Panama Papers: Capitalism Working Well for Obscenely Rich | John Passant
Commentary | April 27th, 2016
The Panama Papers show us, once again, that capitalism is a system of absolute greed. It is a system where capitalist governments help their mates to hide their income and wealth while all the time businesses pretend they are paying their "fair share" of tax. The 11.5 million leaked documents from Mossack Fonseca contain details of the 14,000 clients of the Panama headquartered company and the 220,000 shell companies it has set up for them in tax havens around the globe. Why tax havens? Not only do these countries have no or low tax rates they also have secrecy provisions which protect the income and assets of wealthy individuals and companies from the prying eyes of state bodies like tax offices and company regulators.
Capitalism's Depleted Reserves: Recognizing and Preparing for Systemic Breakdown | Ben Peck
Analysis | April 27th, 2016
The capitalist crisis of 2008 was rescued by an enormous transfusion of public money into the banks. The system has been on life-support ever since. Despite this, the bourgeois see little prospects of a recovery for their system. Rather, they wring their hands and impotently grimace in anticipation of another slump. Many consider this now a question of "when", not "if". An organism in crisis will begin to burn off its reserves of fat in order to survive. Austerity has been capitalism's economic equivalent of this process. The system has eaten deeply into its reserves, particularly in the advanced capitalist countries. All the accumulated reforms conquered by the working class in the preceding historical period; relatively decent wages, the welfare state, pensions, etc; in order to pay for a system in crisis have been, or are in the process of being, burned away.
Debt, Underemployment, and Capitalism: The Rise of Twenty-First-Century Serfdom | Cherise Charleswell and Colin Jenkins
Analysis | February 26th, 2016
Systemic contradictions of capitalism have only intensified in the neoliberal era. Structural unemployment, a phenomenon directly related to capitalist modes of production, has continued unabated, creating a massive and ever-growing "reserve army of labor" that has been disenfranchised on an unprecedented scale. Working classes, en masse, have been corralled into legalized systems of education debt with false promises of "middle-class" lifestyles, only to be tossed into a job market that can no longer keep up with the system's inherent deficits and inability to provide a living wage to the masses. Massive inequality and unprecedented wealth accumulation and concentration have paralleled uncontrollable costs of living and widespread housing insecurity for the working-class majority.
Looking Beyond Capitalism: A Case for Parecon (Participatory Economics) | Michael Albert
Commentary | February 15th, 2016
People now fighting economic injustice have no right to decide how future people should live. But we do have a responsibility to provide an institutional setting that facilitates future people deciding for themselves their own conditions of life and work. To this end, participatory economics, or parecon, describes the core institutions required to generate solidarity, equity, self-management, and an ecologically sound and classless economy. Parecon first advocates self-management by workers' and consumers' councils federated by industry and region as society's primary venues of economic decision making. "Self-management" means people and groups have decision making influence in proportion to the extent to which they are affected by the decision in question.
Radical Economics, Marxist Economics, and Marx's Economics | Jane Hardy
Theory | February 2nd, 2016
The major global crises of the mid-1970s and 2008-9 provoked debates among the ruling class about the best economic policies to manage capitalism. For socialists and activists the question was different, and debates about whether and to what extent capitalism could be reformed to avert crisis and instil a more humane and fair system became even sharper. By the mid-1970s the end of the (not so) long boom of the 1950s and 1960s seemed to sound the death knell of Keynesian economics; in 2008 the shock of the near meltdown of global capitalism led commentators from a broad political spectrum to question the efficacy of neoliberal policies, particularly in relation to deregulated finance. Since 2008 it is hardly surprising that there has been a revival of radical economics and a proliferation of books and articles criticising neoliberal capitalism reflected, for example, in the popularity of the huge tomeCapital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty.
Overdrawn and Overworked: The Problems of Overdraft Fees | Devon Douglas-Bowers
Commentary | January 11th, 2016
We have all been shafted by overdraft fees from our bank at some time or another. It's an annoyance and frustration, especially to those of us who already don't have much money as well as a constant puzzle: If one doesn't have $5, how are they going to pay an extra $35? Yet banks continue to do this and rake in money, as can be seen by them having made $35 billion in overdraft fees in 2014. In order to get a better handle on the problem of overdrafts, we need to understand the history of such fees as well as reframe how we look at the situation, changing our perspective to see overdraft fees as a sort of loan rather than a fee.
