Friday April 18th, 2014, 1:33 am (EDT)

US Politics/Economy

Political Economy of the US

Capital Punishment Update

Following a short hiatus in the 1970s, capital punishment has regained its position as the most reactionary social policy in America. In the Supreme Court case of Furman v. Georgia, the Court ruled that the death penalty, as it had been practiced prior to 1972, was unconstitutional and effectively placed a legal moratorium on executions in the United States. Four years later, that same Court accepted minor statutory reforms and reinstituted the death penalty in Gregg v. Georgia. Placing these landmark court decisions in historical perspective and reviewing subsequent developments reveal the political dimensions of capital punishment in the United States during the last fifty years… | more |

War Moon

Janet E. Aalfs , poet laureate of Northampton, Massachusetts (2003–2005), is the author of Reach (Perugia Press, 1999) and Red(self-published, 2001). She won first prize in the 2004 Boston Herald poetry contest judged by Alice Quinn of the New Yorker.… | more |

Washed Up on Long Island: Urban Renewal at the Beach

Lawrence Kaplan and Carol P. Kaplan, Between Ocean and City: The Transformation of Rockaway, New York (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003), 237 pages, paper $37.50.

The postwar fate of Rockaway, Queens, may well have been sealed when it was swept into the great consolidation of towns and boroughs that became New York City in 1898. An eleven-mile-long pencil-thin peninsula, Rockaway faces Jamaica Bay along one flank and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. Blessed by its natural resources and fairly isolated from the stresses of city life, it enjoyed a very long run as “New York City’s favorite beach resort” with day-trippers pouring into Jacob Riis Park by the tens of thousands. But by the end of the 1940s, its glory days were fading, and it was on the way to becoming an exclusively year-round community… | more |

The Disciplinary Apparatus of Welfare Reform

In 1996 President Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), to end “welfare as we know it.” PRWORA, euphemistically referred to as “welfare to work” or simply “welfare reform,” has fundamentally changed the status of women within U.S. capitalism. Historically, women’s roles in the sexual division of labor have been to reproduce the laborer (cook and keep house) and reproduce the labor force (have children). If women had to work in the formal labor force, then society demanded that they hold jobs appropriate to their gender. There has always been a gender-based social discipline of women whether they were wage earners or homemakers. It is interesting to note that still today beauty contests, sexual harassment, and compulsory use of birth control pills are all forms of discipline enforced on women in many third world factories. Of course, sexual harassment is common in the workplaces of the rich capitalist countries as well… | more |

Five O’clock, January 2003

Tonight as cargoes of my young
fellow countrymen and women are being hauled
into positions aimed at death, positions
they who did not will it suddenly
have to assume
I am thinking of Ed Azevedo
half-awake in recovery
if he has his arm whole
and how much pain he must bear
under the drugs… | more |

Silencing the Cells: Mass Incarceration and Legal Repression in U.S. Prisons

People without a voice are not people in any meaningful sense of the word. Silenced people cannot express their ideas; they can neither consent nor protest. They are reduced to being pawns in the schemes of the powerful, mendicants who must accept whatever is imposed upon them. In order to keep people in a state of subjugation, silencing their voices is essential. Nowhere is this clearer than in U.S. prisons… | more |

Disposable Workers: Today’s Reserve Army of Labor

These are difficult times for workers. In the wealthy countries of capitalism’s center, labor is struggling to maintain existing wages and benefits against a combined assault by corporations and governments, while conditions of workers in the periphery are even more difficult. The widespread acceptance and adoption of capital’s agenda—”free trade,” “free markets,” greater “flexibility” regarding labor, and reduced social welfare assistance—has led to one group of real winners. Transnational corporations (and their owners and top managers) now have more freedom to produce where labor and other costs are cheap, have their patents protected, and move capital in and out of countries at will. Many workers, unfortunately, are finding that their situation has become more tenuous.… | more |

The Escalating War Against Corporate Media

A recurring issue for the left historically has been how to address the capitalist media. In recent years the problem has grown ever more severe, and no small amount of attention has been given to examining the problems of the commercial media and how closely they reinforce and accentuate problems within the broader social order. The logic of this criticism has become clear: progressives need to work on challenging the corporate domination of media as part of the broader struggle for social justice. If changing media is left until “after the revolution,” there will be no revolution, not to mention fewer chances for social reform. But politicizing control over media has proven to be extraordinarily difficult for activists. That is why the massive and largely unanticipated 2003 campaign in the United States to stop further media concentration, which almost overnight reached a scale not seen in media reform struggles since the 1930s, is so important and instructive. This article chronicles that revolt… | more |

