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Political Economy

Mythologies of State and Monopoly Power

Mythologies of State and Monopoly Power

“Mythologies,” writes veteran human rights lawyer Michael Tigar, “are structures of words and images that portray people, institutions, and events in ways that mask an underlying reality.” For instance, the “Justice Department” appears, by its very nature and practice, to appropriate “justice” as the exclusive property of the federal government. In his brilliantly acerbic collection of essays, Tigar reveals, deconstructs, and eviscerates mythologies surrounding the U.S. criminal justice system, racism, free expression, workers’ rights, and international human rights. | 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…

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Chinese Yuan

Renminbi: A Century of Change

There is considerable interest in the history and characterization of China’s economy. This overview of the evolution of the renminbi from the late Qing dynasty to the present, shows how China’s political and economic changes in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries are reflected in the development of its highly contested modern currency system. | 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…

A factory along the Yangtze River in China

A Subaltern Perspective on China’s Ecological Crisis

The modernization paradigm pursued by China has tended to privilege industry over agriculture, urban over rural, and the middle class over the subaltern, with the country’s growth statistics and policy emphases accordingly geared to such a paradigm. This has resulted in almost mindless degradation of nature. The key question China faces is thus not one of more progress or more growth, but of the multiple tasks of reversing the dire damage already done to its ecology, society, and culture. | more…

Farmers fertilizing an aerobic rice field

Rural Communities and Economic Crises in Modern China

Throughout China’s nearly seventy-year history of industrialization and financialization, whenever the cost of an economic crisis could be transferred to the rural sector, capital-intensive urban industries have had a “soft landing” and existing institutional arrangements have been maintained—a pattern that continues today. We argue that Chinese peasants and rural communities have rescued the country from no fewer than ten such economic crises. | more…

Monthly Review Volume 70, Number 2 (June 2018)

June 2018 (Volume 70, Number 2)

With the eruption in March of the scandal around Cambridge Analytica and Facebook, articles raising the alarm on “surveillance capitalism” are suddenly everywhere. The term, which was coined in MR in August of 2014, was developed to highlight the links between digital spying systems and contemporary capitalism as a whole. Academic interpretations of the concept effectively divorced surveillance capitalism from class analysis, and from the overall political-economic structure of capitalism—as if surveillance could be abstracted from monopoly-finance capital as a whole. | more…

Inside a Haier Pakistan factory

The China–Pakistan Economic Corridor

Beyond the Rule of Capital?

Three hundred years after what became known in the nineteenth century as the Great Game—a struggle for regional hegemony between the British and Russian Empires—Southwest Asia remains an imperial staging ground. The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in September 2001 signaled Washington’s desire to cement its hegemonic position, but seventeen years later it is mired in an unwinnable war, even as the U.S. economy—and that of much of the Western world—endures the “endless crisis” of contemporary capitalism. | more…

Protest against worker precariousness

The New Service Proletariat

From call centers to fast-food restaurants, the future of service work is one of precarious employment, with no stable schedules, wages, benefits, or union representation. Should these workers be considered part of a new service proletariat, or treated as a new class altogether, the “precariat”? | more…

Section of the Diego Rivera's mural "From the conquest to 1930" focusing on Marx and the class struggle

The Multiple Meanings of Marx’s Value Theory

The Marxian critique of political economy is inseparable from the “labor theory of value.” But what exactly does this theory mean? This article considers Marx’s value theory from five perspectives: as a monetary value theory, a theory of exploitation, a macro-monetary theory of capitalist production, a theory of individual prices, and a theory of crises. | 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…

Monthly Review Volume 69, Number 9 (February 2018)

February 2018 (Volume 69, Number 9)

A recent article by the economist Riccardo Bellofiore includes a significant treatment of Paul Sweezy’s dynamic theory of monopoly capital. But the essay’s most noteworthy contributions, in our view, relate to Harry Magdoff and Sweezy’s role in the 1970s and ’80s in developing a theory of financialization, and what their analysis can tell us about our current situation. | more…