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Introduction to the ‘Hungry for Profit’ Issue

The conventional view that agriculture was displaced by industry in two stages—by the industrial revolution in the late nineteenth century, and as a result of the rise of the agribusiness system in the mid-twentieth century—has left many observers of the contemporary political economy with the impression that to deal with agriculture is essentially to focus on political-economic history rather than contemporary political economy. Nothing could be further from the truth. The purpose of this special issue of MR is to help compensate for the neglect that agriculture has often suffered in political-economic literature of the late twentieth century. In so doing we will continue with a line of argument that was introduced in MR more than a decade ago in the July-August 1986 special issue Science, Technology, and Capitalism, edited by Steffie Woolhandler and David Himmelstein, which included landmark essays on U.S. agriculture and agricultural research by Richard Lewontin and Jean-Pierre Berlan  | more…

1998, Volume 50, Issue 03 (July-August)
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The Agrarian Origins of Capitalism

One of the most well established conventions of Western culture is the association of capitalism with cities. Capitalism is supposed to have been born and bred in the city. But more than that, the implication is that any city—with its characteristic practices of trade and commerce—is by its very nature potentially capitalist from the start, and only extraneous obstacles have stood in the way of any urban civilization giving rise to capitalism. Only the wrong religion, the wrong kind of state, or any kind of ideological, political, or cultural fetters tying the hands of urban classes have prevented capitalism from springing up anywhere and everywhere, since time immemorial—or at least since technology has permitted the production of adequate surpluses  | more…

1998, Volume 50, Issue 03 (July-August)
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June 1998 (Volume 50, Number 2)

What’s the matter with Japan? According to today’s conventional wisdom—i.e., what we are told by the media and the syndicated pundits—almost everything. Its economy, the second largest in the world, is in a long-term crisis that affects on everyone else, most severely the United States, and it stubbornly refuses to do anything about it despite the friendly advice and frustrated pleas of its partners in the developed capitalist world. | more…

1998, Volume 50, Issue 02 (June)
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The Reconstruction of Bourgeois Order in Northern Ireland

In April, the Northern Ireland process finally resulted in an agreement reached under the chairmanship of U.S. Senator John Mitchell. The so-called Good Friday Agreement, which is to be put to a referendum on May 22, proposed the establishment of a power-sharing Northern Ireland Assembly (with the prospect of Sinn Fein actually joining a Northern Ireland executive), a cross-border Council of Ireland to reassure the Nationalist community that their interests are protected, and a British Council to similarly reassure the Unionists. A major concession to the Unionists is the proposal that the Irish Republic drop its constitutional claim to the North. There is also an understanding that the prisoners from those paramilitary organizations accepting the agreement will be released within two years of its implementation. | more…

1998, Volume 50, Issue 02 (June)
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Science in a Skeptical Age

John Gillot and Manjit Kumar, Science and the Retreat from Reason (Monthly Review Press, 1997), 288 pp., $18.

We live in a skeptical age. All of the basic concepts of the Enlightenment, including progress, science and reason are now under attack. At the center of this skepticism lie persistent doubts about science itself, emanating both from within and from without the scientific community. Recent titles by scientists give an idea of the extent of the crisis in confidence within science: Science: The End of the Frontier? (1991) by Nobel prize winner Leon Lederman; The End of Certainty (1996) by Nobel laureate Ilya Prigogine; and The End of Science (1996) by Scientific American writer John Horgan. | more…

1998, Volume 50, Issue 02 (June)
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May 1998 (Volume 50, Number 1)

The fifteenth annual Socialist Scholars Conference (SSC) was held this year on the weekend of March 22–23, several weeks earlier than usual, but at the accustomed venue, the Borough of Manhattan Community College, way down on the west side, a couple of blocks from the Chambers Street subway station. The theme of the Conference was “A World to Win: from the Manifesto to New Organizing for Social Change.” MR panels were all well attended and received, in particular the panel “One Hundred and Fifty Years after the Communist Manifesto,” which opened the Conference on Saturday morning with Samir Amin, Daniel Singer, Ellen Wood, Aijaz Ahmad, Paul Sweezy, and Harry Magdoff speaking. | more…

1998, Volume 50, Issue 01 (May)
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The Communist Manifesto Today

I’ve probably read the Communist Manifesto a dozen times, more or less. But it never struck me as old hat. It was always worth reading again. So I thought that in preparation for this panel, I should read it once more, this time with special attention to insights and formulations that seem particularly relevant to the problems we face in the world as the twenty-first century approaches  | more…

1998, Volume 50, Issue 01 (May)
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A Note on the Communist Manifesto

Probably the passage in the Communist Manifesto most frequently cited these days is a portrayal of the global spread of capitalism:

All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose products are consumed not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe. In place of the old wants, satisfied by the productions of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands. We have universal inter-dependence of nations…. All nations, on pain of extinction, [are compelled] to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilization into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In a word, it creates a world after its own image.

1998, Volume 50, Issue 01 (May)
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April 1998 (Volume 49, Number 11)

Readers may remember that in last year’s summer issue on labor we talked about a roundtable organized by MR for activists in the labor movement and held in our office in New York last March. The idea was to provide a forum for labor activists to establish connections among themselves and to discuss issues of common interest at a particularly important historical moment, at a time when the labor movement in various parts of the world, including the United States, is beginning to show signs of renewal. We also hoped to revive the long dormant connection between the socialist left and the labor movement, and we were very pleased to discover that people within the movement were anxious to work with us too. | more…

1998, Volume 49, Issue 11 (April)
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Teamster Reform Movement Survives Carey’s Debacle

What’s remarkable about the aftermath of Ron Carey’s removal as a candidate for Teamsters president is the staying power of the reform movement. Most predicted the union would quickly fall back into the hands of the mobbed-up Old Guard, personified by James Hoffa, Jr. But in recent local elections rank and file members have chosen to carry on with the business of reform, without the man who once symbolized those changes in the Teamsters  | more…

1998, Volume 49, Issue 11 (April)
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The Scale of Our Ecological Crisis

One of the problems that has most troubled analysts of global ecological crisis is the question of scale. How momentous is the ecological crisis? Is the survival of the human species in question? What about life in general? Are the basic biogeochemical cycles of the planet vulnerable? Although few now deny that there is such a thing as an environmental crisis, or that it is in some sense global in character, some rational scientists insist that it is wrong to say that life itself, much less the planet, is seriously threatened. Even the mass extinction of species, it is pointed out, has previously occurred in evolutionary history. Critics of environmentalism (often themselves claiming to be environmentalists) have frequently used these rational reservations on the part of scientists to brand the environmental movement as “apocalyptic.” | more…

1998, Volume 49, Issue 11 (April)
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March 1998 (Volume 49, Number 10)

A striking feature of the mountain of talk about the Asian crisis is that its root cause is all too often ignored The focus of the media and the pundits is on weak banks, bad management, corrupt officials, heavy indebtedness, excess speculation, and the fragility of the financial markets. Typically, the disaster is viewed as a regional affair. A rare exception is the statement of Eisuke Sakakibara, Japan’s vice-minister for international finance: “This isn’t an Asian crisis. It is a crisis of global capitalism.” (Business Week, January 26, 1998) But he too was apparently thinking of financial markets, concerned with effects, not causes. | more…

1998, Volume 49, Issue 10 (March)
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