John Bellamy Foster
The Theory of Monopoly Capitalism: An Elaboration of Marxian Political Economy
Monthly Review Press, New York, new edition 2014. 320pp., $22 pb
Reviewed by Hans G Despain
The Monthly Review tradition has played a unique and invaluable role in understanding and explaining contemporary social being. Philosophically Monthly Review has been eclectic and broadminded. With respect to political economy the tradition of Monthly Review retains its broadmindedness, but can also be described as both steadfast and innovative. The new edition of John Bellamy Foster’s The Theory of Monopoly Capitalism (2014) is an excellent introduction and elaboration to fundamental issues in Marxian political economy in the context of the debates that emerged concerning monopoly capitalism and the Monthly Review tradition.
The Monthly Review tradition was formed around the intellectual genius of Paul Sweezy and Paul Baran. It is deeply rooted in the political economy of Karl Marx, with strong influences from the Institutional and Post-Keynesian political economy traditions. Although fundamental texts go back to the 1930s and 1940s, it is the publication of Baran and Sweezy’s Monopoly Capital in 1966 that marks the emergence of Monthly Review as coherent and unique intellectual tradition.
The theory of monopoly capital never experienced halcyon days; Aeolus never restrained the winds nor calmed the waves of intellectual criticism. Generally ignored by the academic right, hounded by the FBI and Congressional Committees, blacklisted, and threatened with imprisonment, the intellectual output of the Monthly Review “martyrs and convicts” had substantial impact on the Left; much supportive and much in criticism, especially from New Left and other (“fundamental”) Marxists…