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Financialization

Owning Financialization

In the Notes from the Editors of the January 2019 issue of Monthly Review, the editors commented on a blog post by Michael Roberts on the term financialization. In the first part of this short exchange Roberts questions whether financialization is a meaningful and useful term, or simply a distraction from a comprehensive critique contemporary capitalism. | more…

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Wall Street, New York, United States. Photo by Woldai Wagner.

The Critique of Financialization

A Reply to Michael Roberts

There has been a tendency within liberal analysis of financialization to place an emphasis on the trees, that is, the various speculative mechanisms, rather than the forest, or the growth of finance in relation to production. The reason for this stress on the trees rather than the forest is that, in contemporary capitalist ideology, financialization cannot be brought seriously into question since it is part of the entire architecture of accumulation. | more…

"Capitalism Isn't Working"

Capitalism Has Failed—What Next?

Less than two decades into the twenty-first century, it is evident that capitalism has failed as a social system. The world is mired in economic stagnation, financialization, and the most extreme inequality in human history, accompanied by mass unemployment and underemployment, precariousness, poverty, hunger, wasted output and lives, and what at this point can only be called a planetary ecological “death spiral.” Many of the symptoms of the failure of capitalism are well-known. Nevertheless, they are often attributed not to capitalism as a system, but simply to neoliberalism, viewed as a particular paradigm of capitalist development that can be replaced by another, better one. A critical-historical analysis of neoliberalism is therefore crucial both to grounding our understanding of capitalism today and uncovering the reason why all alternatives to neoliberalism and its capitalist absolutism are closed within the system itself. | more…

Neoliberalism is creating loneliness

Capitalism and Mental Health

The psychoanalytical framework developed by Marxist Erich Fromm strongly challenges the dominant biological and individualistic explanations of the mental-health crisis that is now sweeping the globe. Fromm emphasized that all humans have certain needs that must be fulfilled in order to ensure optimal mental health. It follows that capitalism is crucial to determining the experience and prevalence of mental well-being, as its operations are incompatible with true human need. | more…

Mythologies of State and Monopoly Power

Mythologies of State and Monopoly Power

“Mythologies,” writes veteran human rights lawyer Michael Tigar, “are structures of words and images that portray people, institutions, and events in ways that mask an underlying reality.” For instance, the “Justice Department” appears, by its very nature and practice, to appropriate “justice” as the exclusive property of the federal government. In his brilliantly acerbic collection of essays, Tigar reveals, deconstructs, and eviscerates mythologies surrounding the U.S. criminal justice system, racism, free expression, workers’ rights, and international human rights. | more…

Modern Imperialism, Monopoly Finance Capital, and Marx's Law of Value: Monopoly Capital and Marx's Law of Value

Modern Imperialism, Monopoly Finance Capital, and Marx’s Law of Value

Unlike such obvious forms of oppression as feudalism or slavery, capitalism has been able to survive through its genius for disguising corporate profit imperatives as opportunities for individual human equality and advancement. But it was the genius of Karl Marx, in his masterwork, Capital, to discover the converse law of surplus value: behind the illusion of the democratic, supply-and-demand marketplace, lies the workplace, where people trying to earn a living are required to work way beyond the time it takes to pay their wages. Leave it to the genius of Samir Amin to advance Marx’s theories—adding to them the work of radical economists such as Michal Kalecki, Josef Steindl, Paul Baran, and Paul Sweezy—to show how Marxian theory can be adapted to modern economic conditions. | more…

The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism: The Roots of Slavery, White Supremacy, and Capitalism in Seventeenth-Century North America and the Caribbean

The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism: The Roots of Slavery, White Supremacy, and Capitalism in Seventeenth-Century North America and the Caribbean

Virtually no part of the modern United States—the economy, education, constitutional law, religious institutions, sports, literature, economics, even protest movements—can be understood without first understanding the slavery and dispossession that laid its foundation. To that end, historian Gerald Horne digs deeply into Europe’s colonization of Africa and the New World, when, from Columbus’s arrival until the Civil War, some 13 million Africans and some 5 million Native Americans were forced to build and cultivate a society extolling “liberty and justice for all.” | more…

Value Chains: The New Economic Imperialism by Intan Suwandi

Value Chains: The New Economic Imperialism

Forthcoming in August 2019

Winner of the 2018 Paul M. Sweezy – Paul A. Baran Memorial Award for original work regarding the political economy of imperialism, Intan Suwandi’s Value Chains examines the exploitation of labor in the Global South. Focusing on the issue of labor within global value chains—vast networks of people, tools, and activities needed to deliver goods and services to the market and controlled by multinationals—Suwandi offers a deft empirical analysis of unit labor costs that is closely related to Marx’s own theory of exploitation. | more…

A Foodie's Guide to Capitalism: Understanding the Political Economy of What We Eat

A Foodie’s Guide to Capitalism: Understanding the Political Economy of What We Eat

