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Monthly Review Volume 68, Number 7 (December 2016)

December 2016 (Volume 68, Number 7)

In October 2016, the Sveriges Riksbank (Swedish Central Bank) Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel—commonly but incorrectly called the Nobel Prize in Economics—was awarded to two European-born, U.S.-based economists, Oliver Hart and Bengt Holmström, for their work on contracts related to executive pay. Hart and Holmström were lauded for having theorized what was thought to be the optimal mix of risk and incentives in pay packages for corporate executives, thereby determining the appropriate combination of basic salary, bonuses, and share options. In other words, they received the Riksbank Nobel Memorial Prize for their efforts to rationalize the exorbitant paychecks of CEOs and other corporate leaders—a direct service to big business.… | more…

New this week!
TPP Comic from People's Daily Online

The Rhetoric and Reality of the Trans-Pacific Partnership

A View from China

This article will be made available online on December 5th.

Since announcing its foreign policy “pivot to Asia” shortly after the election of Barack Obama, the United States has made extensive use of its institutional and discursive power to encourage denationalization among developing countries whose economies chiefly rely on manufacturing and trade—part of its global strategic goal of expanding the hegemony of finance capital at the lowest possible cost. The development of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) is a case in point. This article analyzes the TPP’s strategy in targeting China, pointing out that the TPP is a battle for the terms of economic development and discourse in the twenty-first century, as well as an illustration of the ideology of technocracy and soft power. Lastly, we criticize the TPP’s erosion of economic sovereignty, which would effectively relegate the economies of developing countries to a form of semi-colonial extraterritoriality.… | more…

The American War in Vietnam: Crime or Commemoration?

Lessons from the Vietnam War

This article will be made available online on December 12th.

The Vietnam War was an example of imperial aggression.… Imperialism ultimately enriches the home country’s dominant class. The process involves “unspeakable repression and state terror,” and must rely repeatedly “upon armed coercion and repression.” The ultimate aim of modern U.S. imperialism is “to make the world safe” for multinational corporations.… U.S. imperial actions in Vietnam and elsewhere are often described as reflecting “national interests,” “national security,” or “national defense.” Endless U.S. wars and regime changes, however, actually represent the class interests of the powerful who own and govern the country. Noam Chomsky argues that if one wishes to understand imperial wars, therefore, “it is a good idea to begin by investigating the domestic social structure. Who sets foreign policy? What interest do these people represent? What is the domestic source of their power?”… | more…

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Monthly Review Volume 68, Number 6 (November 2016)

November 2016 (Volume 68, Number 6)

Notes from the Editors

U.S. presidential elections, if nothing else, throw considerable light on the ideology and imperatives of the system. This is particularly the case with respect to imperialism, where one sees signs of a declining and increasingly desperate U.S. empire. Hillary Clinton has been calling for a no-fly zone in Syria (which would include Russian planes!), thereby threatening a confrontation with Russia on a level not seen since the Cuban Missile Crisis.… Trump, for his part, while appearing to suggest a kind of détente with Russia, is ready to intervene directly and massively in Iraq against the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh), including the use of ground troops. He supports the extension of torture and the slaughter of whole families of suspected terrorists. He claims that he would raise Israel from being a second-level power…. In short, the presidential nominees for the two major political parties are each posturing over who is the most aggressive and bellicose upholder of U.S. militarism and imperialism—and in ways that threaten further escalation of war in the Middle East and in opposition to Russia.… | more…

The Great Inequality by Michael D. Yates

Measuring Global Inequality

It is by now well known that significant and growing economic inequality is a central feature of the U.S. economy, as previous articles in Monthly Review have shown. However, the same is also the case for much of the rest of the world. Inequality arises in other countries for reasons similar to those in the United States, but each nation has its own history, along with widely divergent economic and political structures. Here we will look first at the most recent data on global inequality, and then at its causes and consequences.… | more…

Intersectionality and Primary Accumulation

Caste and Gender in India under the Sign of Monopoly-Finance Capital

The overarching goal of this article is to explain how the relations between capitalist imperialism, primary accumulation—often misleadingly called “primitive accumulation”—and intersectionality operate in contemporary global political economy. From many recent studies, it is clear that certain populations are more vulnerable to processes of primary accumulation than others, and that many people in the global South now experience the dispossession and displacement caused by primary accumulation without any subsequent incorporation into waged work. Understanding how ethnicity, gender, and class intersect within contemporary patterns of global accumulation is important in order to develop clear political strategies against ongoing dispossessions.… To do so, imperialism, primary accumulation, and intersectionality all need to be rethought, especially in relation to each other.… | more…

Monthly Review Volume 68, Number 5 (October 2016)

October 2016 (Volume 68, Number 5)

