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Monthly Review Volume 71, Number 5 (October 2019)

October 2019 (Volume 71, Number 5)

Notes from the Editors

New issue of Monthly Review! If there is one thing that is clear about the economic situation in the mature capitalist economies, as we write these notes in mid-August 2019, it is that the financial world is increasingly running scared and looking for safe havens, worrying about the storm clouds ahead. There is now little doubt that the world economy is on the verge of a recession after a long sluggish recovery from the Great Financial Crisis of 2007-09. In itself this should not give occasion to surprise. In this instance, however, there lurks a bigger fear, the possibility of a financial Armageddon on the level of the Great Financial Crisis of 2008—or worse. | more…

Lexit

Socialist Internationalism Against the European Union

Costas Lapavitsas’s The Left Case Against the EU (Polity, 2019) is recognized as the leading work advocating Lexit, the left-wing case for Brexit, and for nations leaving the European Union more generally. In light of current Conservative British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s commitment to exit the European Union by October 31, even if it means a no-deal Brexit, the role of the left takes on growing importance. Moreover, this raises issues of the European Union generally, including the dominance of neoliberalism within it and the question of German hegemony. Here, Neil Davidson offers an assessment of Lapavitsas’s book. | more…

Value Chains: The New Economic Imperialism by Intan Suwandi

Value Chains: The New Economic Imperialism

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…

Monthly Review Volume 71, Number 4 (September 2019)

September 2019 (Volume 71, Number 4)

This special issue of Monthly Review honors the fiftieth anniversary this month of Margaret Benston’s landmark “The Political Economy of Women’s Liberation.” The essay sparked a revolution in Marxian thought, the full implications of which are only now being perceived in contemporary social reproduction theory. We have reprinted Benson’s pieces together with contributions by Silvia Federici, Martha E. Gimenez, Selma James (interviewed by Ron Augustin), Leith Mullings, Marge Piercy, and Lise Vogel, all of whom have played leading roles since the 1970s in the development of feminist historical materialism. | more…

The Political Economy of Women’s Liberation

In sheer quantity, household labor, including child care, constitutes a huge amount of socially necessary production. Nevertheless, in a society based on commodity production, it is not usually considered “real work” since it is outside of trade and the market place. This assignment of household work as the function of a special category women means that this group does stand in a different relation to production than the group men. Except for the very rich, who can hire someone to do it, there is for most women, an irreducible minimum of necessary labor involved in caring for home, husband, and children. Household work remains a matter of private production. | more…

Capitalism also Depends on Domestic Labour

“She Was My Kind of Scientist”

Margaret Benston and the Political Economy of Women's Liberation

In the late 1960s, the North American women’s liberation movement was reaching a highpoint of activity, its militancy complemented by a flourishing literature. This was the environment into which Margaret Benston’s 1969 Monthly Review essay, “The Political Economy of Women’s Liberation,” struck like a lightning bolt. At the time, many in the movement were describing women’s situation in terms of sociological roles, functions, and structures—reproduction, socialization, psychology, sexuality, and the like. In contrast, Benston proposed an analysis in Marxist terms of women’s unpaid labor in the family household. In this way, she definitively shifted the framework for discussion of women’s oppression onto the terrain of Marxist political economy. | more…

What Is Intersectional Feminism?

Women, Class, and Identity Politics

Reflections on Feminism and Its Future

The question of the oppression of women, the critique of which constituted feminism as an academic and political pursuit, has been feminism’s enduring source of strength and appeal, yielding numerous critical theories and perspectives. This has produced continual conceptual shifts defining an evolving feminism, such as the shift from women to gender and from inequality to difference. It has also involved shifts from theorizing the general conditions of women’s experience—oppressed at home and in the workplace, while juggling the conflicting demands of both—to theorizing the implications of the claim that, while gender may be the main source of oppression for white, heterosexual, middle-class women, women with different characteristics and experiences are affected by other forms of oppression as well. A possible way for Marxist feminism to remain a distinctive theoretical and politically relevant perspective might be to return to class, in the Marxist sense, theoretically reexamining the relationship between class and oppression, particularly the oppression of working-class women, within capitalist social formations. | more…

A Wages for Housework march in 1977

On Margaret Benston

The Political Economy of Women's Liberation

Margaret Benston’s “The Political Economy of Women’s Liberation” appears as both a return to the past and, at the same time, if not a “watershed,” as described by Peter Custers, certainly a new turn. On the one hand, she reiterated the classic Marxist-Leninist argument concerning the precapitalist, premarket character of domestic work. On the other, she so strongly insisted on the importance of this work for the stability and perpetuation of the capitalist system that she not only anticipated some of the theses later argued by theorists in the Wages for Housework Campaign, but often fell into apparent contradictions. | 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

“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…