Dissatisfaction with what has happened to the study of economics isproducing a rapidly growing revolt among economics students inFrance, Britain, the United States, and elsewhere. Within a matterof months, this new movement has made considerable inroads inexposing the meaninglessness of orthodox economics incontemporary capitalist societies. Students are eagerly looking foranswers about the issues of the day, such as expandingglobalization, growing dominance of international finance, increasing polarization between the rich and poor nations and between the rich and poor of each nation. But orthodox economics has no meaningful answers to any of these questions-a fact that has fed the widening rebellion among economics students in numerous countries. Before reporting on this new discontent, we need to provide some background on how economics has been transformed, since its classical period, into a study that is becoming more and more irrelevant.
REVIEW OF THE MONTH
Journalism, Democracy, and Class Struggle
ROBERT W. McCHESNEY
Socialists since the time of Marx have been proponents of democracy, but they have argued that democracy in capitalist societies is fundamentally flawed. In capitalist societies, the wealthy have tremendous social and economic advantages over the working class that undermine political equality, a presupposition for viable democracy. In addition, under capitalism the most important economic issues-investment and control over production-are not the province of democratic politics but, rather, the domain of a small number of wealthy firms and individuals seeking to maximize their profit in competition with each other. This means that political affairs can only indirectly influence economics, and that any party or individual in power has to be careful not to antagonize wealthy investors so as to instigate an investment strike and an economic collapse that would generally mean political disaster.
A "Red" Government in the South of Brazil
For ten years, the Brazilian Workers Party (PT) has run city hall in Porto Alegre, the capital of Rio Grande do Sul state (on the border with Uruguay) and one of the main cities in the country. The PT is quite an original party, founded in 1980 by unionists, leftist Christians, and Marxist militants, all convinced that the emancipation of the workers will be the task of the workers themselves and stirred by the desire to invent a different, radical, democratic, libertarian socialism that breaks with the old models of Stalinism and social democracy. The current mayor, Raul Pont, a former director of the teachers' union, belongs to the PT's most radical current, the Socialist Democracy tendency, which bases itself on the Fourth International.
Nobody seems to study Karl Marx anymore. Even in universities, once a bastion of Marxist scholarship and critical thought, students still reading Marx are pretty thin on the ground. Left-leaning young people these days are preoccupied with Derrida, Foucault, and other post-Marxist thinkers. Marx, they say, is old hat, dispatched to the dustbin of history. The working class is dead anyway, and didn't Marx's predictions about worker's revolution come tumbling down in 1989 with those giant statues of Lenin? Thinking people-even people thinking criticallyÅthus reduce Marx's thought and vision to a series of shallow caricatures; they evidently think they know what the man said and that, frankly, it's not worth their time.
The Political Economy of Crime in America
American politicians have been declaring victory in the war against crime at least since Richard Nixon said in 1972 that "[c]rime . . . [is] finally beginning to go back down . . . [because] we have a remarkable record on the law-and-order issues, with crime legislation . . . and narcotics bills." In other words, crime declines because the government passes laws and spends money; larger prisons, more police, fewer civil liberties, and tougher punishments are winning the war on crime.
The Levittown Legacy
A review of Picture Windows: How the Suburbs Happened
by Rosalyn Baxandall and Elizabeth Ewen