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Ecology

November 2018 (Volume 70, Number 6)

November 2018 (Volume 70, Number 6)

The twenty-first century has resulted in a vast upsurge of ecological Marxism and ecosocialism more generally, building on the environmental critique of capitalism embedded in classical historical materialism. At the same time, it has also engendered opposing tendencies and approaches concerning how we understand relentless ecological destruction under capitalism. This issue is dedicated to exploring the theoretical advances, schools of thought, and debates on the left in regard to our world’s ecological crisis, which threatens the survival of humanity and is inescapable within the present capitalist system of production. | more…

Capitalism is eating the planet

Value Isn’t Everything

The rapid advances in Marxian ecology in the last two decades have given rise to extensive debates within the left, reflecting competing conceptions of theory and practice in an age of planetary ecological and social crisis. One key area of dispute is the attempt by a growing number of radical environmental thinkers to deconstruct the labor theory of value in order to bring everything in existence within a single commodity logic. For many in Green circles, Karl Marx and a long tradition of Marxian theorists are to be faulted for not directly incorporating the expenditure of physical work/energy by extra-human nature into the theory of value. In response, this article argues that any form of analysis that seeks to eliminate the deep-seated dialectical contradictions between the natural form and the value form, as well as between the capitalist economy and the larger socioecological metabolism, fails to comprehend the complex, interdependent dialectics of nature and humanity. | more…

The Biofuels Deception: Going Hungry on the Green Carbon Diet

The Biofuels Deception: Going Hungry on the Green Carbon Diet

There is by now no question among informed people that the Earth is undergoing severe climate change—soon to become catastrophic, if humans don’t take drastic measures to stop it. Heroically into the fray steps the biofuel industry, announcing to millions of anxious consumers that this eco-crisis can be averted if only they turn away from fossil fuels, to the saving power of synthetic bioproducts. But, although eliminating fossil fuels is essential, the manufacture of biofuels has far more to do with sating profit-hungry corporations than with saving the Earth. Combining meticulous scientific narrative with devastating economic analysis, The Biofuels Deception argues that the seemingly innovative, hopeful campaign for “green energy” is actually driven by bio-technology industries and global grain-trading corporations. | more…

A factory along the Yangtze River in China

A Subaltern Perspective on China’s Ecological Crisis

The modernization paradigm pursued by China has tended to privilege industry over agriculture, urban over rural, and the middle class over the subaltern, with the country’s growth statistics and policy emphases accordingly geared to such a paradigm. This has resulted in almost mindless degradation of nature. The key question China faces is thus not one of more progress or more growth, but of the multiple tasks of reversing the dire damage already done to its ecology, society, and culture. | more…

Seeding clouds over the ocean

Making War on the Planet

Geoengineering and Capitalism's Creative Destruction of the Earth

The dangers posed by climate change have inspired a desperate search for technological fixes in the form of geoengineering—massive human interventions to manipulate the entire climate or planet. But as long as the dominant strategy for addressing global warming remains subordinated to the ends of capital accumulation, any attempt to implement such schemes will prove fatal to humanity. | more…

Dark Clouds of Factory Smoke Obscure Clark Avenue Bridge in Cleveland, Ohio in 1973

‘The Deadly Implications of Capital for the Human Habitat’

A Letter to István Mészáros from Paul M. Sweezy, October 16, 1992

In October 1992, MR founding editor Paul M. Sweezy wrote the following brief letter, published here for the first time, to István Mészáros in response to an interview with Chris Arthur and Joseph McCarney that had just been published in Radical Philosophy. Sweezy saluted the critical significance of Mészáros’s argument on “the monstrous power of capital,” and the failure of many Marxists to perceive this problem in its full dimensions. He also affirmed the imperative of incorporating the ecological economics of Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen.
Monthly Review Volume 70, Number 3 (July-August 2018)

July-August 2018 (Volume 70, Number 3)

Notes from the Editors

This special issue is dedicated to developing the ecological critique embodied in Marx’s theory of “metabolic rift.” Each article uses the metabolic rift perspective to uncover core contradictions of capitalism, as well as possible paths toward a new system—one that will meet human needs while protecting the earth and future generations. | more…

A 19th-century illustration depicts a scene off the coast of Peru, where bird poop, or guano, was harvested

The Robbery of Nature

Capitalism and the Metabolic Rift

Marx’s notion of “the robbery of the soil” is intrinsically connected to the rift in the metabolism between human beings and the earth. To get at the complexities of his metabolic rift theory, it is useful to look separately at the issues of the robbery and the rift, seen as separate moments in a single development. | more…

Buried machinery in a barn lot; Dallas, South Dakota, May 1936

No Empires, No Dust Bowls

Ecological Disasters and the Lessons of History

When scientists describe the increase of Dust Bowl-like conditions under climate change, they signal a particular kind of violent ecological and social change. But equally violent are the social forces, historical developments, policies, and practices that produce such massive socioecological crises in the first place. | more…

Monster soup commonly called Thames water, being a correct representation of that precious stuff doled out to us!

Cesspools, Sewage, and Social Murder

Environmental Crisis and Metabolic Rift in Nineteenth-Century London

The accumulation of human excrement in nineteenth-century cities, particularly London, precipitated a historic environmental crisis—an aspect of the metabolic rift mostly overlooked in ecosocialist analysis. The solution that was finally adopted only shifted the problem out of sight, setting the stage for even greater crises in our time. | more…

Nutrient pollution caused by Surface runoff of soil and fertilizer during a rain storm (1999)

Land–Sea Ecological Rifts

A Metabolic Analysis of Nutrient Loading

Increasing rates of nitrogen and phosphorus application have caused severe damage to aquatic systems, as rivers, streams, lakes, bays, and ocean systems have been inundated with nutrient runoff. Only by addressing the metabolic rupture in the soil nutrient cycle and the contradictions of capital can we begin to mend these land–sea rifts. | more…

Overview of food and nutrition security in Latin America and the Caribbean

The Politics of Food in Venezuela

Few countries and political processes have been subject to such scrutiny, yet so generally misunderstood, as Venezuela and the Bolivarian Revolution. This is particularly true today, as the international media paints an image of absolute devastation in the country, wrought by failed policies and government mismanagement. One way to comprehend the complexities of what is happening in Venezuela today—missed entirely by the dominant, mainstream narrative—is by homing in on the dynamics around Venezuela’s most highly consumed staple foods. | more…

Ecosocialism

Marx’s Ecological Education

Kohei Saito’s Karl Marx’s Ecosocialism: Capitalism, Nature, and the Unfinished Critique of Political Economy shows convincingly that Marx’s ideas about the interaction between humanity and nature did not arrive fully formed, but arose from his rigorous engagement with science and philosophy. His insights still offer unparalleled tools to understand capitalism’s current assault on the environment. | more…

Black Women Will Not Be Intimidated

Invisible Exploitation

How Capital Extracts Value Beyond Wage Labor

An expanded Marxist understanding of capitalist exploitation is long overdue. There are many pathways of surplus extraction beyond the wage form, and understanding them is a task with profound implications for anticapitalist movements around the world. | more…