Friday May 22nd, 2015, 12:04 pm (EDT)

New Economy…Same Irrational Economy

What can we say about the assertion that there is a “New Economy”? That depends on what we mean by this term. It is nonsense to claim, and few do any more, that the business cycle has been eliminated or that the contradictions of capitalism have been resolved. In 2000 we witnessed a massacre of technology and Internet stocks ending what many considered the country’s biggest financial mania of the past hundred years. The NASDAQ lost over half of its value, a paper loss of 3.33 trillion dollars, the equivalent of a third of the houses in the United States sliding into the ocean, as one Wall Street wag tells us. While only a few months ago, all we heard about was the magic of the market and that crises are the result of bad government policies, whether “crony” capitalism or simply failure to make information available to markets in a full and timely fashion, and that the new information technology now makes markets even more efficient; all of this talk is now shown to be the usual exaggeration we find in the up stage of most long expansions. As in the past it disappears as the economy weakens. Indeed as inventories pile up the nature of capitalism becomes clear to even the financial press and the politicians… | more |

The “New” Economy and the Labor Movement

A New Economy? Today, we hear a lot of talk about the New Economy, much of it unsubstantiated and hyperbolically stated. In the United States, for example, consumers are supposedly concerned, as never before, with high-quality goods and services tailored specifically to their individual needs. Rapidly changing technology continually creates new, high-quality products, so consumer needs are perpetually changing as well. This rapid change places new demands on businesses. They must be maximally flexible, capable of changing product lines quickly, and able at all times to meet discerning and highly individualized consumer needs. Everything must be geared to customer satisfaction; a firm that does not quickly and consistently please its customers will lose business sooner than at any time in the past. The tremendous range of choices available means that customers will not be loyal to any company that cannot offer speedy gratification. Recently an Internet book company opened that promised same-day delivery! … | more |

The “New Economy” and the Speculative Bubble: An Interview with Doug Henwood

an Interview with Doug Henwood

Doug Henwood, author of Wall Strr£t:How It Works andfur lWIom (Verso, 1997) and publisher and primary author of the newsletter Left Business Observer; is a fre- quent contributor to Munthly Review. Doug was interviewed earlier this year for the San Francisco Ba:y Guardian by another good friend of ours, Christian Parenti-author of 1.JxiuJnam Ameriaz (Verso, 1999), reviewed in last month’s MR At the end of February we asked a few additional questions of Doug. The composite interview follows… | more |

Neoliberalism from Reagan to Clinton

Michael Meeropol, Surrender: How the Clinton Administration Completed the Reagan Revolution (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1998), 377 pages, cloth $34.50, paper $19.95.

Recent presidential elections in the United States have obfuscated, more than clarified, the social divisions of American society. While the Democrats project a well-worn image of protecting working Americans the Republicans declare the need to defend traditional American values. In reality, the consensus between the two parties on the superiority of American government and the beneficence of capitalism rules any challenge to the status quo politically out of bounds (even the candidacy of longtime policy activist Ralph Nader was seen as beyond the pale). The contest between Albert Gore and George W. Bush—a contest between patrician familial dynasties that could only occur in the United States—was no exception… | more |

March 2001 (Volume 52, Number 10)

March 2001 (Volume 52, Number 10)

Two decades after the Carter and Reagan administrations launched their attacks on the U.S. regulatory system the world is littered with the wreckage of neoliberal deregulation. Seldom have these failures loomed so prominently, however, as in the rolling blackouts that swept much of California in January of this year. These rolling blackouts were implemented by California power authorities in a desperate attempt to deal with a burgeoning crisis in the availability of electrical power resulting from the deregulation of California’s electrical power companies beginning in 1996. The deregulation legislation, passed unanimously by the California state legislature, promised a 20 percent drop in electricity rates by 2002. Rates for final consumers were to be frozen at around 50 percent above the national average for up to four years (1998-2002), during which time the ratepayers were required to contribute to paying off the “stranded assets” of the major private utility companies, consisting of billions of dollars in bad investments in nuclear power facilities. So far, California ratepayers have paid out seventeen billion dollars to the private electrical utilities under these provisions. Deregulation also required the utilities to sell off their power generation facilities (with the exception of some hydropower and nuclear facilities).… | more |

Global Media, Neoliberalism, and Imperialism

In conventional parlance, the current era in history is generally characterized as one of globalization, technological revolution, and democratization. In all three of these areas media and communication play a central, perhaps even a defining, role. Economic and cultural globalization arguably would be impossible without a global commercial media system to promote global markets and to encourage consumer values. The very essence of the technological revolution is the radical development in digital communication and computing. The argument that the bad old days of police states and authoritarian regimes are unlikely to return is premised on the claims that new communication technologies along with global markets undermine, even eliminate, the capacity for “maximum leaders” to rule with impunity… | more |

Subverting A Model

Vijay Prashad,The Karma of Brown Folk(University of Minnesota Press, 2000), 248 pages, $25 hardcover.

