Saturday April 19th, 2014, 5:26 am (EDT)

US Politics/Economy

Political Economy of the US

September 2011, Volume 63, Number 4

September 2011, Volume 63, Number 4

» Notes from the Editors

In this issue of MR we are reprinting Stephen Hymer’s classic essay, “Robinson Crusoe and the Secret of Primitive Accumulation,” which first appeared forty years ago in the September 1971 issue of MR. It represents, in our view, one of the most important articles produced by a whole generation of radical political economists associated with the revolt against mainstream economics in the 1960s, and the creation of the Union for Radical Political Economics in 1968.… [Hymer's] final article, “International Politics and International Economics: A Radical Approach,” published posthumously in MR in March 1978, started off with the words: “To be a radical, or to be a scientist, is the same thing; it is a question of trying to go to the root of the matter.”… | more |

An Oil-Rich Cuba?

Cuba has found oil in its part of the Gulf of Mexico and is about to start drilling. Even if the results are moderate, Cuba will become energy independent and eventually a net exporter. This will have an incalculable impact on its economy, and will send the U.S. sanctions policy into the dustbin of imperial miscalculations. This has brought out Miami’s congressional assault team led by the fanatical Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who essentially wants to criminalize drilling in Cuba’s section of the Gulf. But caught between a commitment to maintaining the embargo and an understanding of the necessity of Cuba cooperation lest there be another BP-style disaster, the Obama administration has remained largely passive. Will Cuban oil help change the balance of power in the Americas in the near future?… | more |

July-August 2011, Volume 63, Number 3

July-August 2011, Volume 63, Number 3

» Notes from the Editors

For MR this [special issue] represents only a starting point and we hope to continue to address the education question in future issues—not only in relation to the United States but also globally. Except for the crucial, concluding essay on Cuban education, provided by Ricardo Alarcón (President of Cuba’s National Assembly of Peoples’ Power), which points to what can be achieved in the realm of education once the barriers represented by capitalist society are removed, all of the articles in this special issue are concerned with the changing context of schooling in the United States. This is not meant, however, to ignore the rest of the world, but to constitute a warning of what may be in the offing for much of the global population—since the United States is the fountainhead of neoliberal policy.… It is clear…that education is under fire within much of global capitalist society.… Yet, the global struggle in this area is only just beginning and remains undetermined. The final outcome will depend to a considerable degree on the actions we take now.… | more |

Education Under Fire: Introduction

Education at the beginning of the twenty-first century is in crisis and contestation. The economic instability of capitalism—reflected in the slowdown in the economic growth trend since the mid-1970s, worsening financial crises, and the growth of draconian neoliberal policies—has had the effect of further compromising a capitalist educational system already beset with problems.… The conflict over the agenda of the powerful with respect to schools is increasingly apparent. On the one side we find: privatization; drastically lowered expectations for students and families; the demonization of teachers; zero-tolerance as a cat’s paw for surveillance and control; sort-and-punish curricula; a culture of obedience and conformity; and narrowing definition of learning as job-training and education, i.e., as a product to be bought and sold in the market. On the other side we find: a growing fight-back based on the principle that all human beings are of incalculable value and that life in a just and free society must be geared toward and powered by a profoundly radical idea: that the fullest development of all human beings—regardless of race or ethnicity, origin or background, gender identity, ability or disability—is the necessary condition for the full development of each person; and, conversely, the fullest development of each is the condition for the full development of all.… | more |

1. Education and Capitalism

Schooling in the twenty-first century United States is not the product mainly of educational philosophies and resources—together with whatever imagination and initiative that teachers, students, parents, and communities can bring to bear. Instead, it is dominated by the changing demands of capitalist society for an increasingly stratified and regimented workforce. In the first article in this section, John Bellamy Foster analyzes the political economy of education in capitalist society; the relation of this to the evolution of U.S. schools from the early twentieth century on; and the current corporate reform movement aimed at the restructuring and privatization of education—symbolized by the Bush No Child Left Behind and the Obama Race to the Top programs.… | more |