Bank Crimes Pay: Under the Thumb of the Global Financial Mafiocracy | Andrew Gavin Marshall
Analysis | December 7th, 2015
On Nov. 13, the United Kingdom's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) announced it was charging 10 individual bankers, working for two separate banks, Deutsche Bank and Barclays, with fraud over their rigging of the Euribor rates. The latest announcement shines the spotlight once again on the scandals and criminal behavior that have come to define the world of global banking. To date, only a handful of the world's largest banks have been repeatedly investigated, charged, fined or settled in relation to a succession of large financial scams, starting with mortgage fraud and the Libor scandal in 2012, the Euribor scandal and the Forex (foreign exchange) rate rigging. At the heart of these scandals, which involve the manipulation of interest rates on trillions of dollars in transactions, lie a handful of banks that collectively form a cartel in control of global financial markets - and the source of worldwide economic and financial crises.
A Special Kind of Humanity in Dark Times: How Students at the University of Missouri Are Bringing the Neoliberal Power Structure to its Knees | Jim Burns
Analysis | November 10th, 2015
The ineffectual institutional response, or perhaps non-response, to the hostile climate at the University of Missouri throughout the fall: racial slurs shouted at the student body president and the Legion of Black Collegians; human feces smeared in the shape of a Swastika in a dorm; racist messages delivered through anonymity's best friend Yik-Yak; ideologically-fueled attacks by the state legislature targeting women's health services and scholarships for undocumented students; has claimed University System President Tim Wolfe and R. Bowen Loftin, Chancellor of the flagship campus. Under mounting pressure from students, the bad press generated by hunger-striking graduate student Jonathan Butler, and a threatened boycott by Black football players, Wolfe resigned on November 9, and Loftin will step down in January.
We Are More Than Commodities: 'False Consciousness' and Why It's Still Relevant | Colin Jenkins
Theory | October 22nd, 2015
Anyone who has ever taken part in a similar conversation with fellow workers knows that this fictional account couldn't be any more real, even over a century later. While it occurred in an imaginary, 1900-ish English setting, it surely resonates in a 21st-century American reality where collective working-class dissonance - what is referred to in Marxist circles as "false consciousness" - remains ignorant to the casual effects of capitalism. The conversation is packed with the typically tragic ironies of impoverished, insecure workers searching for any reason to explain their collective plight absent of blaming a system, let alone the faces of that system, which uses and discards them as it pleases. The lone conscious worker, Owen, does his best to enlighten the bunch. The main opposition comes from Crass, a character who symbolizes the epitome of false consciousness, not only in his ignorance of the system but perhaps even more so in his ill-informed, emotional pushback, which echoes the misleading narrative so often presented through mainstream channels.
Capitalism, Exploitation, and Degradation | Dr. Nicholas Partyka
Analysis | October 8th, 2015
Our main question here will be, Is there morally bad exploitation in capitalist employment relationships? To begin I will examine Ruth Sample's excellent account of moral exploitation, and contrasting it at points with the earlier view of Alan Wertheimer. The subtitle of Sample's book offers us an interesting way to approach the explication of her view, and so I will in turn address the questions, What is exploitation, and Why is it wrong? Briefly, Sample's view is that exploitation involves taking advantage for private gain of vulnerability in another, or ignoring their needs in the transaction. This kind of behavior is morally wrong, as Sample suggests, because it fails to show respect for the exploited party.
Neoliberalism, Austerity, and Authoritarianism | Riad Azar
Theory | July 24th, 2015
Ask anyone what neoliberalism means and they'll tell you it's an economic system that corresponds to a particular economic philosophy. But any real-world economic system has a corresponding political system to promote and sustain it. Milton Friedman, who has become known as the father of neoliberal thinking, claims in his text Capitalism and Freedom that "the role of the government … is to do something that the market cannot do for itself, namely, to determine, arbitrate, and enforce the rules of the game."* While neoliberalism's advocates like to claim that the political system that corresponds to their economic preference is a democratic, minimal state, in practice, the neoliberal state has demonstrated quite the opposite tendency.
