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Economic Theory

The Brazilian Economy under Lula: A Balance of Contradictions

n the 1980s the Brazilian economy suffered a long spell of stagnation and inflation caused by the foreign debt crisis affecting all indebted countries. That crisis triggered an acute inflationary process that reached 2,012.6 percent in 1989 and 2,851.3 percent in 1993, according to the general price index from the Getulio Vargas Foundation. The second half of the 1980s and the first of the 1990s saw the deployment of successive anti-inflationary plans, starting with the 1986 Plano Cruzado and ending with the 1994 Plano Real.* The period also marked the end of the industrialization strategy known as “import substitution” and the onset of neoliberal policies in Brazil… | more…

The Neoliberal Agrarian Model in Brazil

Since Fernando Collor’s 1989 presidential victory, and most notably since Fernando Henrique Cardoso’s two terms in office (1995-98 and 1999-2002, respectively), economic policies have been enacted in Brazil that represent a subordinate alliance of the country’s dominant classes with international capital. Unfortunately, under President Lula these same sectors have remained in control, and economic policy caters to their interests… | more…

The Invisible Handcuffs of Capitalism: How Market Tyranny Stifles the Economy by Stunting Workers

The Invisible Handcuffs of Capitalism: How Market Tyranny Stifles the Economy by Stunting Workers

Mainstream, or more formally, neoclassical, economics claims to be a science. But as Michael Perelman makes clear in his latest book, nothing could be further from the truth. While a science must be rooted in material reality, mainstream economics ignores or distorts the most fundamental aspect of this reality: that the vast majority of people must, out of necessity, labor on behalf of others, transformed into nothing but a means to the end of maximum profits for their employers. The nature of the work we do and the conditions under which we do it profoundly shape our lives. And yet, both of these factors are peripheral to mainstream economics.… | more…

The Law of Worldwide Value

The Law of Worldwide Value

In his new extensively revised and expanded edition of this book, Samir Amin suggests new approaches to Marxian analysis of the crisis of the late capitalist system of generalized, financialized and globalized oligopolies following on the financial collapse of 2008. Considering that Marx’s Capital, written before the emergence of imperialism as a decisive factor in capitalist accumulation, could provide no explanation for the persistent “underdevelopment” of the countries of the “global South,” Amin advances several important theoretical concepts extending traditional Marxian views of capitalist evolution.… | more…

Socialist Register 2011: The Crisis This Time

Socialist Register 2011: The Crisis This Time

The global economic crisis that closed the first decade of the 21st century has demonstrated that the contradictions of capitalism cannot be overcome. The challenge for socialist analysis is to reveal both the nature of these contradictions in the neo-liberal era of globalized finance, and their consequences in our time. Crises need to be understood as turning points that open up opportunities. How to facilitate this is the sharpest challenge posed to socialists by the most severe global economic crisis since the 1930s.… | more…

The Worldwide Class Struggle

A trademark of our times is the dominance of neoliberalism in the major economic, political, and social forums of the developed capitalist countries and in the international agencies they influence-including the IMF, the World Bank, the WTO, and the technical agencies of the United Nations such as the World Health Organization, Food and Agricultural Organization, and UNICEF. Starting in the United States during the Carter administration, neoliberalism expanded its influence through the Reagan administration and, in the United Kingdom, the Thatcher administration, to become an international ideology. Neoliberalism holds to a theory (though not necessarily a practice) that posits the following… | more…

Trouble, Trouble, Debt, and Bubble

The questions regarding U.S. macroeconomic policy these days come down to whether the country can keep borrowing. Can consumers keep spending by increasing their debt level? Can the federal government keep running a large budget deficit without serious problems developing? Can the U.S. current account deficit keep growing? Will foreigners keep buying government bonds to cover this growing debt? If the answer is no to such questions, we can expect serious trouble and not just for the United States but for the rest of the world, which has grown used to the United States as the consumer of last resort. The United States buys 50 percent more than it sells overseas, enough to sink any other economy. In another economy, such a deficit would lead to a severe devaluation of the currency, sharply inflating the price of imports and forcing the monetary authorities to push interest rates up considerably… | more…

The Neoliberal ‘Rebirth’ of Development Economics

velopment economics, as a branch of economics that attempts to show how the world’s poor economies can develop, had its origins in the 1940s and 1950s. One of its earliest ideas was that the economies of the less developed countries were mired in a cycle of poverty and needed a “big push” to develop. This push was seen as a large boost in investment, helped by the state’s infrastructural and social spending, as well as by private foreign capital spending and aid from the governments of the developed nations… | more…

Capitalism Is Rotten to the Core

Immanuel Ness, Immigrants, Unions, and the New U. S. Labor Market (Temple University Press, 2005), 230 pages, cloth $59.50, paper $21.95.
Howard Karger, Shortchanged: Life and Debt in the Fringe Economy (Berrett~Koehler Publishing, 2005), 252 pages, cloth $24.95.

The widening and deepening of capitalism, which many economists misname globalization, has had traumatic impacts on workers. Sped up by what has been called neoliberalism (basically, the political program of modern global capital), the growing penetration of capitalist production and consumption relationships around the globe has literally pitched workers from pillar to post. For example, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has forced hundreds of thousands of Mexican peasants and wage workers to abandon their home country and migrate to the United States. Similarly, government austerity and “free market” programs—curbing food and health subsidies to the poor, closing and selling state enterprises, suppression of worker and peasant protests, and the like—in countries like India and China have deprived many workers of what security they had attained and pushed peasants from their land into cities… | more…

Neoliberalism: Myths and Reality

Agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) have enhanced transnational capitalist power and profits at the cost of growing economic instability and deteriorating working and living conditions. Despite this reality, neoliberal claims that liberalization, deregulation, and privatization produce unrivaled benefits have been repeated so often that many working people accept them as unchallengeable truths. Thus, business and political leaders in the United States and other developed capitalist countries routinely defend their efforts to expand the WTO and secure new agreements like the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) as necessary to ensure a brighter future for the world’s people, especially those living in poverty… | more…

Privatizing Education

Education is an essential part of modern economic progress, yet in recent decades, the right wing has consistently been unfriendly to public education. For example, the Walton family’s donation of $20 billion to help conservative causes was weighted toward the privatization of public education.… The economic effects of privatization will not be felt immediately. Over time, however, as a larger share of the workforce suffers the handicap of inferior education, the negative effect on all aspects of society will be unmistakable.… | more…

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