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May 2008 (Volume 60, Number 1)

The subprime mortgage crisis that emerged late last summer in the United States led to a massive seizure in the world financial system that has had capital staggering ever since. This has now carried over to the “real economy” of jobs and income. As reported in the Wall Street Journal on April 4, “The National Bureau of Economic Research probably won’t say this for months. But why wait? The U.S. economy fell into recession sometime in January” (“Job Market Hints Recession Has Started”). World economic growth as a whole is expected to decline sharply this year…… | more…

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The World Food Crisis: Sources and Solutions

An acute food crisis has struck the world in 2008. This is on top of a longer-term crisis of agriculture and food that has already left billions hungry and malnourished. In order to understand the full, dire implications of what is happening today it is necessary to look at the interaction between these short-term and long-term crises. Both crises arise primarily from the for-profit production of food, fiber, and now biofuels, and the rift between food and people that this inevitably generates…… | more…

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United States of Insecurity: Interview with Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky is an Institute Professor of Linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His most recent books are Interventions (City Lights, 2007), Failed States (Metropolitan Books, 2007), and Inside Lebanon: Journey to a Shattered Land with Noam and Carol Chomsky (Monthly Review Press, 2007). Gabriel Matthew Schivone is an editor of Days Beyond Recall: Alternative Media and Literary Journal and winner of the 2007 Frederica Hearst Prize for Lyrical Poetry.This article is based on an interview conducted by telephone and e-mail November 27, 2007–February 11, 2008. The interviewer thanks Mary Elizabeth Barnes for help with editing and transcribing this interview…… | more…

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The Subprime Debacle

As the United States braces itself for the onset of a recession, much of the blame for the current downturn is being attributed to the recent subprime mortgage crisis. While boom and bust cycles in real estate markets are nothing new, what distinguishes the current crisis is that the massive run-up in home prices was driven by the proliferation of new forms of securitized finance that permitted massive sums of loan capital to be pumped into the property markets. Only a few years prior these exotic financial products were being touted for their ability to hedge risk and achieve a more efficient allocation of credit. Buoyed by an exuberant sense that the wizards of Wall Street had so thoroughly transformed the nature of risk that the rules of the game had been fundamentally altered, investor demand for these securities exploded, and the underwriting and trading of these new forms of engineered debt underwent an extraordinary period of growth…… | more…

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Sweezy in Perspective

Paul M. Sweezy was, in the words of his contemporary John Kenneth Galbraith, “the most distinguished of present-day American Marxists.” A Harvard-trained economist, his writings spanned some seven decades from the early 1930s to the closing years of the twentieth century. For more than half a century he was coeditor of Monthly Review, subtitled An Independent Socialist Magazine, which he founded along with Leo Huberman in 1949. Although first and foremost an economist, Sweezy was also a social scientist in a much broader sense. His impact on political science, sociology, history, and other disciplines was profound. He took the entire globe as his field of analysis, helping to enlarge our understanding of imperialism and of the necessity of revolution, particularly in the third world.… | more…

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Emergency Clinic

Adrienne Rich’s most recent book is Telephone Ringing in the Labyrinth: Poems 2004–2006. A selection of her essays, Arts of the Possible: Essays and Conversations, appeared in 2003. She edited Muriel Rukeyser’s Selected Poems for the Library of America. She is a recipient of the National Book Foundation’s 2006 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, among other awards.… | more…

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A Revolutionary Identity

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra Years (Boston: South End Press, 2005), 304 pages, paperback, $18.00.

Few U.S. revolutionaries of her generation have “lived to tell the tale” like Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, to borrow the title of Gabriel García Márquez’s memoirs. Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra Years is the last volume of a trilogy including Red Dirt: Growing up Okie (University of Oklahoma Press, 1992) and Outlaw Woman: A Memoir of the War Years (City Lights, 2001). Although influenced by oral traditions in his “native” Colombian Caribbean, García Márquez has little to say about his own political commitments, or Colombian politics more generally. In contrast, influenced by traditions of storytelling native to rural Oklahoma and Native American communities throughout the U.S. West, Dunbar-Ortiz’s latest memoir puts flesh on the bones of the slogan “the personal is political.” The phrase, she notes, was coined within the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and carried into the women’s liberation and antiwar movements.… | more…

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Disaster Capitalism: An Offer You Can’t Refuse—Or Can You?

Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2007), 466 pages, hardcover, $28.00.

At the crossroads of Buenos Aires’s shopping district sits a posh mall called the Galerías Pacífico, a showcase for global brand names and a playground for Argentina’s rich. One day, a film crew descended to the basement. There they found an abandoned torture chamber, its walls still etched with names, dates, and messages from political prisoners disappeared under the military junta. In The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein goes digging deep into the basements of global capitalism, from the torture labs of Latin America to the oil fields of Iraq, unearthing the bodies and catching the culprits red-handed. In the process, she demolishes one of the great myths of our time: that free markets go hand in hand with free societies, and that globalized free enterprise brings peace and democracy. Instead, as Klein documents in this definitive history, the new world order is the product of three decades of free-market terror, torture, and shock.… | more…

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April 2008 (Volume 59, Number 11)

The United States and the world economy are now experiencing a major economic setback that began in the financial sector with the bursting of the housing bubble, but which can ultimately be traced back to the basic problems of capitalism arising from class-based accumulation (see the Review of the Month in this issue).…Things are clearly much worse, with respect to the general public understanding of these problems, here in the United States, the citadel of capitalism, than elsewhere in the world. We were therefore bemused by an article entitled “Europe’s Philosophy of Failure” by Stefan Theil, Newsweek‘s European economics editor, appearing in the January–February 2008 Foreign Policy. Theil writes of the “prejudice and disinformation” incorporated in French and German secondary school textbooks dealing with economics. Such textbooks he complains “ingrain a serious aversion to capitalism.”… | more…

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The Financialization of Capital and the Crisis

With the benefit of hindsight, few now doubt that the housing bubble that induced most of the recent growth of the U.S. economy was bound to burst or that a general financial crisis and a global economic slowdown were to be the unavoidable results. Warning signs were evident for years to all of those not taken in by the new financial alchemy of high-risk debt management, and not blinded, as was much of the corporate world, by huge speculative profits. This can be seen in a series of articles that appeared in this space: “The Household Debt Bubble” (May 2006), “The Explosion of Debt and Speculation” (November 2006), “Monopoly-Finance Capital” (December 2006), and “The Financialization of Capitalism” (April 2007).… | more…

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An Age of Transition: The United States, China, Peak Oil, and the Demise of Neoliberalism

Until recently, the global capitalist economy has enjoyed a period of comparative tranquility and grown at a relatively rapid pace since the global economic crisis of 2001–02. During this period of global economic expansion there have been several important economic and political developments. First, the United States—the declining hegemonic power but still the leading driving force of the global capitalist economy—has been characterized by growing internal and external financial imbalances. The U.S. economy has experienced a period of debt-financed, consumption-led “expansion” with stagnant wages and employment, and has been running large and rising current account deficits (the current account deficit is a broad measure of the trade deficit). Second, China has become a major player in the global capitalist economy and has been playing an increasingly important role in sustaining global economic growth. Third, global capitalist accumulation is imposing growing pressure on the world’s natural resources and environment. There is increasingly convincing evidence that the global oil production will reach its peak and start to decline in a few years. Fourth, the U.S. imperialist adventure in the Middle East has suffered devastating setbacks and there has been growing resistance to neoliberalism and U.S. imperialism throughout the world.… | more…

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