Education: The Great Obsession

We are reprinting this essay by Grace Lee Boggs from the September 1970 issue of Monthly Review with only slight editing because of the historical perspective it offers and what we regard as its direct importance to the present struggle over public eduction.… | more |

2. Lessons from the New Corporate Schooling

As the articles in this section indicate, the new corporate schooling in the United States combines many of the worst aspects of capitalist schooling in a period of economic stagnation, financialization, and militarization/securitization together with a strategy of privatization of the schools. Public education is being degraded, regimented, and increasingly racially segregated—while the resulting worsening conditions in the schools are used to justify the restructuring of the entire education system.… | more |

Testing, Privatization, and the Future of Public Schooling

Standardized testing occupies a central place in the ongoing reorganization—or demolition—of public education in the United States. The key question is not whether leading sectors of capital—major foundations from Gates on down, business groups including the Business Roundtable and Chamber of Commerce, a near-endless array of think tanks and policy groups, major media, well-funded “Astroturf” (faux grassroots) groups such as Stand for Children, and leading forces in both major political parties at the state and national levels—promote standardized tests as a tool for making major, “high-stakes” decisions about students, educators, and schools. The better, and unanswered, questions are: Why are tests such an important weapon, What are the goals of the test-driven offensive, How does testing interact with other corporate school “reform” goals, and What can be done to turn this around?… | more |

Neoliberal Education Restructuring

Dangers and Opportunities of the Present Crisis

Jammed into a thundering crowd of thousands of chanting people in Madison, Wisconsin, it looks like a dam has broken. The new Wisconsin Tea Party governor brazenly accelerated what has been a bipartisan agenda to undermine public education and weaken teacher and other public employee unions. His “budget repair bill”—an assault on public employee unions, schools, and low-income health care—was met with immediate, massive, determined resistance that began with a walkout by Madison public school teachers.… a sleeping giant is stirring. The broad U.S. working class has absorbed blow after blow, concessions and job losses one after the other, stagnating wages for thirty years, and two wars costing trillions of dollars.… But recent attempts at the state level to impose austerity measures may be just too much for people to take.… | more |

June 2011, Volume 63, Number 2

June 2011, Volume 63, Number 2

» Notes from the Editors

Manning Marable, who died last April 1, aged sixty, was the quintessential radical academic/activist. A friend of Monthly Review for many years, he wrote numerous articles for the magazine and chapters for Monthly Review Press books. Manning was a committed Marxist and socialist. He unflinchingly engaged with issues of race and class, most recently working with younger artists of color organizing for social change as a founder of the Hip Hop Summit Action Network.… In MR‘s July-August 1995 issue Marable posed this challenge: “Americans continue to perceive social reality in a manner which grossly underestimates the role of social class, and legitimates the categories of race as central to the ways in which privilege and authority are organized. We must provide the basis for a progressive alternative to an interpretation of race relations, moving the political culture of black United States from a racialized discourse and analysis to a critique of inequality which has the capacity and potential to speak to the majority of American people. This leap for theory and social analysis must be made if black United States is to have any hope for transcending its current impasse of powerlessness and systemic inequality.”… | more |

The Jobs Disaster in the United States

The Great Recession in the United States, which lasted eighteen months, the longest downturn since the 1930s Depression, was declared over and done as of July 2009. The economy has been growing, albeit slowly, since then, and the output of goods and services (Gross Domestic Product or GDP) has returned to pre-recession levels. U.S. corporate profits have soared, and most of the big banks, after being bailed out, have been making piles of money. However, rising production and profits have not been accompanied by the return to work of millions of unemployed people, many of whom have been out of work for numerous months and have little prospect of future employment.… This essay will focus on the jobs disaster in the United States, although the problem is global. The United States is where the crisis began, and it is still the world’s richest and most powerful nation. What happens here has serious repercussions for everyone in the world. In addition, the disconnect between economic reality and the propaganda of recovery is greatest in the United States. So a close examination of what is happening in this country is instructive, not just for those of us who live here, but for those in the rest of the world as well.… | more |