"Thuggin" in Baltimore City: Capitalism and the Political Economy of "Breaking Slaves" | Asha Layne
Analysis | July 21st, 2015
As violence hit the streets of Baltimore City following the funeral services of Freddie Gray it became impossible to ignore the barrage of media coverage. From local Baltimore news outlets like Channel 13 and FOX 45 to eponymous CNN, the world saw protests and riots throughout West Baltimore as citizens responded to the racial and social injustices that are too common for American cities. At the forefront were the voices and actions of young individuals who showed the world through action that they were going to be heard by any means - love it or hate it. In the wake of these riots, many interpretations circulated of these actions and were condensed into one word: 'thugs.' By definition, a thug is a violent criminal, and when used as a form of action, 'thuggin' becomes a behavior that mimics a criminal lifestyle.
Monopoly Capitalism in the 21st Century: Neoliberalism, Monetarism, and the Pervasion of Finance | Colin Jenkins
Theory | June 30th, 2015
With industrial or "competitive capitalism," it was the "separation and dispossession of the direct producers (the working class) from their means of production" which created this multi-layered, class-based societal structure. Globalization has resulted in a massive shift of national economies. Former industrialized nations are now considered "post-industrial" due to the ability of large production-based manufacturers to move their operations into "cheaper" labor markets. International and regional trade agreements have facilitated this shift. With post-industrial capitalism and the widespread destruction of "productive labor," or labor that produces a tangible product and is thus exploited through the creation of surplus value, it is the complete reliance on a service economy which produces no tangible value that allows for strict control through wage manipulation. The ways in which the working class interacts with the owning class has changed significantly, if only in regards to their physical worlds.
That Poverty Which is Deep: Recent Statistics on the Children of the Poor | Jeremy Brunger
Analysis | June 30th, 2015
Aristotle wrote in The Politics that "poverty is the parent of revolution and of crime." He was not writing in support of the poor and dispossessed, but rather argued in favor of keeping the poor in check. He might have gone on to recognize that there is poverty, and then there is deep poverty. The confluence of the negative effects of growing up in poverty, and around it, prove virtually boundless when explored by the sciences. Social science and neurology suggest a profoundly disturbing relationship between childhood development, the enduring lack of education to resources, chaos at home, and the cognitive limitations instilled into children who grow up knowing little else beyond urban decay or rural want. It is a problem little discussed in formal politics because formal politics is not for the poor; those unlucky enough to draw the long straws in the lottery of birth have no more advocacy than they have agency, and are often treated as so much disposable matter by the political and economic machinery only nominally designed to represent them.
Causing a Scene: Neoliberal Urbanism and Spatial Production in Post-Recession New York City | Jacob Ertel
Analysis | June 9th, 2015
In the opening pages of Discipline and Punish, Foucault depicts the brutal public torture and execution of Robert-Francois Damiens in 1757 for attempted regicide. Damiens' execution was intended as more than a spectator ceremony or an expression of sovereign power: it represented a mode of discipline and a practice of social learning. Such rituals were soon outlived, however, as the unintended heroization of the victim through the displacement of shame to the executioner proved politically ineffective. Torture as a public spectacle, according to Foucault, had mostly died out by the beginning of the 19th century in lieu of more generalized forms of control such as prisons and asylums: "the tortured body was avoided; the theatrical representation of pain was excluded from punishment."
The Poverty Machine: Student Debt, Class Society, and Securing Bonded Labor | Jeremy Brunger
Analysis | May 15th, 2015
At the dawn of the 20th century, very few American students attended high school, as the demands of the heavy-industrial and the agricultural economies of that period were ill-suited to an extended education beyond the family sphere. In the middle of the 20th century, most Americans who either aspired to or had to work entered the full-time workforce immediately after high school, for such a postwar economy featured plenty of growth and comparably fair wage-compensation for the average worker. As the economy became more complex in its labor needs, its extending length of education complemented these requirements. The transformation of the agricultural economy into the technological economy after World War II, in turn, transformed the university, once the commune of the well-to-do, into a center for job training, an adjunct to industry, and one which continued to increase in enrollment as the technological necessities of an increasingly complex economy required further education.
