |

Welcome to the Desert of Transition!

Post-Socialism, the European Union, and a New Left in the Balkans

The world’s attention has been on the political transformations in the Middle East, the wave of protests from Tel Aviv to Madrid to Wall Street, and the ongoing Greek crisis. But in the shadow of this unrest, the post-socialist Balkans have been boiling. Protests displaying for the most part social demands broke out throughout 2011 in Romania, Albania, Serbia, Macedonia and, most notably, Croatia. Post-socialist citizens today feel largely excluded from the decision-making process. Most elections have turned out to be little more than a reshuffling of the same political oligarchy with no serious differences in political programs or rhetoric. During the privatization campaigns many lost their jobs, or had labor conditions worsen and pensions evaporate, and most of the guaranteed social benefits (such as free education and health care) have progressively disappeared as well. Neoliberal reforms were portrayed as a necessary part of the EU integration process.… | more |

The Unifying Element in All Struggles Against Capital Is the Right of Everyone to Full Human Development

[In my] examination of struggle…from the side of workers.… I constantly came back to the Marxist concept of revolutionary practice, that simultaneous changing of circumstance and human activity or self-change—how people transform themselves through their struggles. But not only through struggles; they produce themselves through their daily activity. People are formed by what they do. So, for example, a person who is a wage laborer under capitalism is produced and produces himself in a certain way, as a person who is alienated, as a person who simply wants to consume because of the emptiness of capitalist production. We always have to ask the question, “what kinds of people are produced under particular relations of production?” What kinds of people are produced in an exchange relationship, which is “I will do this for you, if you do that for me” as opposed to functioning in a communal society in which people act in solidarity? You produce certain kinds of people under those conditions.… | more |

The Democratic Fraud and the Universalist Alternative

The propositions put forward here—and many other possible ones—have no place in the dominant discourse about “civil society.” Rather, they run counter to that discourse which—rather like “postmodernist” ravings à la Negri—is the direct heir of the U.S. “consensus” ideological tradition. A discourse promoted, uncritically repeated, by tens of thousands of NGOs and by their requisite representatives at all the Social Forums. We’re dealing with an ideology that accepts the existing regime (i.e. monopoly capitalism) in all its essentials. It thus has a useful role to play on behalf of capitalist power. It keeps its gears provided with oil. It pretends to “change the world” while promoting a sort of “opposition” with no power to change anything.… | more |

Cuba: Education and Revolution

In 1795, Father José Agustín Caballero presented the first project for the creation of a system of public education for all the inhabitants of the island of Cuba. It was a visionary idea, but impossible to carry out at that time. The island was a colonial possession of the Spanish Crown, and most of the population was subjected to slavery or made up of Mestizos and freed blacks, the victims of segregation and racial discrimination. Education, within the reach of a very small minority, was confined within the strict canons of scholastic philosophy.… Father Caballero was profoundly critical of that philosophy and of the pedagogy springing from it. This would be the birth of an intellectual movement having decisive importance for the history of Cuba, a movement that would reach its pinnacle with another Catholic priest, Félix Varela, who was Caballero’s disciple and the first Cuban intellectual who fought for national independence and the abolition of slavery.… | more |

The Dialectic of Structure and History: An Introduction

The investigation of the dialectical relationship between structure and history is essential for a proper understanding of the nature and the defining characteristics of any social formation in which sustainable solutions are being sought to the encountered problems. This is particularly important in the case of capital’s social formation, with its inexorable tendency toward an all-embracing, structurally embedded determination of all aspects of societal reproduction and the—feasible for the first time ever—global domination implicit in that form of development. It is therefore by no means accidental that, in the interest of the required structural change, Marx had to focus critical attention on the concept of social structure, in the historical period of crises and revolutionary explosions of the 1840s when he articulated his own—radically new—conception of history.… | more |

NEW: Social Structure and Forms of Consciousness, Volume II by István Mészáros

NEW: Social Structure and Forms of Consciousness, Volume II by István Mészáros

Monthly Review Press is proud to announce the release of Volume II of Social Structure and Forms of Consciousness, the magisterial work by István Mészáros, one of the world’s most esteemed Marxist philosophers. Order both volumes for $40.… | more |

Social Structure and Forms of Consciousness, Volume II

Social Structure and Forms of Consciousness, Volume II

The Dialectic of Structure and History

In The Dialectic of Structure and History, Volume Two of Social Structure and Forms of Consciousness, István Mészáros brings the comprehension of our condition and the possibility of emancipatory social action beyond the highest point reached to date. Building on the indicatory flashes of conceptual lightning in the Grundrisse and other works of Karl Marx, Mészáros sets out the relations of structure and agency, individual and society, base and superstructure, nature and history, in a dialectical totality open to the future.… | more |

Revolutionary Doctors

Revolutionary Doctors

How Venezuela and Cuba Are Changing the World’s Conception of Health Care

Revolutionary Doctors gives readers a first-hand account of Venezuela’s innovative and inspiring program of community healthcare, designed to serve—and largely carried out by—the poor themselves. Drawing on long-term participant observations as well as in-depth research, Brouwer tells the story of Venezuela’s Integral Community Medicine program, in which doctor-teachers move into the countryside and poor urban areas to recruit and train doctors from among peasants and workers. Such programs were first developed in Cuba, and Cuban medical personnel play a key role in Venezuela today as advisors and organizers. This internationalist model has been a great success—Cuba is a world leader in medicine and medical training—and Brouwer shows how the Venezuelans are now, with the aid of their Cuban counterparts, following suit.… | more |

The Latin American School of Medicine Today

ELAM

A revolution can only be successful when the new generation takes over from the old. When thousands of students come together because of their dedication to helping others at a school that was built to allow them to fulfill their goals, the ground is fertile for students to continue the struggle.… Students are assuming defining roles at the Latin American School of Medicine (Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina or ELAM), the twelve-year-old medical school in Santa Fe, Playa, a ninety-minute bus ride from Havana, Cuba. With their educational costs covered by the Cuban government, students learn new social relationships in medical practice that they will use in underserved communities in their countries.… | more |

February 2011, Volume 62, Number 9

February 2011, Volume 62, Number 9

» Notes from the Editors

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.… | more |