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Monthly Review Volume 71, Number 5 (October 2019)

October 2019 (Volume 71, Number 5)

Notes from the Editors

New issue of Monthly Review! If there is one thing that is clear about the economic situation in the mature capitalist economies, as we write these notes in mid-August 2019, it is that the financial world is increasingly running scared and looking for safe havens, worrying about the storm clouds ahead. There is now little doubt that the world economy is on the verge of a recession after a long sluggish recovery from the Great Financial Crisis of 2007-09. In itself this should not give occasion to surprise. In this instance, however, there lurks a bigger fear, the possibility of a financial Armageddon on the level of the Great Financial Crisis of 2008—or worse. | more…

Value Chains: The New Economic Imperialism by Intan Suwandi

Value Chains: The New Economic Imperialism

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…

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…

The Robbery of Nature: Capitalism and the Ecological Rift

Forthcoming in February 2020

In the nineteenth century, Karl Marx, inspired by the German chemist Justus von Liebig, argued that capitalism’s relation to its natural environment was that of a robbery system, leading to an irreparable rift in the metabolism between humanity and nature. In the twenty-first century, these classical insights into capitalism’s degradation of the earth have become the basis of extraordinary advances in critical theory and practice associated with contemporary ecosocialism. In The Robbery of Nature, John Bellamy Foster and Brett Clark, working within this historical tradition, examine capitalism’s plundering of nature via commodity production, and how it has led to the current anthropogenic rift in the Earth System. | more…

The Dawning of the Apocalypse: The Roots of Slavery, White Supremacy, Settler Colonialism, and Capitalism in the Long Sixteenth Century

The Dawning of the Apocalypse: The Roots of Slavery, White Supremacy, Settler Colonialism, and Capitalism in the Long Sixteenth Century

Forthcoming in July 2020

August 2019 saw numerous commemorations of the year 1619, when what was said to be the first arrival of enslaved Africans occurred in North America. Yet in the 1520s, the Spanish, from their imperial perch in Santo Domingo, had already brought enslaved Africans to what was to become South Carolina. The enslaved people here quickly defected to local Indigenous populations, and compelled their captors to flee. Deploying illuminating research, The Dawning of the Apocalypse is a riveting revision of the “creation myth” of settler colonialism and how the United States was formed. Here, Gerald Horne argues forcefully that, in order to understand the arrival of colonists from the British Isles in the early seventeenth century, one must first understand the “long sixteenth century”—from 1492 until the arrival of settlers in Virginia in 1607. | more…

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…

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…