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Economic Theory


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…

Wall Street's Think Tank: The Council on Foreign Relations and the Empire of Neoliberal Geopolitics, 1976-2018 by Laurence H. Shoup (New in paperback, with Afterword)

Wall Street’s Think Tank: The Council on Foreign Relations and the Empire of Neoliberal Geopolitics, 1976-2019 (New in paperback, with Afterword)

The Council on Foreign Relations is the world’s most powerful private foreign-policy think tank and membership organization. Dominated by Wall Street, it claims among its members a high percentage of past and present top U.S. government officials as well as corporate leaders and influential figures in the fields of education, media, law, and nonprofit work. Wall Street’s Think Tank follows the Council on Foreign Relations from the 1970s to the present, and this new paperback edition includes an Afterword discussing the Trump Administration and the Council. | more…

Idle workers at Ford Motor Company's Van Dyke transmission plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan in December, 2018

Economic Surplus, the Baran Ratio, and Capital Accumulation

In 1957, in the Political Economy of Growth, Paul Baran made a seminal contribution to our understanding of the connection between economic surplus—a concept he introduced into the development discussion—and growth. Given that the ruling class controls the surplus of society, how the surplus is used—whether it is invested, consumed, or simply wasted—is at its discretion. The effective utilization of surplus implies a reasonable rate of capital accumulation and economic development. In the following study of the utilization of surplus I compare the size of surplus and gross capital formation in a variety of countries starting from the mid–nineteenth century. | more…

Rosa Luxemburg

The Social Character of Value

In this excerpt from The Accumulation of Capital, Rosa Luxemburg explains how classical political economy lacks a clear conception of the commodity—both in the terms of the distinctions between use value and exchange value, as well as between concrete and abstract labor. This metaphysical, essentialist framework leads to a complete failure to understand the social character of labor’s capacity to create value. | more…

Panoramic view at Shanghai Pudong from the Eton Hotel

On the Nature of the Chinese Economic System

There is considerable debate within China about the nature of the economy, including recognition of tendencies toward state capitalism. Consequently, most writers focus theorization of the many possible paths the economy could take—whether toward or away from capitalism. The present article takes a step further, arguing that the Chinese system today still contains some key components of socialism and is compatible with a market, or market-based, socialism that is clearly distinct from capitalism. | more…

One Belt, One Road Map

One Belt, One Road

China's Strategy for a New Global Financial Order

In late 2013, Chinese premier Xi Jinping announced a pair of new development and trade initiatives for China and the surrounding region: the “Silk Road Economic Belt” and the “Twenty-First-Century Maritime Silk Road,” together known as One Belt, One Road (OBOR). Along with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the OBOR policies represent an ambitious spatial expansion of Chinese state capitalism, driven by an excess of industrial production capacity, as well as by emerging financial capital interests. The Chinese government has publicly stressed the lessons of the 1930s overcapacity crisis in the West that precipitated the Second World War, and promoted these new initiatives in the name of “peaceful development.” Nevertheless, the turn to OBOR suggests a regional scenario broadly similar to that in Europe between the end of the nineteenth century and the years before the First World War, when strong nations jostled one another for industrial and military dominance. | more…

Chinase Marxism

A Theory of China’s ‘Miracle’

Eight Principles of Contemporary Chinese Political Economy

China’s rapid economic development in recent years is often characterized as “miraculous.” Talk of a “Beijing Consensus” or “China model” has become commonplace in academic debates. But as we have written elsewhere, “theoretical problems have started to emerge with regards to the very existence, content, and prospects of the China model.” The key question, then, is what kind of economic theory and strategy underpin this “miracle.”… [W]e hold that the country’s major recent developmental gains are the achievements of theoretical advances in political economy, originating in China itself, while the main problems that have accompanied China’s development reflect the damaging influence of Western neoliberalism.… We hope to clarify the official theoretical model behind China’s economic “miracle,” using the terms and concepts prevalent in China today. | more…

Monthly Review Volume 68, Number 7 (December 2016)

December 2016 (Volume 68, Number 7)

In October 2016, the Sveriges Riksbank (Swedish Central Bank) Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel—commonly but incorrectly called the Nobel Prize in Economics—was awarded to two European-born, U.S.-based economists, Oliver Hart and Bengt Holmström, for their work on contracts related to executive pay. Hart and Holmström were lauded for having theorized what was thought to be the optimal mix of risk and incentives in pay packages for corporate executives, thereby determining the appropriate combination of basic salary, bonuses, and share options. In other words, they received the Riksbank Nobel Memorial Prize for their efforts to rationalize the exorbitant paychecks of CEOs and other corporate leaders—a direct service to big business. | more…

Monthly Review Volume 68, Number 3 (July-August 2016)

July-August 2016 (Volume 68, Number 3)

Notes from the Editors

Commenting in the January 1973 issue of Monthly Review on the declining condition of the U.S. economy, Paul Sweezy brought back the question of “secular stagnation,” first advanced by Keynes’s leading follower Alvin Hansen in the late 1930s. “The U.S. economy,” Sweezy wrote, in an article entitled “Notes on the U.S. Situation at the End of 1972,” “is experiencing at one and the same time a cyclical boom and secular stagnation.” The resurfacing of stagnation, he suggested, was the product in part of the U.S. attempt to unwind from the Vietnam War, which had previously been lifting the economy.… A couple of months after the publication of Sweezy’s article, in March 1973, the New York Times, seeking to quiet the widening anti-capitalist protests, ran a series of articles on its op-ed page under the general heading of “Capitalism, for Better or Worse.” The series concentrated on the two phenomena of the weakening of economic prosperity and the decline of military spending resulting from the drawing down of the Vietnam War. One of these articles, misleadingly entitled “Taking Stock of War,” appearing on March 14, was written by Paul Samuelson, then considered to be the leading neoclassical economist in the United States.  | more…

Monopoly Capital at the Half-Century Mark

A half-century after its publication, Paul Baran and Paul Sweezy’s Monopoly Capital remains the single most influential work in Marxian political economy to emerge in the United States.… In recent years, interest in Baran and Sweezy’s magnum opus has revived, primarily for two reasons: (1) the global resurgence of debates over the constellation of issues that their work addressed—including economic stagnation, monopoly, inequality, militarism and imperialism, multinational corporations, economic waste, surplus capital absorption, financial speculation, and plutocracy; and (2) the new, fundamental insights into the book’s origins resulting from the publication of its two missing chapters and the public release of Baran and Sweezy’s correspondence.… I shall divide this introduction on the influence and development of the argument of Monopoly Capital over the last fifty years into three parts: (1) a brief treatment of the book itself and its historical context; (2) a discussion of responses to Monopoly Capital, and of the development of the tradition that it represented, during its first four decades, up to the Great Financial Crisis that began in 2007; and (3) an assessment of the continuing significance of monopoly capital theory in the context of the historical period stretching from the Great Financial Crisis to the present. | more…