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Volume 53, Issue 08 (January)

January 2002 (Volume 53, Number 8)

Notes from the Editors

The U.S. news media coverage of the current war has again drawn attention to the severe limitations of our journalism, and our media system, for a viable democratic and humane society. The coverage has effectively been stenography to those in power, and since the Democrats have offered dismal resistance to or even interrogation of the war policies, uncomfortable facts that undermine enthusiasm for the war, and the broader wave of militarism it is part of, appear only briefly on the margins. Dissident opinions, as they do not come from elite quarters, are all but nonexistent in the premier media outlets. The most striking admission of the propaganda basis of U.S. journalism came from CNN, when it insisted that its domestic coverage of the war be sugarcoated so as not to undermine popular enthusiasm for the war, while its international coverage would regard the United States in a more critical manner; i.e. exactly as credible journalists should regard it | more…

Monopoly Capital and the New Globalization

We live at a time when capitalism has become more extreme, and is more than ever presenting itself as a force of nature, which demands such extremes. Globalization—the spread of the self-regulating market to every niche and cranny of the globe—is portrayed by its mainly establishment proponents as a process that is unfolding from everywhere at once with no center and no discernible power structure. As the New York Times claimed in its July 7, 2001 issue, repeating now fashionable notions, today’s global reality is one of “a fluid, infinitely expanding and highly organized system that encompasses the world’s entire population,” but which lacks any privileged positions or “place of power.” | more…

The Unemployed Workers Movement in Argentina

Latin America has witnessed three waves of overlapping and inter- related social movements over the last twenty-five years. The first wave, roughly from the late 1970s to the mid-1980s, was largely composed of what were called “the new social movements.” They included human rights, ecology, feminist, and ethnic movements as well as Non- Government Organizations (NGOs). Their leadership was largely lower middle class professionals, and their policies and strategies revolved around challenging the military and civilian authoritarian regimes of the time | more…

Taking Exams, Taking on Capitalism

Bertell Ollman, How to Take an Exam…& Remake the World (Montreal and New York: Black Rose Books, 2001), 191 pages, $19.99 paper.

Bertell OIlman’s How to Take an Exam … & Remake the World has a double agenda, which OIlman candidly acknowledges: to offer advice about studying (which the student wants) and to make a powerful plea for socialism (which OIlman wants). As a study guide, the book offers suggestions for exam preparation that are mostly serious (persistently reminding the student of the importance of advance preparation and offering guidance about how to do that), sometimes cheeky (pre-exam sex is okay, drugs and cheating not), sometimes subversive (in the advice on how to get over on the professor), and at bottom deeply crit- ical of exams as a genre, especially the ones that discourage thinking. OIlman argues that the function of exams is to train submissive work- ers, a trenchant assessment that grows increasingly explicit as the book develops. These exam tips and observations form less than half the story of the book, which scatters them amongst a devastating political analysis. While his experience as a professor makes him a good adviser for exam taking, his commitment to progressive politics and his deep knowledge of Marxism and capitalism make the political and economic material the more powerful part of the book, as he intends | more…

Wealth Gap Woes

Chuck Collins, Betsy Leondar-Wright and Holly Sklar, Shifting Fortunes: The Perils of the Growing American Wealth Gap (Boston: United for a Fair Economy, 1999), 94 pp., $6.95 paper.

It is a telling historical fact that during both the lean times of the late 1970s and early 1980s, and the boom times of the 1990s, one thing has remained relatively constant: economic inequality in the United States has been increasing. During recessions it is workers who are asked to tighten their belts and who have to cope with falling wages, shrinking fringe benefits, or even massive layoffs, while everything possible is done to preserve corporate profits and income that is derived through ownership. During times of expansion one might expect the incomes of both owners and workers to increase. However, in the boom of the 1990s, while income derived through ownership increased, wages for most workers continued to stagnate and fringe benefits continued to be whittled down. About the only thing that kept the poverty rate at a respectably low level was the low unemployment rate. The boom now seems to have ended without workers ever making substantial gains | more…

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