Why Comparisons Between the Boston Tea Party and Baltimore Riots are Wrong | Colin Jenkins
Commentary | May 5th, 2015
In 1767, British Parliament passed the Townshend Acts, which included a tax on the American colonies for tea imports from Britain. For the next six years, in order to avoid paying this tax, colonists established a significant smuggling ring with the Dutch, which amounted to approximately 900,000 pounds of tea being shipped into the American colonies per year. This was viewed as a crime by British authorities. So, in 1773, British Parliament passed the Tea Act. Contrary to a popular misconception, the Tea Act did not create a new royal tax on the American colonists. Rather, it was implemented for three reasons: (1) to help boost the East India Company, which had fallen on hard times, by granting them the right to ship tea directly to the colonies as a duty-free export, (2) to undercut the price of smuggled tea the colonies were receiving from the Dutch, and (3) to bolster and reinforce the tea import tax placed on the colonies due to the Townshend Acts.
Overcoming the American Dream | Frank Castro
Commentary | May 5th, 2015
My house sat tucked a mile deep, wrapped in 500 acres of sprawling oaks and towering pines. Dense thickets crisscrossed the land like formidable barricades protecting masses of forests from the intrusions of bored, yet curious children. They would leave you picking daggers from your sides and forearms if you journeyed too far. I grew up in a remote place called Farmhaven, the midway point between Canton and Carthage, Mississippi. Driving through you would never know you were somewhere with a name. Farmhaven is one of those places marked by only an intersection and a road that always goes somewhere else. It is here though, with my father and my brother, in the heart of the South, that I learned the most important lesson life could teach me.
Will the Real Keynes Please Stand Up: On Keynesianism and Crisis Theory | Michael Roberts
Theory | April 22nd, 2015
An argument has broken out among top Keynesian economists about what is the Keynesian theory on economic fluctuations in capitalist economies (i.e, crises and slumps). The debate has taken the usual form of arguing about what Keynes 'really meant', whether he was really a radical that dispensed with neoclassical equilibrium theory or whether followers and supporters of Keynesian economic theory have distorted the master's ideas so much as to reduce their insights to nothing. This argument reminds me of the unending one within Marxian economics that some of us have been engaging in yet again recently. Did Marx have a clear theory of crises under capitalism in his works that he stuck to consistently; or were his ideas so sketchy that followers like Friedrich Engels distorted them? And is the theory of value as the basis of Marxian economics founded on realistic premises and logically consistent as a fundamental explanation of accumulation and social relations in the capitalist mode of production? Moreover, does the theory fit the facts?
Curt Flood, Karl Marx, and America's Pastime: A Lesson in the Commodification of Labor | Eoin Higgins
Analysis | March 24th, 2015
Sports have transcended their genesis as simple recreation and have become factories that churn out athletes as commodities. Baseball, that oh so American of sports, is hardly different. In fact, baseball's ownership laid the foundation on which many of the abuses of the athletes across sports are based. Baseball is an industry. With phenomenal profits and exploitation of its workers, baseball has the mutual antagonism found in every business between the owners and employees. This antagonism boiled over in 1969, after simmering below the surface for almost a century, when Curt Flood sued the Commissioner of Baseball, Bowie Kuhn, for violations of antitrust laws and for denying him the right to free agency. Flood's suit went to the Supreme Court, where he lost. In losing, Flood managed to prove the preposterousness of the Court's decision, and by extension, the concept of capitalist law.
Jumping the Left Shark and the Enclosure of the Social Creative Economy: An Interview with Fernando Sosa, the artist being sued by Katy Perry Corp. | Michael B. MacDonald
Interview | February 20th, 2015
I did not watch the Super Bowl but it only took me a few hours to learn about, and then see, the Left Shark that everyone was talking about. I wasn't immediately sure what the fuss was about. Left Shark was a thing and it wasn't because Katy Perry decided it was (there was also a Right Shark that no one cares about), 'we' created Left Shark. This is how the social production of knowledge and value works, an accumulation of individual decisions that has the impact of creating a valued idea/thing. Left Shark is an idea that has quickly become a commodity. I'm sure many people did not even know what they wanted when they searched 'Left Shark'. Perhaps it's a small Left Shark figurine, a downloadable file for your 3D printer, a plan for a costume? Either way, Katy Perry Corp. has identified an opportunity to make money on this idea, if only they can get ownership of it.
