John Foster

The Theory of Monopoly Capitalism

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In 1966, Paul Baran and Paul Sweezy published Monopoly Capital,
a monumental work of economic theory and social criticism
that sought to reveal the basic nature of the capitalism of their
time. Their theory, and its continuing elaboration by Sweezy, Harry
Magdoff, and others in Monthly Review magazine, infl uenced generations
of radical and heterodox economists. They recognized
that Marx’s work was unfi nished and itself historically conditioned,
and that any attempt to understand capitalism as an evolving
phenomenon needed to take changing conditions into account.
Having observed the rise of giant monopolistic (or oligopolistic)
fi rms in the twentieth century, they put monopoly capital at the
center of their analysis, arguing that the rising surplus such fi rms
accumulated—as a result of their pricing power, massive sales
efforts, and other factors—could not be profi tably invested back
into the economy. Absent any “epoch making innovations” like the automobile or vast new increases in military spending, the result
was a general trend toward economic stagnation—a condition that
persists, and is increasingly apparent, to this day. Their analysis
was also extended to issues of imperialism, or “accumulation on a world scale,” overlapping with the path-breaking work of Samir
Amin in particular.
John Bellamy Foster is a leading exponent of this theoretical perspective
today, continuing in the tradition of Baran and Sweezy’s
Monopoly Capital. This new edition of his essential work, The Theory of Monopoly Capitalism, is a clear and accessible explication
of this outlook, brought up to the present, and incorporating
an analysis of recently discovered “lost” chapters from Monopoly
Capital and correspondence between Baran and Sweezy. It also
discusses Magdoff and Sweezy’s analysis of the fi nancialization
of the economy in the 1970s, ‘80s, and ‘90s, leading up to the Great Financial Crisis of the opening decade of this century. Foster
presents and develops the main arguments of monopoly capital
theory, examining its key exponents, and addressing its critics in a
way that is thoughtful but rigorous, suspicious of dogma but adamant
that the deep-seated problems of today’s monopoly-fi nance
capitalism can only truly be solved in the process of overcoming
the system itself.
This book is currently unavailable
508 printed pages
Original publication
2014

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