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The Great Inequality by Michael D. Yates

Measuring Global Inequality

It is by now well known that significant and growing economic inequality is a central feature of the U.S. economy, as previous articles in Monthly Review have shown. However, the same is also the case for much of the rest of the world. Inequality arises in other countries for reasons similar to those in the United States, but each nation has its own history, along with widely divergent economic and political structures. Here we will look first at the most recent data on global inequality, and then at its causes and consequences.… | more…

March 2016 (Volume 67, Number 10)

March 2016 (Volume 67, Number 10)

Ellen Meiksins Wood, who died on January 14, was coeditor of Monthly Review with Harry Magdoff and Paul M. Sweezy from 1997 to 2000, and a major contributor to historical materialist thought in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. Her parents were socialist refugees, members of the Jewish Labor Bund who came to the United States in 1941, after fleeing Latvia in the 1930s, when indigenous fascists came to power. Her mother worked for the Jewish Labor Committee in New York and her father for the United Nations. Ellen obtained her B.A. in Slavic languages at the University of California at Berkeley and went on to do graduate studies in political science at Berkeley, where she met and married Neal Wood, a professor in the department. From the late 1960s to the late 1990s, she taught political theory in the political science department at York University in Toronto.… | more…

Secular Stagnation

Mainstream Versus Marxian Traditions

Paul M. Sweezy wrote in 1982, “it is my impression that the economics profession has not yet begun to resume the debate over stagnation which was so abruptly interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War.” Thirty years later things appear to have changed. Former U.S. Secretary of Treasury Larry Summers shocked economists with his remarks regarding “stagnation” at the IMF Research Conference in November 2013, and he later published these ideas in the Financial Times and Business Economics.… Summers’s remarks and articles were followed by an explosion of debate concerning “secular stagnation” [which] can be defined as the tendency to long-term (or secular) stagnation in the private accumulation process of the capitalist economy, manifested in rising unemployment and excess capacity and a slowdown in overall economic growth…. Responses to Summers have been all over the map, reflecting both the fact that the capitalist economy has been slowing down, and the role in denying it by many of those seeking to legitimate the system.… | more…

Lessons from Iceland

Capitalism, Crisis, and Resistance

If we are to build support for an alternative to capitalism we need clarity on the causes and consequences of the contemporary capitalist drive for greater liberalization and privatization, as well as the benefits from and limits to state direction of capitalist economic activity. Although a small country, Iceland’s recent experience has much to teach us about capitalist dynamics and strategies of transformation.… | more…

The Crisis of Capitalism in Europe, West and East

There are three dimensions to the current, unprecedented global crisis of capitalism: economic, ecological, and political.

Let us look first at the economic dimension, which will be our main concern in this article. Capitalism is facing a major realization crisis—an inability to sell the output produced, i.e., to realize, in the form of profits, the surplus value extracted from workers’ labor. Neoliberalism can be viewed as an attempt initially to solve the stagflation crisis of the 1970s by abandoning the “Keynesian consensus” of the “golden age” of capitalism (relatively high social welfare spending, strong unions, and labor-management cooperation), via an attack on labor. It succeeded, in that profit rates eventually recovered in the major capitalist economies by the 1990s… | more…

What Needs To Be Done: A Socialist View

Today the capitalist economies of the world are in deep trouble. Some economists have theorized that the linkages between the United States and the rest of the world had been weakened as other nations gained more economic autonomy. A decoupling thesis was presented claiming that a crisis in one part of the system (say, North America) would not affect other major parts (say, Europe and Asia). We now know this is not true. Toxic assets were sold around the world, and banks in Europe, Asia, and Japan are in trouble too. Housing bubbles have burst in Ireland, Spain, and many other countries. In Eastern Europe, homes were bought with loans from Swiss, Austrian, and other European banks, payable in European currencies. As the economies of Hungary and other nations in the region, which financed their explosive growth with heavy borrowing from Western banks, have gone into recession, their currencies have suffered a sharp deterioration in exchange rates. This means that mortgage payments have risen sharply, as it now takes many more units of local currency to buy the Swiss francs or euros needed to pay the loans. In some cases, mortgage payments have doubled.… | more…

Blue Covenant: The Alternative Water Future

The three water crises—dwindling freshwater supplies, inequitable access to water, and the corporate control of water—pose the greatest threat of our time to the planet and to our survival. Together with impending climate change from fossil fuel emissions, the water crises impose some life-or-death decisions on us all. Unless we collectively change our behavior, we are heading toward a world of deepening conflict and potential wars over the dwindling supplies of freshwater— between nations, between rich and poor, between the public and the private interest, between rural and urban populations, and between the competing needs of the natural world and industrialized humans… | more…

What Will We Do?: The Destruction of Occupational Identities in the ‘Knowledge-Based Economy’

Faced with the difficulty of “placing” a stranger, the most common opening gambit is to ask, “What do you do?” Except perhaps in a few small hunter-gatherer tribes, a person’s occupation is one of the most important delineators of social identity. In many European cultures this is reflected in family names. People called Schmidt, Smith, Herrero, or Lefebvre, for instance, had ancestors who were iron workers. Wainwrights and Wagners are descended from wagon makers, and so on with the Mullers (Millers), Boulangers (Bakers), Guerreros (soldiers), and all the myriad Potters, Butchers, Carters, Coopers, Carpenters, Fishers, Shepherds, and Cooks whose names can be found in any North American phone book… | more…

The World Trade Organization? Stop World Take Over

On November 30,1999, when the World Trade Organization (WTO) opened its third round of ministerial meetings, the three thousand official delegates, two thousand journalists, and other registered observers were greatly outnumbered by the tens of thousands of protesters who came from all over the world to denounce the organization. Estimates of protester numbers ranged to forty thousand, according to the Seattle Times, which told its readers that the demonstrations were larger than those of 1970, when twenty to thirty thousand people (ten thousand according to the Seattle Times) shut down Interstate 5 to protest the Vietnam War. The parallel is appropriate. The still-growing movement in opposition to efforts of institutions such as the WTO to take over the management of the international economy may well be larger than any popular protest movement of the last twenty years or more.… | more…