Wednesday July 30th, 2014, 3:13 pm (EDT)

Review of the Month

Review of the Month

Monopoly-Finance Capital

The year now ending marks the fortieth anniversary of Paul Baran and Paul Sweezy’s classic work, Monopoly Capital: An Essay on the American Economic and Social Order (Monthly Review Press, 1966). Compared to mainstream economic works of the early to mid-1960s (the most popular and influential of which were John Kenneth Galbraith’s New Industrial State and Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom), Monopoly Capital stood out not simply in its radicalism but also in its historical specificity. What Baran and Sweezy sought to explain was not capitalism as such, the fundamental account of which was to be found in Marx’s Capital, but rather a particular stage of capitalist development. Their stated goal was nothing less than to provide a brief “essay-sketch” of the monopoly stage of capitalism by examining the interaction of its basic economic tendencies, narrowly conceived, with the historical, political, and social forces that helped to shape and support them… | more |

The Explosion of Debt and Speculation

In a series of articles in Monthly Review and in Monthly Review Press books during the 1970s and 1980s, Harry Magdoff and Paul Sweezy proposed that the general economic tendency of mature capitalism is toward stagnation. A shortage of profitable investment opportunities is the primary cause of this tendency. Less investment in the productive economy (the “real economy”) means lower future growth. Marx wrote about the possibility of this very phenomenon… | more |

Empire of Oil: Capitalist Dispossession and the Scramble for Africa

put into words what all previous presidents could not bring themselves to utter in public: addiction. The United States, he conceded, is “addicted” to oil—which is to say addicted to the car—and as a consequence unhealthily dependent upon Middle Eastern suppliers. What he neglected to mention was that the post-Second World War U.S. global oil acquisition strategy—a central plank of U.S. foreign policy since President Roosevelt met King Saud of Saudi Arabia and cobbled together their “special relationship” aboard the USS Quincy in February 1945—is in a total shambles. The pillars of that policy—Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf oil states, and Venezuela—are hardly supplicant sheep within the U.S. imperial fold… | more |

A Warning to Africa: The New U.S. Imperial Grand Strategy

Imperialism is constant for capitalism. But it passes through various phases as the system evolves. At present the world is experiencing a new age of imperialism marked by a U.S. grand strategy of global domination. One indication of how things have changed is that the U.S. military is now truly global in its operations with permanent bases on every continent, including Africa, where a new scramble for control is taking place focused on oil… | more |

The Household Debt Bubble

It is an inescapable truth of the capitalist economy that the uneven, class-based distribution of income is a determining factor of consumption and investment. How much is spent on consumption goods depends on the income of the working class. Workers necessarily spend all or almost all of their income on consumption. Thus for households in the bottom 60 percent of the income distribution in the United States, average personal consumption expenditures equaled or exceeded average pre-tax income in 2003; while the fifth of the population just above them used up five-sixths of their pre-tax income (most of the rest no doubt taken up by taxes) on consumption.1 In contrast, those high up on the income pyramid-the capitalist class and their relatively well-to-do hangers-on-spend a much smaller percentage of their income on personal consumption. The overwhelming proportion of the income of capitalists (which at this level has to be extended to include unrealized capital gains) is devoted to investment… | more |

Neoliberalism: Myths and Reality

Agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) have enhanced transnational capitalist power and profits at the cost of growing economic instability and deteriorating working and living conditions. Despite this reality, neoliberal claims that liberalization, deregulation, and privatization produce unrivaled benefits have been repeated so often that many working people accept them as unchallengeable truths. Thus, business and political leaders in the United States and other developed capitalist countries routinely defend their efforts to expand the WTO and secure new agreements like the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) as necessary to ensure a brighter future for the world’s people, especially those living in poverty… | more |

The Millennium Development Goals: A Critique from the South

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were adopted by acclamation in September 2000 by a resolution of the United Nations General Assembly called “United Nations Millennium Declaration.” This procedural innovation, called “consensus,” stands in stark contrast to UN tradition, which always required that texts of this sort be carefully prepared and discussed at great length in committees. This simply reflects a change in the international balance of power. The United States and its European and Japanese allies are now able to exert hegemony over a domesticated UN. In fact, Ted Gordon, well-known consultant for the CIA, drafted the millennium goals!… | more |

Debunking as Positive Science

Reflections in Honor of the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of Stephen Jay Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man

The physicist Alan Sokal laid a trap for postmodernists and anti-science scholars on the academic left when he submitted his article, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity,” to Social Text, a left-leaning cultural studies journal. The trap sprang when the journal unwittingly published the article in its 1996 spring/summer issue. The article was intended to parody the type of scholarship that has become common in some sectors of the academy, which substitutes word-play and sophistry for reason and evidence. Sokal purposefully included in his article a variety of false statements, illogical arguments, incomprehensible sentences, and absurd, unsupported assertions, including the claim that there was in effect no real world and all of science was merely a social construction. He submitted the article to test whether the editors of Social Text had any serious intellectual standards. They failed the test, and the scandal that ensued has become legend… | more |

The New Geopolitics of Empire

Today’s imperial ideology proclaims that the United States is the new city on the hill, the capital of an empire dominating the globe. Yet the U.S. global empire, we are nonetheless told, is not an empire of capital; it has nothing to do with economic imperialism as classically defined by Marxists and others. The question then arises: How is this new imperial age conceived by those promoting it?… | more |

Crossing Race and Nationality: The Racial Formation of Asian Americans, 1852-1965

The U.S. immigration reform of 1965 produced a tremendous influx of immigrants and refugees from Asia and Latin America that has dramatically altered U.S. race relations. Latinos now outnumber African Americans. It is clearer than ever that race relations in the United States are not limited to the central black/white axis. In fact this has always been true: Indian wars were central to the history of this country since its origins and race relations in the West have always centered on the interactions between whites and natives, Mexicans, and Asians. The “new thinking” about race relations as multipolar is overdue… | more |

