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The Science and Humanism of Stephen Jay Gould

The Science and Humanism of Stephen Jay Gould

Stephen Jay Gould was not only a leading paleontologist and evolutionary theorist, he was also a humanist with an enduring interest in the history and philosophy of science. The extraordinary range of Gould’s work was underpinned by a richly nuanced and deeply insightful worldview. Richard York and Brett Clark engage Gould’s science and humanism to illustrate and develop the intellectual power of Gould’s worldview, particularly with regard to the philosophy of science. They demonstrate how the Gouldian perspective sheds light on many of the key debates occurring not only in the natural sciences, but in the social sciences as well. They engage the themes that unified Gould’s work and drove his inquires throughout his intellectual career, such as the nature of history, both natural and social, particularly the profound importance of contingency and the uneven tempo of change. They also assess Gould’s views on structuralism, highlighting the importance of the dialectical interaction of structural forces with everyday demands for function, and his views on the hierarchical ordering of causal forces, with some forces operating at large scales and/or over long spans of time, while others are operating on small scales and/or occur frequently or rapidly. | more…

Socialism and the Knowledge Economy: Cuban Biotechnology

As authoritatively stated in an editorial in Nature, vol. 436, issue 7049 (July 2005), “Cuba has developed a considerable [scientific] research capability—perhaps more so than any other developing country outside of Southeast Asia.” Cuba has been especially successful in establishing a biotechnology industry that has effectively introduced drugs and vaccines of its own, along with a nascent pharmaceutical industry that has achieved considerable success in exports. Its agriculture and health sectors have been strong beneficiaries of its scientific research. As Nature observed: “It is worth asking how Cuba did it, and what lessons other countries might draw from it.” Indeed, the Cuban case is all the more surprising since it is not only a poor country, but one that has been confronted for decades by a ruthless embargo imposed by the United States, which has been extended to scientific knowledge. Moreover, much of Cuba’s scientific progress has occurred in the decade and a half since the fall of the Soviet Union, which previously had aided it economically and technologically | 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…

Cuban Doctors in Pakistan: Why Cuba Still Inspires

The signs point to the fact that the symbol of the Cuban revolution is reaching the end of his road. Even if it does not formally mark the definitive end of almost fifty years of undisputed leadership at the helm of the island republic, Fidel Castro’s handing over of power to brother Raul in late July is surely a precursor to what will happen sooner rather than later | more…

‘Let the Dialectic Continue!’

Harry Magdoff died on New Year’s Day 2006 at the age of ninety-two. He will be remembered in the hearts of those who knew him, those who were profoundly influenced when they heard him speak, and those who have read Monthly Review and his great books on imperialism, which helped mature the thinking of the generation of leftists who came of age during the Vietnam War. It is the warmth of his person, the clarity and incisiveness of his thinking, and his profound vision of the absolute necessity of socialism that characterize his historic contributions and set him apart as one of a handful of great Marxist thinkers of the last century. The breadth of Harry’s knowledge—his grasp of world history, Marxist literature, and broader literatures—was extraordinary. He was as content, for example, to discuss the nature of calculus with a college student as Shakespeare with a Shakespeare scholar, all with that wonderful enthusiasm and energy he always brought to conversations | more…

The Meaning of Work: A Marxist Perspective

Marxists may be expected to have few disagreements about the meaning of work in the past and present. The same cannot be said, however, about work in the future. Since I will be talking about work under socialism and communism as well as in history, what I am presenting here is a Marxist perspective, not the Marxist perspective | more…

Four Letters on Capitalism and Socialism

Even when Harry Magdoff was writing articles less often in his final years, he continued to compose letters that displayed his keen interest in world developments, the evolution of his thinking, and his deep personal commitments. Reprinted here are four letters he wrote in the opening years of the new millennium. The first was written while he still lived in New York. The last three were written in Vermont where Harry had moved in June 2002 to live with his son Fred and his daughter-in-law Amy Demarest. The fragilities of old age had largely confined him by then to home. But his thinking still knew no bounds | more…

What Maoism Has Contributed

The Second International’s Marxism, proletarian-and-European-centered, shared with the dominant ideology of that period a linear view of history—a view according to which all societies had first to pass through a stage of capitalist development (a stage whose seeds were being planted by colonialism which, by that very fact, was “historically positive”) before being able to aspire to socialism. The idea that the “development” of some (the dominating centers) and the “underdevelopment” of others (the dominated peripheries) were as inseparable as the two faces of a single coin, both being immanent outcomes of capitalism’s worldwide expansion, was completely alien to it  | more…

Marx, Freud, and the Critique of Everyday Life: Toward a Permanent Cultural Revolution

Marx, Freud, and the Critique of Everyday Life: Toward a Permanent Cultural Revolution

The theory and practice of revolutionary social transformation, Bruce Brown argues, cannot rest content with the exclusive emphasis of traditional Marxism on world-historic processes and the struggle of the working classes for their collective emancipation. He views the experience both of the backsliding of revolution in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, and of the manipulative integration of the population of the West into consumer capitalism, as seen at the turning point years of the early 1970s. Brown argues that Marxism needs to rediscover the specifically subjective, psychological dimensions of the revolutionary process in their relation to the objective patterns in history. | more…

The Alienation of Modern Man

The Alienation of Modern Man

This intriguing work deals with the plight of the alienated individual, estranged from humanity and the surrounding world. It examines such questions as: Why do writers like Kafka, Thomas Wolfe, Rilke, and the existential philosophers, who portray man as a stranger in the world, have such a strong appeal? Is estrangement limited to individual cases or has it become a universal fate? Is alienation a consequence of the triumph of the machine? Is it caused by the increasing complication of our political life and by the growing separation between leaders and masses? Is it characteristic of the human condition, or is it a specific development of modern society? Should mankind resign itself to alienation, or can it be overcome, conquered? | more…

July-August 2006 (Volume 58, Number 3)

Notes from the Editors

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s famous remark, cited by Karl Marx, among others, was surely a part of the sensibility that motivated Harry Magdoff’s life and work. Harry’s writing and scholarship were important achievements and distinguished contributions to the socialist project, but they were grounded in a profound understanding of life, history, and the human condition. The centrality of both theory and life were much in evidence on a clear brisk weekend in early May, when many of the MR extended family—readers, writers, staff, and, of course, the Magdoff family—gathered in New York, on Saturday for a roundtable on Harry’s contributions and the future of MR, and on Sunday for a meeting celebrating, as it turned out, the lives of both Harry and his beloved wife Beadie | more…