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Monthly Review Volume 71, Number 4 (September 2019)

September 2019 (Volume 71, Number 4)

This special issue of Monthly Review honors the fiftieth anniversary this month of Margaret Benston’s landmark “The Political Economy of Women’s Liberation.” The essay sparked a revolution in Marxian thought, the full implications of which are only now being perceived in contemporary social reproduction theory. We have reprinted Benson’s pieces together with contributions by Silvia Federici, Martha E. Gimenez, Selma James (interviewed by Ron Augustin), Leith Mullings, Marge Piercy, and Lise Vogel, all of whom have played leading roles since the 1970s in the development of feminist historical materialism. | more…

The Political Economy of Women’s Liberation

In sheer quantity, household labor, including child care, constitutes a huge amount of socially necessary production. Nevertheless, in a society based on commodity production, it is not usually considered “real work” since it is outside of trade and the market place. This assignment of household work as the function of a special category women means that this group does stand in a different relation to production than the group men. Except for the very rich, who can hire someone to do it, there is for most women, an irreducible minimum of necessary labor involved in caring for home, husband, and children. Household work remains a matter of private production. | more…

Capitalism also Depends on Domestic Labour

“She Was My Kind of Scientist”

Margaret Benston and the Political Economy of Women's Liberation

In the late 1960s, the North American women’s liberation movement was reaching a highpoint of activity, its militancy complemented by a flourishing literature. This was the environment into which Margaret Benston’s 1969 Monthly Review essay, “The Political Economy of Women’s Liberation,” struck like a lightning bolt. At the time, many in the movement were describing women’s situation in terms of sociological roles, functions, and structures—reproduction, socialization, psychology, sexuality, and the like. In contrast, Benston proposed an analysis in Marxist terms of women’s unpaid labor in the family household. In this way, she definitively shifted the framework for discussion of women’s oppression onto the terrain of Marxist political economy. | more…

What Is Intersectional Feminism?

Women, Class, and Identity Politics

Reflections on Feminism and Its Future

The question of the oppression of women, the critique of which constituted feminism as an academic and political pursuit, has been feminism’s enduring source of strength and appeal, yielding numerous critical theories and perspectives. This has produced continual conceptual shifts defining an evolving feminism, such as the shift from women to gender and from inequality to difference. It has also involved shifts from theorizing the general conditions of women’s experience—oppressed at home and in the workplace, while juggling the conflicting demands of both—to theorizing the implications of the claim that, while gender may be the main source of oppression for white, heterosexual, middle-class women, women with different characteristics and experiences are affected by other forms of oppression as well. A possible way for Marxist feminism to remain a distinctive theoretical and politically relevant perspective might be to return to class, in the Marxist sense, theoretically reexamining the relationship between class and oppression, particularly the oppression of working-class women, within capitalist social formations. | more…

A Wages for Housework march in 1977

On Margaret Benston

The Political Economy of Women's Liberation

Margaret Benston’s “The Political Economy of Women’s Liberation” appears as both a return to the past and, at the same time, if not a “watershed,” as described by Peter Custers, certainly a new turn. On the one hand, she reiterated the classic Marxist-Leninist argument concerning the precapitalist, premarket character of domestic work. On the other, she so strongly insisted on the importance of this work for the stability and perpetuation of the capitalist system that she not only anticipated some of the theses later argued by theorists in the Wages for Housework Campaign, but often fell into apparent contradictions. | more…

Kathleen Cleaver, Black Panther Party Headquarters 1969

Mapping Gender in African-American Political Strategies

Gender is not just about women; it is about the social relationship between men and women and the dialectical, reciprocal, and cultural construction of femininity and masculinity. Recognition of a unique historical experience concerning gender informs the perspectives of African Americans of various political persuasions. This history incorporates a land of origin with certain common principles about gender and family. It also encompasses the African-American experience in the United States where the denial of many “protections” offered by gender roles and indeed sometimes inversion of such roles was a means of maintaining control. Hence asserting the right to assume gender-based roles of husband, father, wife, and mother paradoxically was an act of resistance. The manner in which African-American people have envisioned relationships of gender in light of that history has expressed itself in markedly different forms. | more…

Selma James in July 2012

Beyond Boundaries

In 1952, Selma James wrote the classic pamphlet A Woman’s Place and, in 1972, she and Mariarosa Dalla Costa published their groundbreaking The Power of Women and the Subversion of the Community, which discussed how women’s unpaid housework and care work is crucial to the production of the working class and, thus, the economy as a whole, launching the domestic labor debate inside the women’s movement. That same year, the International Wages for Housework Campaign was formed. In an interview with Ron Augustin at her home in London, James spoke of her political activities and years with C. L. R. James, whom she was with for more than twenty-five years, each with their own political activities but also sharing important struggles. | more…

Monthly Review Volume 71, Number 3 (July-August 2019)

July-August 2019 (Volume 71, Number 3)

This special issue of Monthly Review is meant both to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Harry Magdoff’s The Age of Imperialism: The Economics of U.S. Foreign Policy, which was devoted to the analysis of imperialism at the height of U.S. hegemony, and to carry this analysis forward to address the present era of late imperialism in the twenty-first century. In bringing together work on the political economy of imperialism in the current era of globalized production, we seek to transcend the now fashionable view within the Western academic left that the concept of imperialism is obsolete. The imperialist world system stands not only for capitalism at its most concrete historical level, but also for the entire dynamic structure of power constituting accumulation on a world scale, which can only be understood in terms of a developing global rift between center and periphery, global North and global South. Failure to attend to this fissure would be fatal for humanity. | more…

Anti-imperialism mural in Caracas, Venezuela

Late Imperialism

Fifty Years After Harry Magdoff's The Age of Imperialism

The globalization of production (and finance)—which emerged along with neoliberalism out of the economic stagnation of the mid–1970s and then accelerated with the demise of Soviet-type societies and China’s reintegration into the capitalist world system—has generated a more generalized monopoly capitalism, ushering in what can be called late imperialism. Late imperialism refers to the present period of monopoly-finance capital and stagnation, declining U.S. hegemony and rising world conflict, accompanied by growing threats to the ecological bases of civilization and life itself. It stands at its core for the extreme, hierarchical relations governing the capitalist world economy in the twenty-first century, which is increasingly dominated by mega-multinational corporations and a handful of states at the center of the world system. Just as it is now common to refer to late capitalism in recognition of the end times brought on by simultaneous economic and ecological dislocations, so it is necessary today to speak of late imperialism, reflecting the global dimensions and contradictions of that system, cutting across all other divisions, and posing a “global rift” in human historical development: an epochal crisis posing the question of “ruin or revolution.” | more…

The Logic of Neoliberalism

Neoliberal Capitalism at a Dead End

Today, we not only have decades of neoliberalism behind us, but the neoliberal regime itself has reached a dead end. Contemporary imperialism has to be discussed within this setting. There are two main reasons why the regime of neoliberal globalization has run into a dead end. The first is an ex ante tendency toward global overproduction; the second is that the only possible counter to this tendency within the regime is the formation of asset-price bubbles, which cannot be conjured up at will and whose collapse, if they do appear, plunges the economy back into a crisis. In short, there are no “markets on tap,” to use the words of British economic historian Samuel Berrick Saul, for contemporary metropolitan capitalism, such as had been provided by colonialism prior to the First World War and by state expenditure in the post-Second World War period of dirigisme. | more…