Released: January 1966
This landmark text by Paul Baran and Paul Sweezy is a classic of twentieth-century radical thought, a hugely influential book that continues to shape our understanding of modern capitalism.
All the basic ideas of Marx’s great work Das Kapital were formulated from 1840 to 1865, the heyday of competitive capitalism in Britain which was then by far the world’s leading economic power; and it was natural that Marx should focus his attention on this system. In his work, monopoly appears only occasionally, as a remnant of a mercantilist past or as a shadow cast by a future he did not expect capitalism to live to see.
Yet capitalism did live to see that future. In the decades after Marx’s death, monopoly, in the shape of giant corporations linked together by a network of financial institutions, moved to the center of the stage. This momentous fact was recognized by Hilferding, and it was Lenin’s genius to make it the foundation stone of his theory of imperialism. Yet paradoxically enough, the impact of this profound economic transformation was felt least of all in the area most immediately affected: Marxian economic theory. Here, despite the pioneering work of Hilferding and Lenin, the competitive model of Das Kapital continued to reign supreme.
The authors of this book reconsider this traditional approach to economic theory. In order to follow Marx’s own example and to make the most fruitful use of his powerful analytical method, it has become necessary to shift the focus of attention. For in the present stage of world capitalism, and most especially in the United States, the giant monopolistic (or oligopolistic) corporation has become the dominant entity, and this fact has an overriding significance for an understanding of the system’s modus operandi.
The purpose of Monopoly Capital is to effect this shift in the focus of attention from competition to monopoly. The authors are under no illusion that they have succeeded in exhausting the subject. They had no such ambitious goal. Their purpose and hope is to help people to see present-day capitalist society differently and more realistically, to highlight the central problems which need to be tackled and solved, and to indicate directions in which further study and thought are needed.
Baran and Sweezy have produced an appraisal of American society … that is totally at odds with the interpretation of American society we find in the books of most professors … unlike most books we read, this one attacks prevailing beliefs at their roots.
A brilliant description of the economic forces at work in the main centers of economic power—the giant corporations … Monopoly Capital may be regarded as an analysis of the sources of contemporary political formations … and the corporate ideology … Monopoly Capital will be a munificent source of insights and ideas for many years to come.
This is in every way a stimulating and refreshing books, written lucidly and easily, without jargon or dogma, and representing a welcome attempt to look at the monopoly capitalism of today with fresh eyes. Merely as exposition, rendering what are often quite difficult problems accessible to the layman, it is something of a tour de force. For comprehensive sweep, topicality, and quality of thought we have not had its equal in Marxian economic literature for a very long time.