Capitalism drives our global food system. Everyone who wants to end hunger, who wants to eat good, clean, healthy food, needs to understand capitalism. This book will help do that. In his latest book, Eric Holt-Giménez takes on the social, environmental, and economic crises of the capitalist mode of food production. Drawing from classical and modern analyses, A Foodie’s Guide to Capitalism introduces the reader to the history of our food system and to the basics of capitalism. In straightforward prose, Holt-Giménez explains the political economics of why—even as local, organic, and gourmet food have spread around the world—billions go hungry in the midst of abundance; why obesity is a global epidemic; and why land-grabbing, global warming, and environmental pollution are increasing. | more…

The Age of Monopoly Capital: Selected Correspondence of Paul A. Baran and Paul M. Sweezy, 1949-1964

The Age of Monopoly Capital: Selected Correspondence of Paul A. Baran and Paul M. Sweezy, 1949-1964

Paul A. Baran and Paul M. Sweezy were two of the leading Marxist economists of the twentieth century. Their seminal work, Monopoly Capital: An Essay on the American Economic and Social Order, published in 1966, two years after Baran's death, was in many respects the culmination of fifteen years of correspondence between the two, from 1949 to 1964. During those years, Baran, a professor of economics at Stanford, and Sweezy, a former professor of economics at Harvard, then co-editing Monthly Review in New York City, were separated by three thousand miles. Their intellectual collaboration required that they write letters to one another frequently and, in the years closer to 1964, almost daily. Their surviving correspondence consists of some one thousand letters. | more…

Petrograders examine campaign posters for elections to the Constituent Assembly

The Great Struggle to Escape Capitalism

Post-revolutionary societies, in their efforts to combat counterrevolution, have always been confronted with their own contradictions, and with the persistent threat that an exploiting class could reemerge. Instead of the intended socialization and democratization, in many places what resulted was instead state ownership and stultifying bureaucratization of both the economy and the polity. | more…

Montagnais and Nasquapee Lodges at Seven Islands

Nature, Labor, and the Rise of Capitalism

Capitalism was a radical break with the past: for the first time, production of basic goods was driven by the accumulation of wealth for its own sake, and not primarily to satisfy human needs. Likewise, we are alienated from the natural world, as the products of our own labor are no longer under our control. Our very perception of nature is shaped by an economic system that treats “the environment” as a collection of commodities to be exploited. | more…

Accumulation on a World Scale: A Critique of the Theory of Underdevelopment

Accumulation on a World Scale: A Critique of the Theory of Underdevelopment

Samir Amin has undertaken an ambitious task: nothing less than an analysis of the process of capital accumulation on a global level. Drawing on a wide range of empirical material from Africa and the Middle East, Amin attempts to demonstrate, through a critique of writings on “underdevelopment,” how accumulation in advanced capitalist countries prevents development, however that may be defined, within the peripheral social formations, usually referred to as “underdeveloped” countries. Samir Amin ranks among those who realize the necessity not merely to comprehend the growing crisis of world capitalism, as it manifests itself within individual nation states, but also at the world level. | more…

The Anthropocene Crisis

The Anthropocene, viewed as a new geological epoch displacing the Holocene epoch of the last 10,000 to 12,000 years, represents what has been called an “anthropogenic rift” in the history of the planet.… Recent scientific evidence suggests that the period from around 1950 on exhibits a major spike, marking a Great Acceleration in human impacts on the environment, with the most dramatic stratigraphic trace of the anthropogenic rift to be found in fallout radionuclides from nuclear weapons testing.… Viewed in this way, the Anthropocene can be seen as corresponding roughly to the rise of the modern environmental movement, which had its beginnings in the protests led by scientists against above-ground nuclear testing after the Second World War, and was to emerge as a wider movement following the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962. Carson’s book was soon followed in the 1960s by the very first warnings, by Soviet and U.S. scientists, of accelerated and irreversible global warming. It is this dialectical interrelation between the acceleration into the Anthropocene and the acceleration of a radical environmentalist imperative in response that constitutes the central theme of Ian Angus’s marvelous new book. | more…

Russia and the Long Transition from Capitalism to Socialism

Russia and the Long Transition from Capitalism to Socialism

Out of early twentieth-century Russia came the world’s first significant effort to build a modern revolutionary society. According to Marxist economist Samir Amin, the great upheaval that once produced the Soviet Union also produced a movement away from capitalism—a long transition that continues today. In seven concise, provocative chapters, Amin deftly examines the trajectory of Russian capitalism, the Bolshevik Revolution, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the possible future of Russia—and, by extension, the future of socialism itself. | more…

The Opt Out Revolt

Democracy and Education

In the United States today, the age of monopoly-finance capital and neoliberal politics, all aspects of social life are being financialized at breakneck speed, while the economy as a whole and employment remain lackluster. Financial flows of whatever kind are converted into “securitized” assets to be leveraged by Wall Street speculators. The data of private communications are mined. Health care is converted into a realm of super profits. Public water and electric facilities are sold to the highest bidder. The political system is turned into an open-air auction. Even pollution is treated as a market.… At the center of this juggernaut is elementary and secondary education, which receives over $550 billion in annual public spending, equal to the GDP of Belgium, ranked twenty-fifth worldwide in national income. The new copyrighted Common Core State Standards, and the accompanying standardized tests run by two multi-state consortia in conjunction with testing companies, are “high stakes” not merely for schools, teachers, and students, but also for the vested interests of capital. | more…