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The Political Economy of Growth

Paul Baran’s Economic Surplus Concept, the Baran Ratio, and the Decline of Feudalism

Recently published and estimated historical data illustrate that economic surplus declined during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries in England, helping explain the “crisis of feudalism” that started in the thirteenth century. It was not until several centuries later, when capitalism became the dominant economic system, that the economic surplus began to rise on a consistent basis, due to the reinvestment of a portion of the surplus into productive activities, a greater ratio of capital income to rental income, and a greater ratio of investment to economic surplus. | more…

The Punishment Monopoly: Tales of My Ancestors, Dispossession, and the Building of the United States

Why, asks Pem Davidson Buck, is punishment so central to the functioning of the United States, a country proclaiming “liberty and justice for all”? The Punishment Monopoly challenges our everyday understanding of American history, focusing on the constructions of race, class, and gender upon which the United States was built, and which still support racial capitalism and the carceral state. After all, Buck writes, “a state, to be a state, has to punish … bottom line, that is what a state and the force it controls is for.” | more…

Copenhagen house' (John Gale Jones; Joseph Priestley; William Hodgson; John Thelwell; Charles James Fox), by James Gillray (died 1815), published 1795

The Trial of Thomas Hardy

A Forgotten Chapter in the Working-Class Fight for Democratic Rights

November 5, 2019, is the 225th anniversary of the acquittal of Thomas Hardy on charges of High Treason. Hardy is nearly forgotten today, but for decades workers and democrats in England celebrated November 5 as the anniversary of a major victory, a triumph over a powerful state that had deployed immense resources to crush working-class organizations and suppress popular demands for democratic rights. | 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…

Monster soup commonly called Thames water, being a correct representation of that precious stuff doled out to us!

Cesspools, Sewage, and Social Murder

Environmental Crisis and Metabolic Rift in Nineteenth-Century London

The accumulation of human excrement in nineteenth-century cities, particularly London, precipitated a historic environmental crisis—an aspect of the metabolic rift mostly overlooked in ecosocialist analysis. The solution that was finally adopted only shifted the problem out of sight, setting the stage for even greater crises in our time. | more…


An Eco-Revolutionary Tipping Point?

Global Warming, the Two Climate Denials, and the Environmental Proletariat

To solve the climate crisis, we need a system in which working people and their communities collectively and democratically regulate production and other interactions with their material and social environment. To deny that this crisis is hardwired into capitalism, and that we need a new system to deal with it, is just as misleading and dangerous as to deny the existence of human-induced global warming. | more…

Opening Ceremony Celebration of NHS. London 2012 Summer Games

The Battle for the National Health Service

England, Wales, and the Socialist Vision

England and Wales represent two very different, indeed incompatible, approaches to health care. In the former, health care has come under increasing threat from the predatory forces of privatization. In Wales, however, an explicit effort has been made to defend socialist values and formulate them for the twenty-first century, defending and expanding a system that puts the health and well-being of its citizens over profit. | more…

Carl Schorlemmer Postcard

Marx and Engels and the ‘Red Chemist’

The Forgotten Legacy of Carl Schorlemmer

Most accounts of Marx and Engels’s lives, if they mention Carl Schorlemmer (1834–92) at all, refer to the renowned chemist only as a friend, without acknowledging his influence on their studies of the natural sciences. It is time to restore this neglected figure to his rightful place in the Marxian—and Engelsian—tradition. | more…

Marx’s Ecological Notebooks

Karl Marx has long been criticized for his so-called ecological “Prometheanism”—an extreme commitment to industrialism, irrespective of natural limits. This view, supported even by a number of Marxists, such as Ted Benton and Michael Löwy, has become increasingly hard to accept after a series of careful and stimulating analyses of the ecological dimensions of Marx’s thought, elaborated in Monthly Review and elsewhere. The Prometheanism debate is not a mere philological issue, but a highly practical one, as capitalism faces environmental crises on a global scale, without any concrete solutions. Any such solutions will likely come from the various ecological movements emerging worldwide, some of which explicitly question the capitalist mode of production. Now more than ever, therefore, the rediscovery of a Marxian ecology is of great importance to the development of new forms of left strategy and struggle against global capitalism.… Yet there is hardly unambiguous agreement among leftists about the extent to which Marx’s critique can provide a theoretical basis for these new ecological struggles.… This article… [takes] a different approach… [investigating] Marx’s natural-scientific notebooks, especially those of 1868, which will be published for the first time in volume four, section eighteen of the new Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe(MEGA). | more…

The Silvertown Strike

A Partisan History

There is a concept in biology called “punctuated equilibrium”: organisms can display little discernible change over long periods of time before sudden, sharp, and profound changes. Without wishing to give credence to teleological or determinist views, it does seem that human history is profoundly dialectical. Sharp change that bewilders an apologist for the status quo can inspire and give hope to those of us who believe that a better world is possible. We live in interesting but depressing times today. Neoliberal ideas are hegemonic. The old collectivist values of the labor movement have been submerged in a tide of market fundamentalism, summed up in Margaret Thatcher’s claim that “there is no such thing as society; there are only individuals and families.” When I began researching for my Silvertown book, it became apparent to me that a similar flood tide of liberalism had washed over much of nineteenth-century Britain. This portrayed the status quo as normal, natural, and inevitable, but the equilibrium was punctuated in the last decades of the century. | more…

Friends of Alice Wheeldon: The Anti-War Activist Accused of Plotting to Kill Lloyd George

Friends of Alice Wheeldon: The Anti-War Activist Accused of Plotting to Kill Lloyd George

In early 1917, as Britain was bogged down in a war it feared would never end, Alice Wheeldon, her two daughters, and her son were brought to trial and imprisoned for plotting the assassination of Prime Minister Lloyd George, who they believed had betrayed the suffrage movement. In this highly evocative and haunting play, British historian and feminist Sheila Rowbotham illuminates the lives and struggles of those who opposed the war. The Wheeldons’ controversial trial became something of a cause célèbre—a show trial at the height of the First World War—based on fabricated evidence from a criminally insane fantasist, “Alex Gordon,” who was working for an undercover intelligence agency. It was a travesty of justice. Friends of Alice Wheeldon is combined here with Rowbotham’s extended essay, “Rebel Networks in the First World War,” that gives a historical overview of the political and social forces that converged upon the Wheeldon family and friends. | more…

Monthly Review Volume 66, Number 7 (January 2015)

January 2015 (Volume 66, Number 8)

Notes from the Editors

The publication of socialist books in the United States has always encountered serious institutional obstacles. This can be seen in the enormous hurdles that stood in the way of the successful publication 130 years ago of the English translation of Engels’s The Condition of the Working Class in England (1845)—today recognized as the classic account of the impact of the Industrial Revolution on workers. In 1885 Florence Kelley (-Wischnewetzky), the daughter of William D. Kelley, a U.S. Congressman and supporter of Lincoln, translated Engels’s book into English. Her initial plan was to publish the translation in the United States with the respected publishing firm of G.P. Putnam & Co. However, Putnam declined to publish it on the grounds that the book was outdated…and did not apply to U.S. industrialization, where such conditions of class exploitation were supposedly absent.… It is owing to these difficulties, associated with the U.S. publication of his book, that we have the benefit of some of Engels’s more important comments regarding the problem of publishing socialist works in a capitalist society. | more…

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