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Two Earthquakes

A strong 8.9 on the scale earthquake shook Japan today. The most worrying is that early news reports were talking about thousands dead and missing, figures really unheard of in a developed country where all constructions are quake-proof. They were even talking about a nuclear reactor that was out of control. Hours later, it was informed that four nuclear plants close to the most affected area were under control. There was also information about a tsunami 10 metres high that had the entire Pacific area on tidal wave alert.… | more…

The Cynical Dance Macabre

The policy of plunder imposed by the United States and their NATO allies in the Middle East has gone into a crisis. It has inevitably unraveled with the high cost of grain, the effects of which can be felt more forcefully in the Arab countries where, in spite of their huge resources of oil, the shortage of water, areas covered by desert and the generalized poverty of the people contrast with the enormous resources coming from the oil possessed by the privileged sectors.… | more…

Mubarak’s Fate is Sealed

Mubarak’s fate is sealed, not even the support of the United States will be able to save his government. The people of Egypt are an intelligent people with a glorious history who left their mark on civilization. “From the top of these pyramids, 40 centuries of history are looking down upon us,” Bonaparte once said in a moment of exaltation when the revolution brought him to this extraordinary crossroads of civilizations.… | more…

Monthly Review February 2011 (Volume 62, Number 9)

February 2011 (Volume 62, Number 9)

» Notes from the Editors

The two lead articles in this issue of Monthly Review are both outgrowths of important new books published by Monthly Review Press. Samir Amin’s article, “The Trajectory of Historical Capitalism and Marxism’s Tricontinental Vocation,” is based on recent developments in his theoretical outlook presented in The Law of Worldwide Value…. A substantially revised and extended version of his earlier work, The Law of Value and Historical Materialism (Monthly Review Press, 1978), The Law of Worldwide Value also incorporates new conceptual breakthroughs, making it a major advance in itself.… The article by Richard York and Brett Clark entitled “Stephen Jay Gould’s Critique of Progress” is taken from their book The Science and Humanism of Stephen Jay Gould…. Gould’s far-ranging work in natural history, biology, and paleontology—even extending to the humanities and the social sciences—has fascinated countless readers, but the complexity of his thought and the extent of his intellectual commitments have defied previous attempts to bring out the unity of his work.… | more…

Stephen Jay Gould’s Critique of Progress

A question of central importance in the interpretation of patterns of evolution is whether history had to turn out the way it did. From before Charles Darwin’s time up to the present it has been commonly assumed that history, both human history and the history of life in general, unfolded in a somewhat deterministic manner, that the present was inevitable, either ordained in Heaven or, in the scientific view, mechanically produced by deterministic natural laws. This view contrasts with that of the historian: that the quirks, chance events, and particularities of each moment make history, and that the world could have been other than it is.… The renowned paleontologist and evolutionary theorist Stephen Jay Gould.…developed a sophisticated and nuanced position that recognized both the importance of general laws and the role of contingency.… If contingency played little part in how history turned out, if the present was inevitable, then it makes little sense to challenge the status quo. However, if contingency dominates history, the future is open, and the world can be another way, as radicals of all varieties have long believed.… | more…

On Nuclear Power

Response to John W. Farley’s ‘Our Last Chance to Save Humanity’

Monthly Review has long been on record as opposed to the expansion of nuclear energy. Most recently, some of the dangers of nuclear power, both in its present form and with continuing new technological developments, were spelled out by Robert D. Furber, James C. Warf, and Sheldon C. Plotkin of the Southern California Federation of Scientists, in their article on “The Future of Nuclear Power” (MR, February 2008).… The following correspondence consists of a letter from Brian Lindquist, Walt McCarron, Robert D. Furber, and Sheldon C. Plotkin associated with the Southern California Federation of Scientists, writing in response to John W. Farley’s review, in the September 2010 issue of MR, of James Hansen’s Storms of My Grandchildren. This letter and Farley’s response offer two widely divergent perspectives on this critical issue.… | more…

The grave food crisis

Just 11 days ago, January 19, under the title “The time has come to do something,” I wrote:

“The worst is that, to a large degree, their solutions will depend on the richest and most developed countries, which will reach a situation that they really are not in a position to confront, unless the world which they have been trying to mold… collapses around them.”… | more…

The Time Has Come To Do Something

I shall relate a bit of history.

When the Spanish “discovered” us five hundred years ago, the estimated population on the Island was no more than 200,000 inhabitants who were living in harmony with nature. Their main sources of food came from the rivers, lakes and seas rich in protein; they were also carrying out a rudimentary form of agriculture that supplied them with calories, vitamins, mineral salts and fibre.… | more…

The Crime Against the Democratic Congresswoman

As it is well-known, the state of Arizona, a territory that was taken from Mexico by the United States along with much more territory, has been the scene of painful events for hundreds of Latin Americans who die trying to immigrate to the US in search of work or to join their parents, spouses or other kinfolk who are there.

In that country, these are the people who work at the toughest jobs and live under the constant fear of arrest and forced deportation. Despite the drastic measures, every year the number of those dying in the attempt grows

Ecological Civilization

Given the overwhelming harm being done to the world’s environment and to its people, it is essential today to consider how we might organize a truly ecological civilization—one that exists in harmony with natural systems—instead of trying to overwhelm and dominate nature. This is not just an ethical issue; it is essential for our survival as a species and the survival of many other species that we reverse the degradation of the earth’s life support systems that once provided dependable climate, clean air, clean water (fresh and ocean), bountiful oceans, and healthy and productive soils.… There are numerous ways to approach and think about the enormous harm that has been done to the environment. I will discuss the following: (1) the critical characteristics that underlie strong ecosystems; (2) why societies are not adequately implementing ecological approaches; and (3) how we might use characteristics of strong natural ecosystems as a framework to consider a future ecological civilization… | more…

Capitalism and Degrowth: An Impossibility Theorem

[A]lmost four decades after the Club of Rome raised the issue of “the limits to growth,” the economic growth idol of modern society is once again facing a formidable challenge. What is known as “degrowth economics,” associated with the work of Serge Latouche in particular, emerged as a major European intellectual movement in 2008 with the historic conference in Paris on “Economic De-Growth for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity,” and has since inspired a revival of radical Green thought, as epitomized by the 2010 “Degrowth Declaration” in Barcelona.… Ironically, the meteoric rise of degrowth (décroissance in French) as a concept has coincided over the last three years with the reappearance of economic crisis and stagnation on a scale not seen since the 1930s. The degrowth concept therefore forces us to confront the questions: Is degrowth feasible in a capitalist grow-or-die society—and if not, what does this say about the transition to a new society?… | more…

Water—On Women’s Burdens, Humans’ Rights, and Companies’ Profits

How is it possible that a person living in a water-rich region uses more water by flushing the toilet than a person in a water-scarce region has available for drinking, food-preparation, hygiene, and cleaning—for a whole day? How is it possible that a woman living in a water-rich region only needs to open the tap to get enough water for herself and her family, while a woman in a water-scarce region has to…walk for miles and miles to get far less water of much worse quality? Why is that so? Is it bad fortune? Unfair? Destiny? Undeserved? Is it unjust? It is all these, but also much more. Water is the essence of life. It is the precondition of life.… This article has two parts. The first deals with dominant positions concerning water: the neoliberal agenda, consequences of water privatization, and the UN stance. The second part looks at what is missing in this picture and ignored by the dominant perspectives—namely, global inequalities and gender discrimination.… | more…

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