The Karma of Brown Folk is essentially addressed to two audiences and is surprisingly successful in being readable by both. Its primary audience is the “desi”—men and women of South Asian descent living in the United States. This widely dispersed group of some fifteen million first and second generation immigrants is often referred to as a model minority—untroublesome, hardworking, entrepreneurial, conservative, clannish, and family oriented. In approaching these countrymen the author’s freely avowed purpose is a subversive one. He wants to destroy the image by re-forming the fact behind it… | more |

Capitalism and Crisis

Creating a Jailhouse Nation

Lockdown America: Police and Prisons in The Age of Crisis by Christian Parenti.

By the time I was captured in 1981, the prologue to a life sentence, I had twenty years of movement experience—both above and underground—under my belt. So I thought I had a good understanding of the race and class basis of prisons. But once actually inside that reality, I was stunned by just how thoroughly racist the criminal justice system is and also by the incessant petty hassles of humiliation and degradation. As political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal aptly noted in Live From Death Row, there is a “profound horror…in the day-to-day banal occurrences…[the] second-by-second assault on the soul.” The 1980s became the intense midpoint of an unprecedented explosion of imprisonment. Since 1972, the number of inmates in this country, on any given day, has multiplied six-fold to the two million human beings behind bars today. Another four million are being supervised on parole or probation. The U.S. is the world leader in both death sentences and incarcerations. With just 5 percent of the world’s population, we hold 25 percent of the prisoners.… | more |

The Myth of the Middle-Class Society

Michael Zweig, The Working Class Majority: America’s Best Kept Secret (Cornell University Press, 2000), 192 pages, $25 cloth, $14.95 paper.

The claim that the U.S. is a “middle-class country”—which goes back at least to the eighteenth century—has set apart (white) yeoman farmers from the rural or urban poor, and notably from nonwhites. Thomas Jefferson envisioned his ideal nation as the land of, and for, hard-working property holders, free of the turmoil and corruption inevitable in Europe’s aristocratic fixed-class system… | more |

Refuting the Big Lie

Hugh Stretton, Economics: A New Introduction (Pluto Press, 1999), 864 pages, $90 hardcover, 35 paper.

Capitalism was first firmly established in Britain in the eighteenth century and it was then and there that economics was born, in Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations (1776). Economists have served capitalism ever since, but only in the past quarter-century has capitalism needed—and gotten—so much from them… | more |

February 2001 (Volume 52, Number 9)

February 2001 (Volume 52, Number 9)

The attention given to the Florida elections in the US presidential race has highlighted the horrendous fact that in Florida and throughout the South thirty-five years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act there are numerous ways in which African Americans are prevented from voting. Thus Florida is one of fourteen states that bar ex-criminal offenders from voting even after they have completed their sentences. In Florida alone more than 400,000 ex-criminal offenders who at one time received felony convictions but who have now completed their sentences and are no longer in prison, on probation, or on parole have been barred from voting in this way. This includes almost one-third of black men in that state and more than 200,000 potential African-American voters, 90 percent or more of whom could have been expected to vote Democrat if they had voted. This situation in Florida and other states is documented in a 1998 report entitled Losing the Vote, issued by Human Rights Watch and the Sentencing Project, available on-line at http://www.hrw.org/reports98/vote/. Given the fact that under the present criminal injustice system African Americans are far more likely to be arrested and given felony convictions than their white counterparts this becomes an effective means of political control.… | more |

The Nader Campaign and the Future of U.S. Left Electoral Politics

The unlikely postelection contest between Al Gore and George W. Bush, which ultimately led to the anointing of Bush as president by the Republican majority on the US Supreme Court (despite the fact that Bush received fewer popular votes than Gore both in the United States as a whole and most likely in Florida as well—the state that gave Bush his electoral college win), has tended to erase all other developments associated with the election. But all of this should not cause us to forget that the Ralph Nader Green Party campaign for the presidency was arguably the most extraordinary phenomenon in US left politics in many years… | more |

Race and Class in the Work of Oliver Cromwell Cox

Oliver Cromwell Cox’s Caste, Class, and Race was first published in 1948 by Doubleday, which, in line with the anti-leftist imperatives of the time, almost immediately let the book go out of print. Fortunately, it was reissued in 1959 by Monthly Review Press, which has enabled subsequent generations to read Cox’s extraordinary text. Indeed, I discovered Cox through Monthly Review’s Modern Reader paperback edition in 1970; coincidentally, that was also the year of the only occasion on which I heard him speak, at the annual meeting of the Association of Social and Behavioral Scientists, the black social scientists’ group… | more |