The Right Not to Work: Power and Disability

The Right Not to Work: Power and Disability

I have a confession to make: I do not work. I am on SSI.1 I have very little work value (if any), and I am a drain on our country’s welfare system. I have another confession to make: I do not think this is wrong, and to be honest, I am very happy not working. Instead I spend the majority of my time doing the activity I find the most rewarding and valuable, painting… | more |

The U.S. Prison State

Tara Herivel and Paul Wright, editors Prison Nation: The Warehousing of America’s Poor (New York: Routledge, 2003), 256 pages, cloth $80.00, paper $19.95.

I sit in the day room/lobby waiting to be released for lunch. I read a novel in which one character, a Pole, comments to another that the Germans consider Poles to be untermenschen, subhuman. I look at the women around me: Latinas arguing among themselves in Spanish; a black woman making signals to someone I don’t see; two white women—one of whom is stringing beads—are murmuring together. Two of these women are here because they are undocumented workers; three are incarcerated for economic offenses; the other is falsely convicted; all of us are caught inside the nightmare of an oppressive state and an expanding empire. Instead of storm trooper boots and brown shirts, those who command wear Tony Lamas cowboy boots, expensive suits, and ties—men who see in the U.S. prison establishment ways to both intensify control of the population and squeeze more profits out of late-stage capitalism… | more |

Manufacturing the Love of Possession

Michael Dawson, The Consumer Trap: Big Business Marketing in American Life (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2003), 203 pages, cloth $26.95.

In 1877, speaking at the Powder River Conference, Chief Sitting Bull of the Lakota nation said of the European invaders who were destroying his people and their way of life, “[T]he love of possession is a disease with them.” Disease is an apt term, because it does not necessarily imply that the love of possession was inherent in the nature of the invaders, but rather that the affliction may have been acquired. Thus, any scholar wishing to locate the origin of the affliction should, like an epidemiologist, search out its sources and possible transmission vectors… | more |

A Turn for the Worse in the United States

This is not the article I started out to write. What I wanted to write about was the Patriot Act and the way this Federal statute was giving license to federal, state and local law enforcement to curtail our due process protections, by blurring the line, which is more fluid than ever, between what law enforcement can do in the name of foreign intelligence and what it can do in the name of a domestic criminal investigation … | more |

The Demand for Order and the Birth of Modern Policing

Why were the modern police created?…It is generally assumed, among people who think about it at all, that the police were created to deal with rising levels of crime caused by urbanization and increasing numbers of immigrants.…Despite its initial plausibility, the idea that the police were invented in response to an epidemic of crime is, to be blunt, exactly wrong. Furthermore, it is not much of an explanation. It assumes that “when crime reaches a certain level, the ‘natural’ social response is to create a uniformed police force. This, of course, is not an explanation but an assertion of a natural law for which there is little evidence.”… | more |

Sneak and Peek

Marge Piercy’s sixteenth novel The Third Child was published by Harper Collins last year. Her sixteenth book of poetry, Colors Passing Through Us, was published by Knopf in the spring. Leapfrog Books is putting out a CD of her political poems, Louder, I Can’t Hear You Yet, that should be available by the first of the year… | more |

November 2003, Volume 55, Number 6

November 2003, Volume 55, Number 6

» Notes from the Editors

In this number we are celebrating the hundredth anniversary of W. E. B. Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk by devoting a special issue to race and imperialism. MR is proud to have had a connection with Du Bois. Fifty years ago he wrote his famous article “Negroes and the Crisis of Capitalism in the United States” for MR (April 1953; reprinted in the magazine last April). In addition, Monthly Review Press is the publisher of Du Bois’ Education of Black People: Ten Critiques, 1906–1960, edited by Herbert Aptheker. This was a book that Du Bois had planned, based originally on seven critiques of education that he had delivered as speeches over the years. But his attempts in the 1940s to get it published proved futile. One publisher after another turned down the work—no doubt scared off by the very same ruthless critique that made his work so valuable. Yet, Du Bois never gave up hope of bringing out this book and it was found among his papers after his death in 1963. The published version, which was announced in the MR Press catalog in 1973 and has remained in print ever since (a new edition with a new foreword by Aptheker was brought out in 2001), included the original seven critiques and the short introductions that Du Bois had written for each of them for the book. It also contained three critiques of education that he had written in subsequent years. Everyone interested in the effects of race and class exploitation on higher learning in the United States would gain from a careful study of this profoundly humanistic, often lyrical, and fundamentally subversive work. In his 1908 lecture, “Galileo Galilei,” included in The Education of Black People, Du Bois wrote: “The greatest gift that a scholar can bring to Learning is Reverence of Truth, a Hatred of Hypocrisy and Sham, and an absolute sincerity of purpose.” There is no doubt that Du Bois exemplified this principle throughout his entire life… | more |