Empire and Multitude

Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri have chosen to call the current global system “Empire.”* Their choice of that term is intended to distinguish its essential constituent characteristics from those that define “imperialism.” Imperialism in this definition is reduced to its strictly political dimension, i.e., the extension of the formal power of a state beyond its own borders, thereby confusing imperialism with colonialism. Colonialism therefore no longer exists, neither does imperialism. This hollow proposition panders to the common American ideological discourse according to which the United States, in contrast to the European states, never aspired to form a colonial empire for its own benefit and thus could never have been “imperialist” (and thus is not today anymore than yesterday, as Bush reminds us). The historical materialist tradition proposes a very different analysis of the modern world, centered on identification of the requirements for the accumulation of capital, particularly of its dominant segments. Taken to the global level, this analysis thus makes it possible to discover the mechanisms that produce the polarization of wealth and power and construct the political economy of imperialism… | more |

Organizing Ecological Revolution

My subject—organizing ecological revolution—has as its initial premise that we are in the midst of a global environmental crisis of such enormity that the web of life of the entire planet is threatened and with it the future of civilization… | more |

Naked Imperialism

The global actions of the United States since September 11, 2001, are often seen as constituting a “new militarism” and a “new imperialism.” Yet, neither militarism nor imperialism is new to the United States, which has been an expansionist power—continental, hemispheric, and global—since its inception. What has changed is the nakedness with which this is being promoted, and the unlimited, planetary extent of U.S. ambitions… | more |

Labor Movements: Is There Hope?

For the past thirty years, the class struggle has been a pretty one-sided affair, with capital delivering a severe beating to labor around the globe. When economic stagnation struck most of the world’s advanced capitalist economies, beginning in the mid-1970s, capital went on the offensive, quickly understanding that the best way to maintain and increase profit margins in a period of slow and sporadic economic growth was to cut labor costs. Governments and global lending agencies such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund began to implement policies that made workers increasingly insecure… | more |

Albert Einstein, Radical: A Political Profile

2005 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Albert Einstein and the centennial of the publication of five of his major scientific papers that transformed the study of physics. Einstein’s insights were so revolutionary that they challenged not only established doctrine in the natural sciences, but even altered the way ordinary people saw their world. By the 1920s he had achieved international popular renown on a scale that would not become usual until the rise of the contemporary celebrity saturated tabloids and cable news channels. His recondite scientific papers as well as interviews with the popular press were front page news and fodder for the newsreels. Usually absent, however, was any sober discussion of his participation in the political life of his times as an outspoken radical-especially in profiles and biographies after his death… | more |

The Great Fear: Stagnation and the War on Social Security

David Wyss, chief economist for Standard & Poor’s, recently opened an article, “Good, Gloomy or Grim in 2005?,” with the words: “Growth tops the wish list [for the U.S. economy], but even recession wouldn’t be all that bad, given that recovery always follows. The big fear? Stagnation” (Business Week Online, January 10, 2005)… | more |

The End of Rational Capitalism

The twentieth century’s dominant myth was that of a “rational capitalism.” The two economists who did the most to promote this idea were John Maynard Keynes and Joseph Schumpeter. Both were responding to the great historical crisis of capitalism manifested in the First World War, the Great Depression, and the Second World War. In the wake of the greatest set of horrors the world had ever seen, accompanied also by the rise of an alternative, contending system in the Soviet Union, it was necessary for capitalism following the Second World War to reestablish itself ideologically as well as materially. In terms of the ideological requirement, the two economists who accomplished this most effectively were Keynes and Schumpeter—not simply because they epitomized the best in bourgeois economic ideology, but also because they were the leading representatives of bourgeois economic science. What they set out in their analyses were the requirements of a rational capitalism and at least the hope that these requirements would be achieved… | more |

India, a Great Power?

With a population of over a billion, approaching that of China, and an economic growth rate above the world average, India is now frequently identified as one of the prospective great powers of the twenty-first century. The purpose of this article is to question this prognosis, as the conditions necessary for India to become a great modern power seem to me far from assured.… | more |

The Failure of Empire

The United States is facing the prospect of a major defeat in Iraq that is likely to constitute a serious setback in the ongoing campaign to expand the American empire. Behind the pervasive war propaganda as evidenced in the “victorious” attack on Fallujah lies the reality of a U.S. war machine that is fighting a futile battle against growing guerrilla forces, with little chance for a stable political solution to the conflict that could possibly meet U.S. imperial objectives. Nevertheless, the U.S. ruling class, though not unaware of the dangers, is currently convinced that it has no choice but to “stay the course”-a slogan adopted by both political parties and accepted by virtually the entire economic, political, military, and communications establishment. The reason for this seemingly irrational determination to stick it out at all costs can only be understood through an analysis of the logic and limits of capitalist empire… | more |

Empire of Barbarism

“A new age of barbarism is upon us.” These were the opening words of an editorial in the September 20, 2004, issue of Business Week clearly designed to stoke the flames of anti-terrorist hysteria. Pointing to the murder of schoolchildren in Russia, women and children killed on buses in Israel, the beheading of American, Turkish, and Nepalese workers in Iraq, and the killing of hundreds on a Spanish commuter train and hundreds more in Bali, Business Week declared: “America, Europe, Israel, Egypt, Pakistan, and governments everywhere are under attack by Islamic extremists. These terrorists have but one demand-the destruction of modern secular society.” Western civilization was portrayed as standing in opposition to the barbarians, who desire to destroy what is assumed to be the pinnacle of social evolution… | more |