Saturday April 18th, 2015, 3:18 am (EDT)

Review of the Month

Review of the Month

2: A System of Wholesale Denial of Rights

As in the past, Americans owe Jean-Claude Paye a debt of gratitude. From his position, as a sociologist in Brussels, he has proven that he can see what is happening in George Bush’s and Dick Cheney’s America, more clearly perhaps than many who live in the United States.…As Paye notes, there are two important aspects to the regime created by the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 (DTA) and the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA). The MCA recognizes a distinction between “enemy combatants” who are citizens of the United States and those who are aliens. Alien enemy combatants are, as Paye notes, subjected entirely to the regime of military commissions and denied access to civil courts except under limited circumstances. Citizen enemy combatants have access to civil courts, but find their rights constricted in other ways. The alien-citizen distinction in the MCA is a congressional response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, in which a five-justice majority held that the president did not have the power to strip citizens and aliens alike of their right of access to civil courts and to the writ of habeas corpus. The Court invited the president to return to Congress to validate his claims of power, and Congress obligingly did so, thus proving that there are few persons in the elected leadership willing to raise a voice against the imperial powers of which Paye writes.… | more |

Imminent Crises: Threats and Opportunities

egrettably, there are all too many candidates that qualify as imminent and very serious crises. Several should be high on everyone’s agenda of concern, because they pose literal threats to human survival: the increasing likelihood of a terminal nuclear war, and environmental disaster, which may not be too far removed. However, I would like to focus on narrower issues, those that are of greatest concern in the West right now. I will be speaking primarily of the United States, which I know best, and it is the most important case because of its enormous power. But as far as I can ascertain, Europe is not very different… | more |

The Imperialist World System

Paul Baran’s Political Economy of Growth After Fifty Years

The concept of the imperialist world system in today predominant sense of the extreme economic exploitation of periphery by center, creating a widening gap between rich and poor countries, was largely absent from the classical Marxist critique of capitalism. Rather this view had its genesis in the 1950s, especially with the publication fifty years ago of Paul Baran’s Political Economy of Growth. Baran’s work helped inspire Marxist dependency and world system theories. But it was the new way of looking at imperialism that was the core of Baran’s contribution. A half-century later it is important to ask: What was this new approach and how did it differ from then prevailing notions? What further changes in our understanding of imperialism are now necessary in response to changed historical conditions since the mid-twentieth century?… | more |

The Financialization of Capitalism

Changes in capitalism over the last three decades have been commonly characterized using a trio of terms: neoliberalism, globalization, and financialization. Although a lot has been written on the first two of these, much less attention has been given to the third.* Yet, financialization is now increasingly seen as the dominant force in this triad. The financialization of capitalism-the shift in gravity of economic activity from production (and even from much of the growing service sector) to finance—is thus one of the key issues of our time. More than any other phenomenon it raises the question: has capitalism entered a new stage?… | more |

Israel in the U.S. Empire

Any reader of Israel Studies’s recent issue on the “Americanization of Israel” would be likely to conclude that the most important aspect of U.S.-Israel relations was cultural and religious exchange.* U.S. commodification of Israeli consumption is a key focus here, as is the impact of U.S. religious trends on Israeli religious practices. Though politics does feature in the issue, its place is largely restricted to the influence of the United States on the Israeli party political system and to the ideological convergence between Christian fundamentalism and the Likud Party. The informing conception of the issue, then, seems to be the endeavor to pinpoint those aspects of Israel that have been “Americanized” in recent years. Contributors are thus preoccupied with determining how specific U.S. forms and norms have migrated to and been translated into Israeli culture and society… | more |

The Ecology of Destruction

I would like to begin my analysis of what I am calling here “the ecology of destruction” by referring to Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1969 film Burn!. Pontecorvo’s epic film can be seen as a political and ecological allegory intended for our time. It is set in the early nineteenth century on an imaginary Caribbean island called “Burn.” Burn is a Portuguese slave colony with a sugar production monoculture dependent on the export of sugar as a cash crop to the world economy. In the opening scene we are informed that the island got its name from the fact that the only way that the original Portuguese colonizers were able to vanquish the indigenous population was by setting fire to the entire island and killing everyone on it, after which slaves were imported from Africa to cut the newly planted sugar cane… | more |

Transient Servitude: The U.S. Guest Worker Program for Exploiting Mexican and Central American Workers

Defining moments in the history of a nation are time and again overshadowed by the drama of war. These critical events are often domestic policy decisions that affect the immediate state of a country and have serious consequences for the future. Significant examples in U.S. history include: the initial decision of the revolutionary government to found a republic dedicated to the lofty principles of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” but embracing slavery, a contradiction that ultimately led to civil war; the decision to prematurely end reconstruction efforts in the South after the Civil War, a policy reversal which allowed the long-term oppression and exploitation of the emancipated slaves and their descendents; and the decision during the Second World War to encourage the mass migration of poor African Americans from the rural South to the industrial centers of the Midwest and Northeast to support the war economy, a haphazard resettlement program that resulted in the ghettoization and continued oppression of a significant national minority… | more |

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 |

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