Competing Visions in Economics as a Social Science: A Primer | David Fields
Analysis | January 7th, 2015
Economics (indeed every discipline of the social sciences) has never been, and never will be, value-free. Social scientists have always relied, and will continue to rely, on sets of elaborate positions, perceptions, and views about the ultimate nature of reality; essentially, it is the reliance on preconceived notions of how the world works, and how it should work, when analyzing manifest phenomena. Aspects of conscientiousness precede investigation and thus one cannot separate the knowing mind from the object inquiry. What constitutes a fact perceives the observation and hence the conception of what is determined as socially significant; the mind is active in constructing and determining the lens through which observation deciphers what of social phenomena is worthy of factuality.
Paying Up: The Problems with Payday Loans | Devon Douglas-Bowers
Commentary | December 31st, 2014
Despite what the talking heads are saying, the economy isn't doing so well. With this most recent jobs report, the two main sectors of growth were fast food and retail, accounting for a total of about 32.2% of jobs created in October. In part, due to low-paying jobs, many are using payday loans to get by and unfortunately when it comes time to pay up, many are paying much more than what they borrowed due to extremely high interest rates. While this has been bought up in the mainstream every now and then, rarely has anyone taken a look how payday loans came into existence and the type of havoc they wreak on people, mainly the poor. We need to realize that payday loans only harm us and explore alternatives.
Zombie Apocalypse and the Politics of Artificial Scarcity | Colin Jenkins
Commentary | December 19th, 2014
Dystopian narratives have long been an alluring and thought-provoking form of entertainment, especially for those who take an interest in studying social and political structures. From classics like Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World to the current hit, The Hunger Games, these stories play on our fears while simultaneously serving as warning signs for the future. Their attractiveness within American society is not surprising. Our lives are driven by fear. Fear leads us to spend and consume; fear leads us to withdraw from our communities; and fear leads us to apathy regarding our own social and political processes.
Teaching Ferguson, Teaching Capital: Slavery and the "Terrorist Energy" of Capital | Curry Malott and Derek R. Ford
Analysis | December 19th, 2014
Critical education harnesses the present moment, looks to history to grasp the forces determining the present, and links it with social struggles in an effort to push the configuration of the present beyond its breaking point. Given the recent non-indictments of killer cops Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo, critical educators across the U.S. and the globe are bringing the pressing topics of police brutality, state violence, and people's resistance movements into the classroom. In this essay, we contribute to these efforts by arguing that the deadly and unpunished police violence against African Americans requires not only an awareness of slavery, but an analysis of the relationship between capitalism and slavery, and the subsequent subsumption of racism and white supremacy within capitalism.
A Review of "The Endless Crisis: How Monopoly-Finance Capital Produces Stagnation and Upheaval from the USA to China" by John Bellamy Foster & Robert W. McChesney | David Fields
Book Review | December 11th, 2014
The Monthly Review, since its inception, has been carrying on some of the best works in radical political economy. Economists Paul Baran, Paul Sweezy, and Harry Magdoff set out the analytical foundations of what has come to be called the Monthly Review School. Karl Marx, having written in the nineteenth century, wrote about a particular phase of capitalism, which was predicated less on oligopolies than today, although it was moving in that direction. In the best tradition of a historical-materialist approach, which seeks to understand the world as dynamic, rather than static, Monthly Review writers have realized that the organization of capitalism has changed. While the general driving force, the structural imperatives of increased expansion and accumulation of capitalism remains, the way it goes about doing so is inherently different.
The Silent Success of Cooperatives in the Bolivarian Revolution | Dada Maheshvarananda
Analysis | December 3rd, 2014
Solidarity, cooperation, and community empowerment are socialist values promoted by the Bolivarian Revolution in contrast to the individualism and selfishness promoted by the corporate-owned mass media. Cooperatives are quietly transforming people's values in Venezuela, and the rest of the world, though they have been mostly ignored by the mass media and by many political leaders, too. The International Cooperative Alliance defines a cooperative as "an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise." Worker cooperatives develop trust, solidarity, and teamwork.