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The U.S. Left and Media Politics

American democracy is in deep trouble. Cynicism and distrust of the political system, fueled at least in part by imposed ignorance, have grown steadily in recent years. There are several reasons for this, but few as important as the condition of our media. Many Americans, especially those on the left, know that after a generation of rampant consolidation and conglomeration, the American media are dominated by less than twenty firms—and that a half-dozen or so corporate giants hold the commanding positions. These firms use their market power to advance their own and other companies’ corporate agendas. And they increasingly commercialize every aspect of our culture. By any known theory of political democracy, this tightly-held media system, accountable only to Wall Street and Madison Avenue, is a poisonous proposition  | more…

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Social Change and Human Nature

When radical social change is mentioned, apologists for present practice take a philosophical turn. In nearly every discussion of social alternatives to market capitalism, defenders of the marketplace appeal to their own conception of human nature as the final explanation of the predatory competitiveness of our age of waste and greed. We are quickly assured that the ever more unsatisfying and dangerous exploitation of our natural and social environment is an inevitable consequence of our human nature  | more…

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Fusing Red and Green

James O’Connor, Natural Causes: Essays in Ecological Marxism (New York: Guilford, 1998), 350 pp., $19.95, paper.

One of the foremost Marxist social scientists in the United States, James O’Connor has produced many original insights into the political economy of the United States, and global capitalism. His Fiscal Crisis of the State (1973) revealed the structural roots of government deficit problems, and his subsequent work has focused on the development of a general theory of capitalist crisis. In Accumulation Crisis (1984) and The Meaning of Crisis (1987), he surveyed and synthesized alternative viewpoints on the economic, political, cultural and psychological crisis tendencies of late-twentieth century capitalism. Since 1988, when he co-founded the innovative “eco-Marxist” quarterly Capitalism, Nature, Socialism, O’Connor has expanded his vision of capitalist crisis and socialist movements to incorporate natural conditions more fully. Natural Causes gathers together O’Connor’s major writings over this last period, providing an excellent opportunity to assess his considerable contribution to eco-Marxist theory and practice  | more…

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January 1999 (Volume 50, Number 8)

Ideology comes, as we all know, in many guises, some more subtle and insidious than others. Children in the United States learn very early to think that capitalism means good things, like freedom and democracy, long before they’re taught it in so many words. It’s just something they take in by breathing the air  | more…

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Braverman and the Class Struggle

Since Paul Sweezy gently rejected my first submission to Monthly Review in 1972, he and Harry Magdoff and all of the MR writers and staffpersons, living and deceased, have been my mentors, helping me to see things more clearly and to act more effectively. And Harry Braverman’s book ranks near the top of MR’s books which have deeply influenced my thinking. I remember mentioning it in my PhD defense in 1976. I told the committee that one of the weaknesses of my thesis, which was about public school teachers’ unions, was that it had not incorporated the pioneering work of Harry Braverman in Labor and Monopoly Capital. I had a suspicion that the work of teachers was not immune to the forces described so well by Braverman: detailed division of labor, mechanization, Taylorization. Today, as the fine scholar David Noble will tell us, these forces are bearing down upon the professoriate, with potentially devastating results  | more…

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December 1998 (Volume 50, Number 7)

Back in 1972, when one of us was living in Toronto, the Canadian national hockey team played a series of much publicized games against the Soviet Union. Horror of horrors, the Soviet team started winning. The defeat of Canada’s favorites at its own national sport, and, worst of all, at the hands of Communists, was an occasion for some deep national soul-searching in the mainstream press. There were some astonishing editorials, which came very close to questioning the fundamental values of capitalism if it could so weaken the moral fiber of Canadians as to lead them to defeat by the Communist adversary at their very own game  | more…

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Malthus’ Essay on Population at Age 200

Since it was first published 200 years ago in 1798, no other single work has constituted such a bastion of bourgeois thought as Thomas Malthus’ Essay on the Principle of Population. No other work was more hated by the English working class, nor so strongly criticized by Marx and Engels. Although the Malthusian principle of population in its classical form was largely vanquished intellectually by the mid-nineteenth century, it continued to reemerge in new forms. In the late nineteenth century it took on new life as a result of the Darwinian revolution and the rise of social Darwinism. And in the late twentieth century Malthusianism reemerged once again in the form of neo-Malthusian ecology. | more…

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November 1998 (Volume 50, Number 6)

There’s been a lot of discussion in MR about the implications of “globalization.” We don’t intend to repeat the arguments here, but we recently received a communication that brings into focus one major aspect of this much debated issue: what it means for workers to “think globally, act locally.”  | more…

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On Gender and Class in U.S. Labor History

The relationship between gender and class, central to understanding the history of the labor movement, raises important issues for Marxist analysis in general. Grappling with the complexities of this relationship forces us to confront a wide range of theoretical and practical questions. What is the connection between “material conditions” and “identity”? What role do culture, discourses, sexuality, and emotions play in shaping people’s responses to their material conditions? How are the varieties of consciousness of class related to other identities and affiliations? These questions challenge us theoretically and politically, as we seek to develop a working-class politics that incorporates struggles against all forms of oppression  | more…

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Globalization and Internationalism

The Communist Manifesto is the best known of all writings by Marx and Engels. Indeed, with the sole exception of the Bible, no other book has been translated so often or republished so many times. But what does it have in common with the Bible? Not very much, except for the denunciation of social injustice in some of the prophetic books. Like Amos or Isaiah, Marx and Engels spoke out against the vileness of the rich and powerful and raised their voices in solidarity with the poor and humble. Like Daniel, they read the writing on the walls of the New Babylon: Mene, Mene, Tekel Upharsin: thy days are numbered. But unlike the prophets of the Hebrew Bible, they put none of their hopes upon any god, any messiah, any supreme savior: the liberation of the oppressed is to be the work of the oppressed themselves  | more…

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