Capitalism's endless crisis -- exposed by Bellamy Foster and McChesney

April 29, 2013

The Endless Crisis: How Monopoly-Finance Capital Produces Stagnation and Upheaval from the USA to China
John Bellamy Foster & Robert W McChesney
Monthly Review Press, 2012

There is growing evidence that the global economic crisis will not end any time too soon. Most mainstream economists have proven time and again to be incompetent when it comes to predicting the course of events in an economic crisis, never mind predicting the crisis itself.

It is in times like these that economics proves to be extremely valuable, in particular Marxist political economy. Ever since it was founded in 1949, Monthly Review, an independent Marxist journal, has contributed considerably to debate and discussion surrounding topics such as economic crisis.

Perhaps its most notable writer was Paul Sweezy, an economist who graduated from Harvard and wrote The Theory of Capitalist Development and Monopoly Capital (with Paul Baran). His writings made him one of the most prominent Marxist economists of the 20th century.

Sweezy died in 2004, leaving some pretty big shoes to fill. John Bellamy Foster is a sociology professor at the University of Oregon, and author of Marx’s Ecology and The Theory of Monopoly Capitalism.

He is also the co-author of The Ecological Rift (with Brett Clark and Richard York), The Great Financial Crisis and What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism (both with Fred Magdoff).

Foster became co-editor of Monthly Review in 2000 and its sole editor since 2006. It would be very safe to say that Foster has filled the void left by Sweezy, and has filled it well.

With Robert W. McChesney, he wrote another book that deals with the global economic crisis, The Endless Crisis: How Monopoly-Finance Capital Produces Stagnation and Upheaval from the USA to China.

McChesney is the Gutgsell Endowed Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignHYPERLINK "" University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and has authored many books, such as The Political Economy of Media and Rich Media, Poor Democracy.

In The Endless Crisis, Bellamy Foster and McChesney lay out how the economic crisis came about> It was not the result of some dodgy government policies or because of the greed of a few individuals, but because of how capitalism itself works and especially because of the present historical and economic context.

Capitalism today is highly monopolised and since the 1980s, in particular, it has seen the insane growth of finance. This phenomenon is referred to as “financialisation.”

This process of financialisation, the authors say, is the result of capitalism having more and more difficulty in producing high enough profit. This growth of finance allows capitalists to make some short-term profit. But the fundamental problems are still there and only get worse as time passes.

In an excellent chapter on China, the authors put forward the view that China’s rise as an economic power is closely intertwined with the way monopoly-finance capitalism has been trying to find greater profits.

China has provided a huge reserve army of labour and its growth has been driven by a gargantuan growth of its export industries and a huge amount of investment.

But since this has been happening China, has become a land of growing contradictions. The growth it has seen is far from being sustainable, in fact it is seeing a slow-down of growth right now. It too will soon be experiencing a crisis like much of the rest of the world.

Bellamy Foster and McChesney maintain that capitalism is fast decaying and is proving incapable of dealing with its own problems. They say monopoly-finance capitalism is not a system of growth but a system in which there are occasional escapes from its real normal state, stagnation.

Bellamy Foster and McChesney have produced an excellent work of radical academia, full of factual material and armed with a strong Marxist analysis of our economic reality. Definitely a must-read for activists and academics alike.

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