On August 29, in a historic moment in the history of the planet, the 35-member Anthropocene Working Group (AWG) reported to the International Geological Congress that the Anthropocene epoch in geological history is “stratigraphically real” and should be dated as arising around 1950, displacing the Holocene epoch of the last 12,000 years. The AWG has yet to arrive at a formal decision that would adopt a definite global “signal” (though ten of the thirty-five members currently support using fallout radionuclides from atomic weapons testing as the signal), which would be followed by the designation of a “golden spike” or actual location in the rock, sediment, or ice strata. Yet the general parameters of the onset of the new epoch are clear.… As Colin Waters, secretary of the AWG, explained: “Being able to pinpoint an interval of time is saying something about how we have had an incredible impact on the environment of our planet. The concept of the Anthropocene manages to pull all these ideas of environmental change together.” Most importantly, it tells us that the world economy has generated an anthropogenic rift in the Earth system threatening millions of species, including our own, requiring fundamental changes in the way in which society relates to the earth through production.… | more…

What Is Socialism for the Twenty-First Century?

Often the best way to begin to understand something is to consider what it is not. Socialism for the twenty-first century is not a society in which people sell their ability to work and are directed from above by others whose goal is profits rather than the satisfaction of human needs. It is not a society where the owners of the means of production benefit by dividing workers and communities in order to drive down wages and intensify work…. Nor is it a statist society where decisions are top-down and where all initiative is the property of state office-holders or cadres of self-reproducing vanguards.… Also, socialism for the twenty-first century is not populism.… Further, socialism for the twenty-first century is not totalitarianism.… [S]ocialism for the twenty-first century does not dictate personal belief…. Nor does socialism for the twenty-first century worship technology and productive forces…. Finally, contrary to its self-proclaimed inventor (Heinz Dieterich), socialism for the twenty-first century is not “essentially a problem of informatic complexity” that requires cybernetic calculation of quantities of concrete labor as the basis for an exchange of equivalents.&hellp; So, let us explain what socialism for the twenty-first century is. … | more…

Digital Disconnect

The Internet and Monopoly Capitalism

Robert W. McChesney, Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism Is Turning the Internet against Democracy (New York: New Press, 2013), 299 pages, $27.95, hardcover.

Without question, the Internet has had a profound influence on the world. As with most technologies, debates rage over whether this development has been positive or negative. Celebrants proclaim with utopian fervor that a new age of democracy has arrived, allowing for decentralized communication, challenges to corporate control, and mass public participation in the most important decisions confronting humanity. Skeptics point to the ways the Internet has spread ignorance and misinformation instead of knowledge, undermined the ability of artists to earn a living, and exacerbated isolation, unhappiness, and alienation. While these arguments illuminate the potential benefits and drawbacks of the Internet, they tend to ignore or disregard the larger political economy within which the Internet exists. In Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism Is Turning the Internet against Democracy, Robert W. McChesney transcends these one-sided engagements, offering a nuanced analysis of the development of the Internet within the context of monopoly capitalism, revealing both the limitations of this technology in its current state and its massive potential.… | more…

The Deeper Genome

The Science and Politics of DNA

John Parrington, The Deeper Genome (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 272 pages, $19.95, paperback.

John Parrington’s book The Deeper Genome breaks new ground in establishing a materialist understanding of how the genome works. Most popular science books on genetics have dealt with the genetic code, focusing on the information contained in our genes and the physical or personality traits this information might “code for.” Parrington instead turns his attention to the molecules that form our genomes, uncovering new research and assessing its implications for the way we think about genetics.… | more…

Black Lives Matter and the Struggle for Freedom

In late April 2016, at a town hall-style event in London, President Obama complained about the rising movement against the state-sanctioned murder of black people often referred to as Black Lives Matter. Activists, he admonished, should “stop yelling” and instead push for incremental change through the official “process.”… The spectacle of the first black president scolding black activists in the context of a rising rate of police murder (as of this writing, the police have killed 630 individuals, at least 155 of them black, nationwide in 2016) speaks volumes about the state of black politics today.… For those trying to understand the emergence of a new black movement—or, perhaps more accurately, a new phase of a longer, older movement—on the watch of the first black president, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor’s new book, From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation is an essential starting point.… | more…

The Anthropocene Crisis

The Anthropocene, viewed as a new geological epoch displacing the Holocene epoch of the last 10,000 to 12,000 years, represents what has been called an “anthropogenic rift” in the history of the planet.… Recent scientific evidence suggests that the period from around 1950 on exhibits a major spike, marking a Great Acceleration in human impacts on the environment, with the most dramatic stratigraphic trace of the anthropogenic rift to be found in fallout radionuclides from nuclear weapons testing.… Viewed in this way, the Anthropocene can be seen as corresponding roughly to the rise of the modern environmental movement, which had its beginnings in the protests led by scientists against above-ground nuclear testing after the Second World War, and was to emerge as a wider movement following the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962. Carson’s book was soon followed in the 1960s by the very first warnings, by Soviet and U.S. scientists, of accelerated and irreversible global warming. It is this dialectical interrelation between the acceleration into the Anthropocene and the acceleration of a radical environmentalist imperative in response that constitutes the central theme of Ian Angus’s marvelous new book.… | more…

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