The State of Welfare: United States 2003

The United States has the most regressive system of welfare for poor people among developed nations in the twenty-first century, and in recent years it has become even more punitive. The world’s self-professed leading democracy lacks a national health care policy, a universal right to health care, and a comprehensive family policy. Welfare applicants are subjected to personal intrusions, arcane regulations, and constant surveillance, all designed to humiliate recipients and deter potential applicants. In recent years there has been a significant decrease in cash grants to the unemployed and underemployed who do not qualify for unemployment insurance. The reorganization of the welfare state began under the Clinton administration with the devolution of federal policies to the states and massive cutting of welfare rolls. The Bush administration, while distracted by September 11 and imperial ambitions, has deepened the cuts and introduced important new policies facilitating access of private organizations to federal grants. The quickly changing economic and geopolitical climate has also generated a profound crisis in the ability of state and local agencies to provide adequate human services to the unemployed and growing ranks of impoverished citizens and immigrants… | more |

Capitalism and Incarceration Revisited

“Capitalism and Incarceration,” written by the author and published in Monthly Review twenty years ago (March 1983), analyzed the relationship between the capitalist economy and the prison system in America and came to an indisputable conclusion: “The overall trends and year-by-year correspondence between economic conditions and imprisonment establish quite clearly the relationship between capitalism and incarceration—prisons under capitalism are, as Marx pointed out long ago, dumping grounds of the industrial reserve army.”… | more |

The Inhuman State of U.S. Health Care

The health sector of the United States is in profound disarray. Even though the United States spends more on health care (14 percent of its GNP) than any other country, we still have problems that no other developed capitalist country faces. Let me list some of them. The first and most overwhelming problem is that no less than forty-four million of our people have no form of health benefits coverage whatsoever. The majority of them are working people, and their children, who cannot afford to pay the health insurance premium that would enable them to get care in time of need. Many of them work for small companies that cannot or will not pay their part of the health insurance premium. Because these individuals cannot pay for insurance, they do not get needed care, and many die as a consequence. The most credible estimate of the number of people in the United States who have died because of lack of medical care was provided by a study carried out by Professors David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler (New England Journal of Medicine 336, no. 11 [1997]). They concluded that almost 100,000 people died in the United States each year because of lack of needed care—three times the number of people who died of AIDs. It is important to note here that while the media express concern about AIDs, they remain almost silent on the topic of deaths due to lack of medical care. Any decent person should be outraged by this situation. How can we call the United States a civilized nation when it denies the basic human right of access to medical care in time of need? No other major capitalist country faces such a horrendous situation… | more |

The Two Wings of the Eagle

Peter Marcuse has written (Monthly Review, July-August 2000) that globalization “is a nonconcept in most usages: a simple catalogue of everything that seems different since, say, 1970, whether advances in information technology, widespread use of air freight, speculation in currencies, increased capital flows across borders, Disneyfication of culture, mass marketing, global warming, genetic engineering, multinational corporate power, new international division of labor, reduced power of nation-states, or post-Fordism.” The problem is more than the careless use of words, the inclusion of everything means the term means little or nothing. Most importantly, “the term fogs any effort to separate cause from effect, to analyze what is being done, by whom, to whom, for what and with what effect.” To answer these questions it is necessary to reframe the discussion. Neither the amorphous globalization discourse of everyday social science nor the previously dominant one of nation-state sovereignty are satisfactory to the task… | more |

Construction of an Enemy

The aggressive measures instituted by the Bush administration against immigrants and visitors of Muslim faith, or from primarily Muslim Arab and South Asian countries, seem aimed less at their putative foreign targets than at the hearts and minds of our domestic population. Packaged as post-September 11 law enforcement, the new racial profiling has netted few if any prosecutions for terrorist acts, but has done a great deal to demonize Arabs, South Asians, and Muslims, to dehumanize them, and to construct them as the enemy of America in the twenty-first century. Once the state successfully constructs an enemy group, it can justify detentions without charge, military occupation, and other drastic means of waging war against that other, the enemy… | more |