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The Civil War in the United States by Karl Marx

Marx and Slavery

The rise to prominence of analyses of racial capitalism represents a breakthrough in Marxian theory. This has necessarily been accompanied by a critique of previous Marxian analyses, which all too often ignored or minimized the relation of slavery to capitalism. In recent years, however, these criticisms of orthodox Marxist treatments of slavery have been extended, much more problematically, to the work of Karl Marx himself. Although Marx never wrote a treatise on slavery, the issue of slave labor was woven into his analysis of social formations, both ancient and modern, and was inextricably intertwined with his treatment of wage labor. | more…

Workers at a mine in Knockmahon, County Waterford, Ireland in 1906

The Rift of Éire

Karl Marx’s (and Frederick Engels’s) analysis of nineteenth-century Irish history revealed what is referred to as “the rift of Éire” in the colonial period. Indeed, it is in relation to the analysis of the systematic disruption of the Irish environment that Marx’s ecological inquiries can be seen as taking on a concrete and developed form, encompassing the ecological as well as economic robbery that characterized the Irish colonial regime. | more…

The Robbery of Nature: Capitalism and the Ecological Rift

In the nineteenth century, Karl Marx, inspired by the German chemist Justus von Liebig, argued that capitalism’s relation to its natural environment was that of a robbery system, leading to an irreparable rift in the metabolism between humanity and nature. In the twenty-first century, these classical insights into capitalism’s degradation of the earth have become the basis of extraordinary advances in critical theory and practice associated with contemporary ecosocialism. In The Robbery of Nature, John Bellamy Foster and Brett Clark, working within this historical tradition, examine capitalism’s plundering of nature via commodity production, and how it has led to the current anthropogenic rift in the Earth System. | more…

Daytime in Indian Creek, the Sixshooter Peaks in Bears Ears National Monument

Capitalism and Robbery

The Expropriation of Land, Labor, and Corporeal Life

Historical capitalism cannot be understood aside from its existence as a colonial/imperialist world system in which the violent exercise of power is an ever-present reality. In order to uncover the material conditions governing concrete capitalism, including its interface with land, nonwage labor, and corporeal life, it is therefore necessary to go beyond the inner reality of exploitation, and address expropriation, or the process of appropriation without equivalent (or without reciprocity) through which capital has sought to determine its wider parameters. | more…

Planet on Fire

Imperialism in the Anthropocene

Today there can be no doubt about the main force behind our ongoing planetary emergency: the exponential growth of the capitalist world economy, particularly in the decades since the mid–twentieth century. The mere critique of capitalism as an abstract economic system, however, is insufficient in addressing today’s environmental problems. Rather, it is necessary also to examine the structure of accumulation on a world scale, coupled with the division of the world into competing nation-states. Our planetary problems cannot realistically be addressed without tackling the imperialist world system, or globalized capitalism, organized on the basis of classes and nation-states, and divided into center and periphery. Today, this necessarily raises the question of imperialism in the Anthropocene. | more…

A child ploughing the land with a water buffalo in Don Det, Si Pan Don, Laos

Marx and Alienated Speciesism

In many animal-rights circles, Karl Marx and a long tradition of Marxian theorists are to be faulted for their speciesist treatment of nonhuman animals and the human-nonhuman animal relationship. These criticisms typically neglect the larger historical conditions, intellectual influences, and debates out of which Marx’s treatment of the human-animal dialectic arose—even though this is crucial to any meaningful understanding of his thought in this area. In response, this article assesses the historical-intellectual background behind Marx’s arguments on humans and animals, placing it in the context of the influence exercised on his thought by Epicurus, Hermann Samuel Reimarus, Ludwig Feuerbach, Charles Darwin, and others. In the process, they explain how Marx’s view of animals in the world came to be integrated with his theory of metabolic rift and his critique of capitalism. | more…

A 19th-century illustration depicts a scene off the coast of Peru, where bird poop, or guano, was harvested

The Robbery of Nature

Capitalism and the Metabolic Rift

Marx’s notion of “the robbery of the soil” is intrinsically connected to the rift in the metabolism between human beings and the earth. To get at the complexities of his metabolic rift theory, it is useful to look separately at the issues of the robbery and the rift, seen as separate moments in a single development. | more…

Nutrient pollution caused by Surface runoff of soil and fertilizer during a rain storm (1999)

Land–Sea Ecological Rifts

A Metabolic Analysis of Nutrient Loading

Increasing rates of nitrogen and phosphorus application have caused severe damage to aquatic systems, as rivers, streams, lakes, bays, and ocean systems have been inundated with nutrient runoff. Only by addressing the metabolic rupture in the soil nutrient cycle and the contradictions of capital can we begin to mend these land–sea rifts. | more…

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