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Imperialism

Only People Make Their Own History: Writings on Capitalism, Imperialism, and Revolution

(Introduction by Aijaz Ahmad)

Radical political economist Samir Amin (1931–2018) left behind a cherished oeuvre of Marxist writings. Amin’s intellectual range—from economics to culture—was admirable, and his lessons remain essential. Monthly Review Press is honored to publish this volume, culled from the Monthly Review magazine, of ten of Samir Amin’s most significant essays written in the twenty-first century. The collection is introduced by Amin’s friend and comrade, the Marxist philosopher Aijaz Ahmad, who provides a comprehensive survey of Amin’s life and path-breaking work. Ahmad also offers a contextual focus by which to read such stunningly astute pieces as “Revolution or Decadence?” and “Contemporary Imperialism.” | more…

Monthly Review Volume 70, Number 10 (March 2019)

March 2019 (Volume 70, Number 10)

Notes from the Editors

The present ongoing coup attempt organized in Washington is simply the latest in a series of such attempts by the U.S. government to overthrow the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela over the last two decades. It can be seen as having three interrelated motives: (1) the destruction of Venezuelan socialism, (2) regaining control of Venezuela’s oil (the largest petroleum reserves in the world), and (3) reasserting U.S. hegemony over Latin America. | more…

Migrant workers returning home in a train in Cochin, India.

Global Commodity Chains and the New Imperialism

To comprehend twenty-first-century imperialism we must go beyond analysis of the nation-state to a systematic investigation of the increasing global reach of multinational corporations or the role of the global labor arbitrage. At issue is the way in which today’s global monopolies in the center of the world economy have captured value generated by labor in the periphery within a process of unequal exchange, thus getting “more labour in exchange for less. The result has been to change the global structure of industrial production while maintaining and often intensifying the global structure of exploitation and value transfer. | 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…

"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…

Samir Amin

The Communist Manifesto, 170 Years Later

In the last piece he wrote before his passing, Samir Amin revisits, for our age, the most important revolutionary document of all time, the Communist Manifesto. In a fitting conclusion to the work of a great revolutionary intellectual, Amin seeks nothing less than to explain the changing world trajectory from 1848 to 2018. Against the persistent vision of the globalized development of capitalism, he puts forward a vision for the transformation of the world through revolutionary processes—breaking with the submission to the deadly vicissitudes of the decadence of civilization.
From Commune to Capitalism: How China's Peasants Lost Collective Farming and Gained Urban Poverty

From Commune to Capitalism: How China’s Peasants Lost Collective Farming and Gained Urban Poverty

In the early 1980s, China undertook a massive reform that dismantled its socialist rural collectives and divided the land among millions of small peasant families. Known as the decollectivization campaign, it is one of the most significant reforms in China's transition to a market economy. From the beginning, the official Chinese accounts, and many academic writings, uncritically portray this campaign as a huge success, both for the peasants and the economy as a whole. This mainstream history argues that the rural communes, suffering from inefficiency, greatly improved agricultural productivity under the decollectivization reform. It also describes how the peasants, due to their dissatisfaction with the rural regime, spontaneously organized and collectively dismantled the collective system. A closer examination suggests a much different and more nuanced story. By combining historical archives, field work, and critical statistical examinations, From Commune to Capitalism argues that the decollectivization campaign was neither a bottom-up, spontaneous peasant movement, nor necessarily efficiency-improving.  | more…

The Russians Are Coming, Again: The First Cold War as Tragedy, the Second as Farce

The Russians Are Coming, Again: The First Cold War as Tragedy, the Second as Farce

Karl Marx famously wrote in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon that history repeats itself, “first as tragedy, then as farce.” The Cold War, waged between the United States and Soviet Union from 1945 until the latter's dissolution in 1991, was a great tragedy, resulting in millions of civilian deaths in proxy wars, and a destructive arms race that diverted money from social spending and nearly led to nuclear annihilation. The New Cold War between the United States and Russia is playing out as farce—a dangerous one at that. The Russians Are Coming, Again is a red flag to restore our historical consciousness about U.S.-Russian relations, and how denying this consciousness is leading to a repetition of past follies. | more…

Modern Imperialism, Monopoly Finance Capital, and Marx's Law of Value: Monopoly Capital and Marx's Law of Value

Modern Imperialism, Monopoly Finance Capital, and Marx’s Law of Value

Unlike such obvious forms of oppression as feudalism or slavery, capitalism has been able to survive through its genius for disguising corporate profit imperatives as opportunities for individual human equality and advancement. But it was the genius of Karl Marx, in his masterwork, Capital, to discover the converse law of surplus value: behind the illusion of the democratic, supply-and-demand marketplace, lies the workplace, where people trying to earn a living are required to work way beyond the time it takes to pay their wages. Leave it to the genius of Samir Amin to advance Marx’s theories—adding to them the work of radical economists such as Michal Kalecki, Josef Steindl, Paul Baran, and Paul Sweezy—to show how Marxian theory can be adapted to modern economic conditions. | more…

The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism: The Roots of Slavery, White Supremacy, and Capitalism in Seventeenth-Century North America and the Caribbean

The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism: The Roots of Slavery, White Supremacy, and Capitalism in Seventeenth-Century North America and the Caribbean

Virtually no part of the modern United States—the economy, education, constitutional law, religious institutions, sports, literature, economics, even protest movements—can be understood without first understanding the slavery and dispossession that laid its foundation. To that end, historian Gerald Horne digs deeply into Europe’s colonization of Africa and the New World, when, from Columbus’s arrival until the Civil War, some 13 million Africans and some 5 million Native Americans were forced to build and cultivate a society extolling “liberty and justice for all.” | more…

"The Chinese Factory in the Street of Teng-chan at Nagasaki, founded in 1688"

Economic History and the ‘East Wind’

Challenges to Eurocentrism

The decline of Western dominance over the capitalist world system and the concurrent rise of Asia demand a deconstruction of the accepted wisdom of economic history. Understanding the legacy of Eurocentrism in both the rise of capitalism and its historiography is necessary if we are to challenge the dominant discourse and ideological assumptions of the so-called “European miracle.” | 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)

Forthcoming in March 2019

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…

The Long Revolution of the Global South: Toward a New Anti-Imperialist International by Samir Amin

The Long Revolution of the Global South: Toward a New Anti-Imperialist International

Forthcoming in April 2019

In this second volume of his memoirs, Samir Amin takes us on a journey to a dizzying array of countries, primarily in the Arab World, Africa, Asia, and Latin America, recounting in detail the stages of his ongoing dialogue over several decades with popular movements struggling for a better future. Along the way, we meet government leaders, activists in popular movements, and working people, both rural and urban. As in his many works over the years, The Long Revolution of the Global South combines Amin’s astute theoretical analyses of the challenges confronting the world’s oppressed peoples with militant action. | more…

The Lie of Global Prosperity: How Neoliberals Distort Data to Mask Poverty and Exploitation by Seth Donnelly

The Lie of Global Prosperity: How Neoliberals Distort Data to Mask Poverty and Exploitation

Forthcoming in June 2019

“We’re making headway on global poverty,” trills billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates. “Decline of Global Extreme Poverty Continues,” reports the World Bank. And “How did the global poverty rate halve in 20 years?” inquires The Economist magazine. Seth Donnelly answers: “It didn’t!” In fact, according to Donnelly’s The Lie of Global Prosperity, virtually nothing about these glad tidings proclaiming plummeting global poverty rates is true. | more…

Value Chains: The New Economic Imperialism by Intan Suwandi

Value Chains: The New Economic Imperialism

Forthcoming in August 2019

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…