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Capitalism, the Absurd System: A View from the United States

Perhaps nothing points so clearly to the alienated nature of politics in the present day United States as the fact that capitalism, the economic system that drives the society, is effectively off-limits to critical review or discussion. To the extent that capitalism is mentioned by politicians or pundits, it is regarded in hushed tones of reverence for the genius of the market, its unquestioned efficiency, and its providential authority. One might quibble with a corrupt and greedy CEO or a regrettable loss of jobs, but the superiority and necessity of capitalism—or, more likely, its euphemism, the so-called “free market system”—is simply beyond debate or even consideration. There are, of course, those who believe that the system needs more regulation and that there is room for all sorts of fine-tuning. Nevertheless, there is no questioning of the basics.… | more…

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South Africa’s Bubble Meets Boiling Urban Social Protest

As the June-July 2010 World Cup draws the world’s attention to South Africa, the country’s poor and working-class people will continue protesting, at what is now among the highest rates per person in the world. Since 2005, the police have conservatively measured an annual average of more than eight thousand “Gatherings Act” incidents (public demonstrations legally defined as involving upwards of fifteen demonstrators) by an angry urban populace….This general urban uprising has included resistance to the commodification of life—e.g., commercialization of municipal services—and to rising poverty and inequality in the country’s slums.… | more…

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Awakening in Oaxaca: Stirrings of the People’s Giant

The medieval kingdom that is twentieth century Oaxaca has imprisoned hundreds of citizens arbitrarily and unjustly. Dozens more have disappeared, victims of paramilitary escuadrones de muerte (death squads). Thousands have been beaten, tortured, and robbed, lost their jobs, or have been forced into exile because they objected to government wrongdoing.…The King’s minions who control Oaxaca’s political and economic systems are a small minority of the state’s population, “but they are a powerful minority. There is no transparency. The governor arranges, controls, dispenses as he wishes—he is the head cacique, he has the legislature and the judicial system in his pocket.” Change means overthrowing the governor and the system of government that he manifests and represents.… | more…

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El Salvador: Mining the Resistance

“Ultimately,” said Miguel Rivera, a soft-spoken man in his late twenties, “we are a family that has dedicated ourselves to helping the people with their needs and defending their rights. But in the process of denouncing the consequences of mining especially, I think there are people that will be your enemies.”…The Canadian-owned Pacific Rim Mining Company has attempted to exploit a gold mine at El Dorado for the better part of a decade, and has been repeatedly thwarted in its efforts….Now, apparently, the company’s local allies have taken a more violent approach to removing that opposition.… | more…

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Time to Pay the Piper

Ariel Salleh, ed., Eco-Sufficiency and Global Justice: Women Write Political Ecology (New York: Pluto Press, 2009), 324 pages, $34.00, paperback.

In 2001, Wilma Dunaway wrote that the “tentacles of the world-system are entwined around the bodies of women.” Yet her literary analysis revealed a profound silence about the role of women in reproductive labor, subsistence households, and commodity chain analysis. Dunaway characterized this omission as, “the greatest intellectual and political blunder” in her field.…Nearly ten years later, Ariel Salleh has answered this unspoken call with the resounding voices of seventeen feminist scholars who address transdisciplinary issues of global political ecology.… | more…

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Sartre: Conversations with a “Bourgeois Revolutionary”

John Gerassi, Talking with Sartre: Conversations and Debates, edited and translated by John Gerassi (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009), 336 pages, $20.00, paperback.

“I want to know, Sartre, how a bourgeois like you—and you, Sartre, no matter how much you hate the bourgeoisie are still a bourgeois through and through—became a revolutionary.” In this way, John Gerassi once informed an audience of Jean-Paul Sartre scholars and aficionados about what to expect from the 2,000-plus pages of edited transcripts of his conversations with Sartre, taped from 1970 to 1974 and recently deposited in the Yale University library.… | more…

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Monthly Review Volume 62, Number 1 (May 2010)

May 2010 (Volume 62, Number 1)

The more serious the problem of climate change becomes, the more revolutionary the change needed to address it—the more we can expect powerful economic and social interests to deny the seriousness of the problem: playing up scientific uncertainties that always exist, and casting doubt on climate science itself. The object of such a response is to manipulate public opinion so as to sow confusion and arrest any attempt to alter business as usual.… | more…

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The Financial Power Elite

Has the power of financial interests in U.S. society increased? Has Wall Street’s growing clout affected the U.S. state itself? How is this connected to the present crisis? We will argue that the financialization of U.S. capitalism over the last four decades has been accompanied by a dramatic and probably long-lasting shift in the location of the capitalist class, a growing proportion of which now derives its wealth from finance as opposed to production. This growing dominance of finance can be seen today in the inner corridors of state power.… | more…

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Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo in the Propaganda System

Elsewhere we have written that the breakup of Yugoslavia “may have been the most misrepresented series of major events over the past twenty years.” But the far bloodier and more destructive invasions, insurgencies, and civil wars that have ravaged several countries in the Great Lakes region of Central Africa over the same years may have been subjected to even greater misrepresentation. To a remarkable degree, all major sectors of the Western establishment swallowed a propaganda line on Rwanda that turned perpetrator and victim upside-down.… | more…

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The Dialectic of Social Science

Pronounced preoccupation with interpretation of historical experience, with basic problems of social dynamics, and with epistemological foundations of social science is itself an important characteristic of the revolutionary convulsions that mark the end and the beginning of epochs in human history. Thus also in our days the feeling of philosophical unrest has penetrated the ivory towers of conventional economics, and the rationale of traditional economic theorizing has become doubtful even to the most complacent practitioners of the established orthodoxy. Representing essentially a series of more or less successful attempts at the comprehension of the working principles of capitalism, customary economic thought stands completely disarmed when confronted with the decomposition of capitalism itself, when what matters is no longer the movements and the behavior of the passengers (and the conductors) on the train but the direction and the speed of the train itself.… | more…

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U.S. Terrorism in Vietnam

Bernd Greiner, War Without Fronts: The USA in Vietnam, translated by Anne Wyburd and Victoria Fenn (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), 518 pages, $35.00, hardcover.

In late 1970, prompted by the debate over the exposure of U.S. atrocities in the village of Mỹ Lai, an anonymous GI wrote a letter to Army Chief of Staff William Westmoreland, claiming to have witnessed hundreds of acts of terrorism by U.S. soldiers during Operation Speedy Express. The campaign, intended to reclaim portions of the Mekong Delta, purportedly killed over ten thousand enemy but seized only seven hundred weapons.… | more…

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