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November 2018 (Volume 70, Number 6)

November 2018 (Volume 70, Number 6)

The twenty-first century has resulted in a vast upsurge of ecological Marxism and ecosocialism more generally, building on the environmental critique of capitalism embedded in classical historical materialism. At the same time, it has also engendered opposing tendencies and approaches concerning how we understand relentless ecological destruction under capitalism. This issue is dedicated to exploring the theoretical advances, schools of thought, and debates on the left in regard to our world’s ecological crisis, which threatens the survival of humanity and is inescapable within the present capitalist system of production. | more…

Capitalism is eating the planet

Value Isn’t Everything

The rapid advances in Marxian ecology in the last two decades have given rise to extensive debates within the left, reflecting competing conceptions of theory and practice in an age of planetary ecological and social crisis. One key area of dispute is the attempt by a growing number of radical environmental thinkers to deconstruct the labor theory of value in order to bring everything in existence within a single commodity logic. For many in Green circles, Karl Marx and a long tradition of Marxian theorists are to be faulted for not directly incorporating the expenditure of physical work/energy by extra-human nature into the theory of value. In response, this article argues that any form of analysis that seeks to eliminate the deep-seated dialectical contradictions between the natural form and the value form, as well as between the capitalist economy and the larger socioecological metabolism, fails to comprehend the complex, interdependent dialectics of nature and humanity. | more…

Rosa Luxemburg

The Social Character of Value

In this excerpt from The Accumulation of Capital, Rosa Luxemburg explains how classical political economy lacks a clear conception of the commodity—both in the terms of the distinctions between use value and exchange value, as well as between concrete and abstract labor. This metaphysical, essentialist framework leads to a complete failure to understand the social character of labor’s capacity to create value. | more…

The Biofuels Deception: Going Hungry on the Green Carbon Diet

The Biofuels Deception: Going Hungry on the Green Carbon Diet

There is by now no question among informed people that the Earth is undergoing severe climate change—soon to become catastrophic, if humans don’t take drastic measures to stop it. Heroically into the fray steps the biofuel industry, announcing to millions of anxious consumers that this eco-crisis can be averted if only they turn away from fossil fuels, to the saving power of synthetic bioproducts. But, although eliminating fossil fuels is essential, the manufacture of biofuels has far more to do with sating profit-hungry corporations than with saving the Earth. Combining meticulous scientific narrative with devastating economic analysis, The Biofuels Deception argues that the seemingly innovative, hopeful campaign for “green energy” is actually driven by bio-technology industries and global grain-trading corporations. | more…

Can the Working Class Change the World?

Can the Working Class Change the World?

One of the horrors of the capitalist system is that slave labor, which was central to the formation and growth of capitalism itself, is still fully able to coexist alongside wage labor. But, as Karl Marx pointed out, it is the fact of being paid for one’s work that validates capitalism as a viable socio-economic structure. Beneath this veil of “free commerce”—where workers are paid only for a portion of their workday, and buyers and sellers in the marketplace face each other as “equals”—lies a foundation of immense inequality. Yet workers have always rebelled. They’ve organized unions, struck, picketed, boycotted, formed political organizations and parties—sometimes they have actually won and improved their lives. In his timely and innovative book, Michael D. Yates asks if the working class can, indeed, change the world. | more…

Samir Amin

The Communist Manifesto, 170 Years Later

In the last piece he wrote before his passing, Samir Amin revisits, for our age, the most important revolutionary document of all time, the Communist Manifesto. In a fitting conclusion to the work of a great revolutionary intellectual, Amin seeks nothing less than to explain the changing world trajectory from 1848 to 2018. Against the persistent vision of the globalized development of capitalism, he puts forward a vision for the transformation of the world through revolutionary processes—breaking with the submission to the deadly vicissitudes of the decadence of civilization.
Monthly Review Volume 70, Number 4 (September 2018)

September 2018 (Volume 70, Number 4)

Notes from the Editors

Founded in the late 1960s and recently revived, the radical organization Science for the People did—and does—far more than just publish a magazine. Chapters are forming around the country, including physicists, engineers, and biologists, as well as representatives of other scientific groupings and social movements. We at MR welcome the return of this great publication and movement of the U.S. left. | more…

Seeding clouds over the ocean

Making War on the Planet

Geoengineering and Capitalism's Creative Destruction of the Earth

The dangers posed by climate change have inspired a desperate search for technological fixes in the form of geoengineering—massive human interventions to manipulate the entire climate or planet. But as long as the dominant strategy for addressing global warming remains subordinated to the ends of capital accumulation, any attempt to implement such schemes will prove fatal to humanity. | more…

Dark Clouds of Factory Smoke Obscure Clark Avenue Bridge in Cleveland, Ohio in 1973

‘The Deadly Implications of Capital for the Human Habitat’

A Letter to István Mészáros from Paul M. Sweezy, October 16, 1992

In October 1992, MR founding editor Paul M. Sweezy wrote the following brief letter, published here for the first time, to István Mészáros in response to an interview with Chris Arthur and Joseph McCarney that had just been published in Radical Philosophy. Sweezy saluted the critical significance of Mészáros’s argument on “the monstrous power of capital,” and the failure of many Marxists to perceive this problem in its full dimensions. He also affirmed the imperative of incorporating the ecological economics of Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen.
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…

A spectre haunts capitalism

Marx’s Open-Ended Critique

Against attempts to characterize Marx as a dogmatic and deterministic thinker, it is precisely the open-endedness of his criticism that accounts for historical materialism’s staying power. This openness has allowed Marxism to continually reinvent itself, expanding its empirical and theoretical content and embracing ever larger aspects of historical reality. | more…

Protest against worker precariousness

The New Service Proletariat

From call centers to fast-food restaurants, the future of service work is one of precarious employment, with no stable schedules, wages, benefits, or union representation. Should these workers be considered part of a new service proletariat, or treated as a new class altogether, the “precariat”? | more…

Section of the Diego Rivera's mural "From the conquest to 1930" focusing on Marx and the class struggle

The Multiple Meanings of Marx’s Value Theory

The Marxian critique of political economy is inseparable from the “labor theory of value.” But what exactly does this theory mean? This article considers Marx’s value theory from five perspectives: as a monetary value theory, a theory of exploitation, a macro-monetary theory of capitalist production, a theory of individual prices, and a theory of crises. | more…