Three Poems by Marilyn Buck

Marilyn Buck (1947-2010) spent over twenty-five years in prison for politically motivated actions against U.S. government policies and in support of the Black Panthers and the Black Liberation Army. She wrote these poems behind bars, as a way to comprehend the reality of prison and continue her fight as a white woman against injustice, particularly U.S.-generated white supremacy. Paroled in July 2010, she died of cancer twenty days after her release.… | more |

The Emperor Has No Clothes But Still He Rules

Moshe Adler, Economics for the Rest of Us: Debunking the Science that Makes Life Dismal (New York: The New Press, 2009), 224 pages, $24.95, hardcover; David Orrell, Economyths: Ten Ways That Economics Get It Wrong (Mississauga, Ontario: John Wiley & Sons Canada, Ltd., 2010), 288 pages, $27.95, hardcover; Yanis Varoufakis, Joseph Halevi, and Nicholas J. Theocaratis, Modern Political Economics: Making Sense of the Post-2008 World (New York: Routledge, 2011, forthcoming), 536 pages, $165.00, hardcover, $65.00, paperback.

Science is often thought to proceed from a theory to experiments that test its predictions. If new data are discovered that cannot be explained by the theory, eventually a new theory arises to replace it. If the new theory can explain everything the old one did plus the new phenomena, sooner or later every scientist will adhere to the new paradigm.… Neoclassical economics is taught in every college classroom in the United States and in almost every country in the world. Graduate students learn no other approach to economics. They are taught that neoclassical economics is a science, on a par with physics and the other natural sciences. There is even a joke that when good neoclassical economists die, they are reincarnated as physicists, but bad ones come back as sociologists.… | more |

Monopoly and Competition in Twenty-First Century Capitalism

A striking paradox animates political economy in our times. On the one hand, mainstream economics and much of left economics discuss our era as one of intense and increased competition among businesses, now on a global scale. It is a matter so self-evident as no longer to require empirical verification or scholarly examination. On the other hand, wherever one looks, it seems that nearly every industry is concentrated into fewer and fewer hands. Formerly competitive sectors like retail are now the province of enormous monopolistic chains, massive economic fortunes are being assembled into the hands of a few mega-billionaires sitting atop vast empires, and the new firms and industries spawned by the digital revolution have quickly gravitated to monopoly status. In short, monopoly power is ascendant as never before.… | more |

Not Naming Names

Julius Rosenberg’s Decidedly Political Decision

I would like to expand on a couple of areas from Staughton Lynd’s thought-provoking essay (“Is There Anything More to Say About the Rosenberg Case?MR, March 2011) on the case of my parents, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. Though Staughton is too modest to “have a go” at the validity of the analysis presented in Walter Schneir’s Final Verdict, I think it is important to note that unlike the authors of Venona, whose work is quoted in the article, Schneir is the first writer to take the most recently released materials from the former Soviet Union and subject them to a close analysis in comparison to what we had always “believed” we knew about the case.… | more |

Class Dismissed

Class Dismissed

Why We Cannot Teach or Learn Our Way Out of Inequality

In Class Dismissed, John Marsh debunks a myth cherished by journalists, politicians, and economists: that growing poverty and inequality in the United States can be solved through education. Using sophisticated analysis combined with personal experience in the classroom, Marsh not only shows that education has little impact on poverty and inequality, but that our mistaken beliefs actively shape the way we structure our schools and what we teach in them.… | more |

The Internet’s Unholy Marriage to Capitalism

The United States and the world are now a good two decades into the Internet revolution, or what was once called the information age. The past generation has seen a blizzard of mind-boggling developments in communication, ranging from the World Wide Web and broadband, to ubiquitous cell phones that are quickly becoming high-powered wireless computers in their own right.… The full impact of the Internet revolution will only become apparent in the future, as more technological change is on the horizon that can barely be imagined and hardly anticipated. But enough time has transpired, and institutions and practices have been developed, that an assessment of the digital era is possible, as well as a sense of its likely trajectory into the future.… | more |

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).… | more |

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.… | more |

November 2010, Volume 62, Number 6

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)… | more |