Top Menu

Stagnation

The New Economy

Myth and Reality

In the last few years the idea of a “New Economy” has gained wide currency, almost rivaling “globalization” as a neologism that characterizes our era. Thus The Economic Report of the President, 2001, begins: “Over the last 8 years the American economy has transformed itself so radically that many believe we have witnessed the creation of a New Economy.” This New Economy is seen, first and foremost, as consisting of those firms and economic sectors most closely associated with the revolution in digital technology and the growth of the Internet. The rapid convergence of information technologies—including computers, software, satellites, fiber optics, and the Internet—has, it is believed, fundamentally altered the economic landscape. Since the mid-1990s, these revolutionary technological developments have, it is argued, spilled over into the wider economy, generating higher productivity growth, a sustained acceleration of economic growth, lower unemployment, lower inflation, and an attenuation of the business cycle | more…

New Economy…Same Irrational Economy

What can we say about the assertion that there is a “New Economy”? That depends on what we mean by this term. It is nonsense to claim, and few do any more, that the business cycle has been eliminated or that the contradictions of capitalism have been resolved. In 2000 we witnessed a massacre of technology and Internet stocks ending what many considered the country’s biggest financial mania of the past hundred years. The NASDAQ lost over half of its value, a paper loss of 3.33 trillion dollars, the equivalent of a third of the houses in the United States sliding into the ocean, as one Wall Street wag tells us. While only a few months ago, all we heard about was the magic of the market and that crises are the result of bad government policies, whether “crony” capitalism or simply failure to make information available to markets in a full and timely fashion, and that the new information technology now makes markets even more efficient; all of this talk is now shown to be the usual exaggeration we find in the up stage of most long expansions. As in the past it disappears as the economy weakens. Indeed as inventories pile up the nature of capitalism becomes clear to even the financial press and the politicians | more…

The “New Economy” and the Speculative Bubble: An Interview with Doug Henwood

an Interview with Doug Henwood

Doug Henwood, author of Wall Strr£t:How It Works andfur lWIom (Verso, 1997) and publisher and primary author of the newsletter Left Business Observer; is a fre- quent contributor to Munthly Review. Doug was interviewed earlier this year for the San Francisco Ba:y Guardian by another good friend of ours, Christian Parenti-author of 1.JxiuJnam Ameriaz (Verso, 1999), reviewed in last month’s MR At the end of February we asked a few additional questions of Doug. The composite interview follows | more…

Neoliberalism from Reagan to Clinton

Michael Meeropol, Surrender: How the Clinton Administration Completed the Reagan Revolution (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1998), 377 pages, cloth $34.50, paper $19.95.

Recent presidential elections in the United States have obfuscated, more than clarified, the social divisions of American society. While the Democrats project a well-worn image of protecting working Americans the Republicans declare the need to defend traditional American values. In reality, the consensus between the two parties on the superiority of American government and the beneficence of capitalism rules any challenge to the status quo politically out of bounds (even the candidacy of longtime policy activist Ralph Nader was seen as beyond the pale). The contest between Albert Gore and George W. Bush—a contest between patrician familial dynasties that could only occur in the United States—was no exception | more…

January 2001 (Volume 52, Number 8)

Notes from the Editors

A striking example of the one-sided nature of the US media, at least where issues of capital and imperial power are concerned, is the way recent events in the Middle East are being reported. One would never know from the press, radio, and television that Palestinians are fighting for freedom from military occupation and the years-long deterioration of social and economic conditions. Theirs is in essence an anticolonial struggle. In a recent article in the Egyptian Al-Ahram Weekly, Edward Said pointed out: not a single map has been published or shown on television to remind American viewers and readers—notoriously ignorant of both geography and history—that Israeli encampments, settlements, roads and barricades crisscross Palestinian land in Gaza and the West Bank. | more…

Capitalism’s Environmental Crisis—Is Technology the Answer?

The standard solution offered to the environmental problem in advanced capitalist economies is to shift technology in a more benign direction: more energy-efficient production, cars that get better mileage, replacement of fossil fuels with solar power, and recycling of resources. Other environmental reforms, such as reductions in population growth and even cuts in consumption, are often advocated as well. The magic bullet of technology, however, is by far the favorite, seeming to hold out the possibility of environmental improvement with the least effect on the smooth working of the capitalist machine. The 1997 International Kyoto Protocol on global warming, designed to limit the greenhouse-gas emissions of nations, has only reinforced this attitude, encouraging many environmental advocates in the United States (including Al Gore in his presidential campaign) to advocate technological improvement in energy efficiency as the main escape from the environmental mess. | more…

Working-Class Households and the Burden of Debt

It is an old axiom, common to both Marxian and Keynesian economics, that uneven, class-based distribution of income is a determining factor of consumption and investment. How much is spent for consumption goods depends on the income of the working class. Workers necessarily spend almost all of their income on consumption, with relatively little left over for savings or investment. Capitalists, on the other hand, spend only a small percent- age of their income for personal consumption. The overwhelming proportion of the income of capitalists and their corporations is devoted to investment  | more…

April 2000 (Volume 51, Number 11)

Notes from the Editors

This space has, from its earliest years, been devoted to MR affairs, viewing the readers as part of a larger family. Recently, we began to use the space for commentary on political and economic developments also. The occasion of Paul’s 90th on April 10, however, calls for something very different. If you guess that this will be a love letter, you are not mistaken. I have long wanted to express publicly my feelings about Paul. A review of his contributions to knowledge and theoretical analysis about capitalism and socialism would require a long essay. I prefer to say a few words about him as my friend and comrade  | more…

Monopoly Capital at the Turn of the Millennium

Economic analysts, as everyone knows, have widely differing views on the way the economy works. The single most important division lies between right and left—a division that has its roots in class. But even among those on the left there are areas of sharp disagreement. One of these is over the centrality of the Keynesian revolution to the development of economics. Did the revolution in economic thought, associated with thinkers such as Keynes and Kalecki, teach things that Marxist political economists should view as essential? Another disagreement is over the role of monopoly and competition. How central is the concentration and centralization of capital to our understanding of the workings of capitalism today—a full century after Marxists and other radicals first raised the question of monopoly capitalism? Whatever one’s abstract theory is—and all theories by definition rely on a degree of abstraction—its usefulness lies in its capacity to make sense of everyday reality, while providing the strategic analysis necessary for practical revolutionary solutions. | more…

The Road Not Taken

Paul Buhle, Taking Care of Business: Samuel Gompers, George Meany, Lane Kirkland, and the Tragedy of American Labor (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1999), $18, 315 pp.; Mike Parker & Martha Gruelle, Democracy is Power: Rebuilding Unions from the Bottom Up (Detroit: Labor Notes, 1999), $17, 255 pp.

In a very well-known passage, Marx said, “Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past.” Elsewhere, he said, “The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living.” These words of wisdom provide us with a good entry point into a review of these two exceptional books  | more…