Ecology, a.k.a. environmental studies, is a relatively new area of scientific interest, mostly a product of the second half of the twentieth century and rapidly growing as the century draws to a close. It combines in one way or another most of the physical and social sciences, defies any attempt to force it into a neat definition of its own, and increasingly raises and attempts to cope with daunting problems such as the future of the human species and other forms of life on earth. No wonder it is an area not only of scientific interest, but also of excitement, confusion, brilliant insights, and stubborn adherence to self-serving dogmas.
The literature of environmental studies is enormous and growing rapidly. We at MR have contributed to it in small ways and no doubt will continue to do so through our own efforts and those of authors among like-minded readers and friends. One of those meeting this description is our colleague and fellow member of the Board of Directors of Monthly Review Foundation, John Bellamy Foster. John started in political science, ventured into political economy with his book Theory of Monopoly Capitalism: an Elaboration of Marxian Political Economy (MR Press, 1986) and settled in sociology, in which he is now a professor at the University of Oregon. In the last few years, he, like many others, has become increasingly interested in environmental studies, one fruit of which was his well-reviewed book, The Vulnerable Planet (MR Press, 1994).
Most recently, John has moved further into the areas of environmental studies by becoming co-editor (along with John Jermier of South Florida University) of a new journal, Organization and Environment (O&E). Actually, O&E is both new and not-new: it is a successor to Industrial and Ecological Crisis Quarterly published by Sage Publications which also publishes other academic journals. For business reasons having to do with fulfilling paid-for subscriptions, the first volume of O&E is numbered 10, but in other respects (editorial content, separate departments, plans for the future, etc.), it is a wholly new undertaking. For further information, contact Sage Publications, P.O. Box 5084, Thousand Oaks, CA 91359, phone (805)499-9774, fax (805) 499-0871.
Any discussion of China’s economic situation and possible ways of dealing with it should begin with two often-cited and apparently widely accepted statistics: (1) a hundred million unemployed and underemployed workers are (to quote the New York Times of September 28) “wandering the countryside;” (2) another hundred million are dependent for their survival on “hopelessly unprofitable industrial dinosaurs” in the state sector of the economy (Business Week, September 29). It is against this background that one must evaluate decisions of the September conference of the ruling Communist Party to plunge ahead with a policy of privatizing the state sector, with its inevitable consequence of bankruptcies, closings, and downsizing of existing industrial enterprises. If this course of action is persisted in—and the record to date provides little reason to suppose that it will not be—China seems well on its way to times of troubles rivaling anything in its long and checkered history.
Correction: In the October 1997 issue (Vol. 49 No. 5) in Stanislav Menshikov’s review of Revolution from Above: The Demise of the Soviet System by David Kotz and Fred Weir, the book was priced at $26.95. The actual price of the book is $18.95.