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Political Economy

The Samsung Digital City complex, in the South Korean city of Suwon

Crisis Management in South Korea and the Hegemonic Strategy of the Chaebols

In the Republic of Korea, chaebols—diversified and large-scale conglomerate forms of capital governed dynastically by an owner and the owner’s family—have grown quickly, dominating the Korean market and substantially contributing to the Korean economy since their structuring in the 1970s. Some chaebol affiliates have grown into global economic powers within a mere thirty to forty years. However, the fast growth of the chaebols in Korea has also been associated with crises and in trying to manage these crises chaebols have not only changed the ways in which they accumulate capital, they have sought to establish hegemony over civil society. | more…

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Financialization

Owning Financialization

In the Notes from the Editors of the January 2019 issue of Monthly Review, the editors commented on a blog post by Michael Roberts on the term financialization. In the first part of this short exchange Roberts questions whether financialization is a meaningful and useful term, or simply a distraction from a comprehensive critique contemporary capitalism. | more…

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Wall Street, New York, United States. Photo by Woldai Wagner.

The Critique of Financialization

A Reply to Michael Roberts

There has been a tendency within liberal analysis of financialization to place an emphasis on the trees, that is, the various speculative mechanisms, rather than the forest, or the growth of finance in relation to production. The reason for this stress on the trees rather than the forest is that, in contemporary capitalist ideology, financialization cannot be brought seriously into question since it is part of the entire architecture of accumulation. | more…

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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)

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…

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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…

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…

Monitoring is built in to many of the jobs that form the ‘gig economy’—but surveillance is increasing across the workplace

New Means of Workplace Surveillance

From the Gaze of the Supervisor to the Digitalization of Employees

Workplace surveillance and the invasion of employee privacy have always been present under capitalism. Historically, this has mostly involved the combination of visual observation and abstract time, focusing on employee performance. However, the development of new information and communication technologies has brought important changes to the manner in which employers control employee productivity. Such digitalization or datafication of employees constitutes a qualitative change in the history of workplace surveillance—a change that reduces workers, their performance and bodies, to lines of code and flows of data to be scrutinized and manipulated. | more…

Student protesters in South Africa

South Africa Suffers Capitalist Crisis Déjà Vu

Business tycoon Cyril Ramaphosa, who, according to Forbes, was worth more than $450 million in 2015, has been the president of the ruling African National Congress since December 2017. Despite the change in ruling-party leadership, the residual old-guard politicians from the era of Jacob Zuma’s patrimonial, corrupt regime still retain enormous power. | more…

Neoliberalism is creating loneliness

Capitalism and Mental Health

The psychoanalytical framework developed by Marxist Erich Fromm strongly challenges the dominant biological and individualistic explanations of the mental-health crisis that is now sweeping the globe. Fromm emphasized that all humans have certain needs that must be fulfilled in order to ensure optimal mental health. It follows that capitalism is crucial to determining the experience and prevalence of mental well-being, as its operations are incompatible with true human need. | more…

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…

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…