Remembering Daniel Singer

My friend Daniel Singer, in a piece he wrote for The Nation six years ago, said that he often felt like a deserter from the army of the dead because he escaped the Nazi roundup of Jews in Paris by walking across France to Switzerland… | more |

About the Workers and For the Workers

Eleanor Marx and Edward Aveling, The Working Class Movement in America, edited by Paul Le Blanc (Amherst, NY: Humanity Books, 2000), $55, 231 pp.; Paul Le Blanc, A Short History of the US Working Class (Amherst, NY: Humanity Books, 1999), $30 (cloth), $20 (paper), 205 pp.

1886 was a momentous year in United States labor history. The great eight-hours movement had swept across the nation, and the Knights of Labor were in full flower. Working class politicial parties were forming, and the American Federation of Labor had been founded. In that year, Karl Marx’s daughter, Eleanor, and her partner, Edward Aveling, toured the United States, giving lectures and meeting comrades as guests of the Socialist Labor Party. They then returned to England and wrote about their trip. The first book under review is a timely reprint of the original. In addition to the reprint, it includes a useful introduction by Paul Le Blanc (including a fine annotated labor history bibliography) and interesting essays by historian Lisa Frank on Eleanor Marx and by writer and labor activist Kim Moody on aspects of working class life the two visitors failed to see… | more |

January 2001 (Volume 52, Number 8)

January 2001 (Volume 52, Number 8)

A striking example of the one-sided nature of the US media, at least where issues of capital and imperial power are concerned, is the way recent events in the Middle East are being reported. One would never know from the press, radio, and television that Palestinians are fighting for freedom from military occupation and the years-long deterioration of social and economic conditions. Theirs is in essence an anticolonial struggle. In a recent article in the Egyptian Al-Ahram Weekly, Edward Said pointed out: not a single map has been published or shown on television to remind American viewers and readers—notoriously ignorant of both geography and history—that Israeli encampments, settlements, roads and barricades crisscross Palestinian land in Gaza and the West Bank.… | more |

Human Rights and the Ideology of Capitalist Globalization

A View from Slovenia

Ideologies are a constant of human societies, though they have become more explicit in modern society. Since the eighteenth century, they have been increasingly distinguished from religious doctrines and popular religion. Ideologies make a claim to knowledge about society. This knowledge is, of course, biased and distorted in accordance with the interests of certain groups in society, with historical conditions and circumstances. Ideologies claim to be complete accounts of reality, but they are not. They can be critiqued. They rise and pass away, and are perpetuated with certain interests in mind. The “truth” of ideology is political. Therefore, in Marx’s words, ideology is a “false consciousness”… | more |

Does Ecology Need Marx?

Does ecology need Marx? I wonder, at this point, what ecology is, for it seems to be an umbrella term, like sexism or racism, which covers a variety of macrolevel and microlevel phenomena produced by different causes and lends itself to the development of a wide variety of conflicting ideologies and theoretical frameworks. I would prefer to change the question to the following: Are Marx and Marxism contingent or essential in the struggles against environmental degradation and all forms of exploitation and oppression? … | more |

Fifty Years Ago in Monthly Review

A widely-held belief in the United States is that Americans lead the world in social, humanitarian, and even egalitarian thinking. More specifically, Mrs. Roosevelt and other United States representatives at the UN are thought to have extended the frontiers of human rights on the international plane. The opposite is true…In December, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” which was to be a beacon light to the world—a guide to wider freedoms and a better life….The original idea was to draw up an International Bill of Rights which every country would sign just as it signs any other international convention….At this stage, the Americans displayed a rare example of long term planning on a UN matter… | more |

December 2000 (Volume 52, Number 7)

December 2000 (Volume 52, Number 7)

Praise for Karl Marx—albeit of a somewhat mocking kind—comes from the strangest places nowadays. In their new book Future Perfect: The Challenge and Hidden Promise of Globalization, John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, bestselling business authors and correspondents for the adamantly procapitalist Economist magazine, declare that, “as a prophet of socialism Marx may be kaput; but as a prophet of ‘the universal interdependence of nations,’ as he called globalization, he can still seem startlingly relevant. His description of globalization remains as sharp today as it was 150 years ago” (pp. 332-333). The same thing has been noticed in a quite different way in colleges and universities, as demand for courses on Marx, Marxism, and political economy appear once again to be on the rise.… | more |

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