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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we seek to transcend the now fashionable view within the Western academic left that the concept of imperialism is obsolete.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…

New this week!
The Owner Finally Agreed to the Workers’ Demands by Stephanie McMillan

The New Imperialist Structure

We have reached a level of centralization in capital’s power of domination, such that the bourgeoisie’s forms of existence and organization as known up to now have been completely transformed. Contemporary capitalism has become a capitalism of generalized monopolies. Monopolies no longer form islands in an ocean of corporations that are not monopolies—and consequently are relatively autonomous—but an integrated system, and consequently now tightly control all productive systems. Small and medium-sized companies, and even large ones that are not themselves formally owned by the oligopolies, are enclosed in networks of control established by the monopolies upstream and downstream. Consequently, their margin of autonomy has shrunk considerably. These production units have become subcontractors for the monopolies. This system of generalized monopolies is the result of a new stage in the centralization of capital in the countries of the triad that developed in the 1980s and ’90s. | more…

Value Chains: The New Economic Imperialism by Intan Suwandi

Labor-Value Commodity Chains

The Hidden Abode of Global Production

This article will be released in full online July 22, 2019.

The analysis of global commodity chains creates some crucial questions in relation to the nature of imperialism in the twenty-first century: (1) whether decentralized global commodity chains can be seen as constituting a decentralization of power among the major actors within these chains, and (2) whether the complexities of these chains suggest that the hierarchical, imperialist characteristics of the world economy have been superseded. I argue that the answer to both of these questions is no. Despite the seemingly decentralized networks, and notwithstanding the existing complexities that characterize global commodity chains, the capital-labor relations inherent in these chains are still imperialistic in their configurations. | more…

Planet on Fire

Imperialism in the Anthropocene

This article will be released in full online July 29, 2019.

Today there can be no doubt about the main force behind our ongoing planetary emergency: the exponential growth of the capitalist world economy, particularly in the decades since the mid–twentieth century. The mere critique of capitalism as an abstract economic system, however, is insufficient in addressing today’s environmental problems. Rather, it is necessary also to examine the structure of accumulation on a world scale, coupled with the division of the world into competing nation-states. Our planetary problems cannot realistically be addressed without tackling the imperialist world system, or globalized capitalism, organized on the basis of classes and nation-states, and divided into center and periphery. Today, this necessarily raises the question of imperialism in the Anthropocene. | more…

The Communist Manifesto: 150th Anniversary Edition

A Note on the Communist Manifesto

This article will be released in full online August 19, 2019.

This reprise of Harry Magdoff’s 1969 “A Note on the Communist Manifesto” remains as relevant as ever—perhaps even more so. While capitalism by its very nature lives by accumulation and geographic expansion, it does so in a most unequal fashion. Even though nothing in economics follows strict mathematical rules, there are notable tendencies produced by the inner springs of capitalism. An outstanding example of such a tendency is found in the distinct and marked widening of the gap between a handful of rich nations and the rest of the world. The accelerating globalization of our times demonstrates this polarization in no uncertain terms. | more…

Break the Chains by Stephanie McMillan

Toward the Formation of a Transnational Alliance of Working and Oppressed Peoples

This article will be released in full online August 26, 2019.

For the last thirty years, the world system has undergone an extreme centralization of power in all its dimensions—local and international, economic and military, social and cultural. Creating a new transnational alliance of workers and oppressed peoples must be the main objective for the genuine militants who are convinced of the odious nature of the world imperialist capitalist system that we have at present. It is a heavy responsibility and the task requires several years before reaping any tangible results. | more…

Jazz and Justice: Racism and the Political Economy of the Music by Gerald Horne

Jazz and Justice: Racism and the Political Economy of the Music

The music we call “jazz” arose in late nineteenth century North America—most likely in New Orleans—based on the musical traditions of Africans, newly freed from slavery. Grounded in the music known as the “blues,” which expressed the pain, sufferings, and hopes of Black folk then pulverized by Jim Crow, this new music entered the world via the instruments that had been abandoned by departing military bands after the Civil War. Gerald Horne’s Jazz and Justice: Racism and the Political Economy of the Music examines the economic, social, and political forces that shaped this music into a phenomenal U.S.—and Black American—contribution to global arts and culture. | more…

superbugs

Superbugs in the Anthropocene

A Profit-Driven Plague

The promise of a world without disease has been replaced by warnings of evermore virulent pathogens, created by the very drugs that were supposed to save us. Scarcely a day passes without more news of people contracting infections or infectious diseases that cannot be cured by the strongest medicines available. Antimicrobial Resistance is a global health crisis driven by two major factors: the spectacular ability of bacteria to adapt to threats, and a pharmaceutical industry and health care system that puts profit before people. In addition to devastating climate change, the Anthropocene may be defined by epidemics that medicine cannot cure. | more…

US Primary energy consumption by source and sector 2017

Energy, Economic Growth, and Ecological Crisis

Can economic growth continue forever? This relatively simple question has posed some intellectual headaches for modern capitalism. Capital cannot tolerate any limits—that is, the drive for growth and the search for new markets are both necessary for the political and economic survival of capitalism. Viewed in this light, the implications of the question present something of an existential challenge to the current order. Capitalism cannot acknowledge any natural limits to economic growth, for that would mean acknowledging its ultimate demise. To keep up the pretense that capitalism represents a quasi-eternal and invincible system, most political leaders and economists who support the current order have begun reciting a series of elaborate narratives about the relationship between human economies and the natural world. | more…

School Begins from Puck Magazine 1-25-1899)

The Contemporary Contours of Imperialism

Situated largely within the Marxist debates on imperialism—but addressing the liberal formulations too—The Changing Face of Imperialism: Colonialism to Contemporary Capitalism is an important intervention regarding the material basis of imperialism and its three-hundred-year-old history of unequal power relations. The book broadly addresses five issues: (1) the nature of finance capital and the novel yet familiar processes of value extraction; (2) the world of capital; (3) global production networks and labor regimes; (4) the institutional system of nation-states in the new global order; and (5) the nature of integration from colonial regimes to now. | more…