John Bellamy Foster

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John Bellamy Foster
Born (1953-08-15) August 15, 1953 (age 60)
Seattle, Washington
Residence Eugene, Oregon
Education

Evergreen State College, B.A., 1975

York University, M.A., 1977, Ph.D., 1984
Occupation Professor, Editor
Employer University of Oregon
Known for Marxist writings
Title Professor of Sociology
Board member of
Monthly Review Foundation
Spouse(s) Carrie Ann Naumoff (teacher)
Notes

John Bellamy Foster (born August 19, 1953) is a professor of sociology at the University of Oregon and also editor of Monthly Review. His writings focus on the political economy of capitalism and economic crisis, ecology and ecological crisis, and Marxist theory. He has published over one hundred magazine articles and dozens of peer-reviewed academic articles, written and edited over a dozen books, given over one hundred conference papers and invited lectures all around the world, and received numerous awards and honors. His work is published in at least twenty-five languages. Since the Great Financial Crisis hit in 2008, Foster has been sought out by academics, activists, the media, and the general public as a result of his earlier and continued writings on the current and coming crises.[3] He has given numerous interviews, talks, and invited lectures, as well as written invited commentary, articles, and books on the subject.[4]

Foster often collaborates with Robert W. McChesney. Most recently, Foster and McChesney co-authored The Endless Crisis: How Monopoly-Finance Capital Produces Stagnation and Upheaval from the USA to China,.[5]

Other recent books include: The Great Financial Crisis: Causes and Consequences and What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know about Capitalism (both with Fred Magdoff), The Ecological Rift and Critique of Intelligent Design: Materialism versus Creationism from Antiquity to the Present (both with Brett Clark and Richard York), and The Ecological Revolution: Making Peace with the Planet.

Beginnings[edit]

Foster was already active in the anti-war and environmental movements before enrolling at Evergreen State College in 1971, focusing on the study of economics in response to the unfolding crisis in the capitalist economy and US involvement with the coup in Chile that replaced the popularly elected government of Salvador Allende. It was at Evergreen that he met Robert W. McChesney, who introduced him to Monthly Review and the work of Paul M. Sweezy and Harry Magdoff.

In 1976 Foster moved to Canada and entered the political science graduate program at York University in Toronto, where he studied with Neal Wood, Ellen Meiksins Wood, Gabriel Kolko, Robert Cox, and Robert Albritton, among other noted critical thinkers. After submitting a copy of his 1979 paper, The United States and Monopoly Capital: The Issue of Excess Capacity, to Paul Sweezy of Monthly Review, the two struck up a lifelong correspondence and eventual collaboration. Over the next few years, Foster published in journals such as The Quarterly Journal of Economics and Science & Society, and, in 1986, published The Theory of Monopoly Capitalism: An Elaboration of Marxian Political Economy, based on his Ph.D. dissertation.

Foster was hired in 1985 as a Visiting Member of the Faculty at The Evergreen State College. One year later he took a position as assistant professor of sociology at the University of Oregon, and became a full professor of sociology in 2000. In 1989 he became a director of the Monthly Review Foundation Board and a member of the editorial committee of Monthly Review.[6]

Monthly Review[edit]

Foster published his first article for Monthly Review, "Is Monopoly Capital an Illusion?", while in graduate school in 1981. He became a director of the Monthly Review Foundation Board and a member of the Monthly Review editorial committee in 1989. Along with Robert McChesney, who had since their days at Evergreen College become a leading scholar of the political economy of the media, Foster joined Paul Sweezy and Harry Magdoff as a co-editor of Monthly Review in 2000. Two years later, he became president of the Monthly Review Foundation.

After Paul Sweezy's death in 2004, Robert McChesney's resignation as co-editor (while remaining on the board), and Harry Magdoff's death in 2006, Foster was left as sole editor of the magazine.

Work[edit]

Foster's initial research centered on Marxian political economies and theories of capitalist development, with a focus on Paul Sweezy and Paul Baran's theory of monopoly. This was reflected in Foster's early book The Theory of Monopoly Capitalism and the coedited volume (with Henryk Szlajfer), The Faltering Economy: The Problem of Accumulation under Monopoly Capitalism.

In the late 1980s, Foster turned toward issues of ecology. He focused on the relationship between the global environmental crisis and the crisis in the capitalist economy, while stressing the imperative for a sustainable, socialist alternative. During this period he published The Vulnerable Planet: A Short Economic History of the Environment; his article "Marx's Theory of Metabolic Rift" in the American Journal of Sociology; and Marx's Ecology: Materialism and Nature. His reinterpretation of Marx on ecology introduced the concept of "metabolic rift" and was widely influential. This work led to his receiving the Distinguished Contribution Award of the American Sociological Association's Environment and Technology section. Marx's Ecology itself received the book award from the ASA's Section on Marxist Sociology. This work was soon followed up by his book Ecology Against Capitalism, which focused on the critique of capitalist economics from the standpoint of the environment.

As editor of Monthly Review, Foster returned to his earlier work on the political economy of capitalism, but with a renewed focus on the role of U.S. foreign policy following September 2001. His 2006 book Naked Imperialism, along with frequent editorials in the pages of Monthly Review, attempted to account for the growing U.S. military role in the world and the shift toward a more visible, aggressive global projection. Additionally, Foster has worked to expand Sweezy and Baran’s theory of monopoly capital in light of the current financially led phase of capitalism, which he terms "monopoly-finance Capital." In this context he has written several articles for Monthly Review on the financialization of capitalism and financial crisis of 2007-08.

Critique of Intelligent Design, Foster’s book co-authored with Brett Clark and Richard York, is a continuation of his research on materialist philosophy and the relationship between ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus and Karl Marx. Drawing on his ecological work, particularly Marx’s Ecology, Foster defends historical materialism as fundamental to a rational, scientific worldview, against proponents of Intelligent Design and other anti-materialist, superstitious ideologies.

The Great Financial Crisis: Causes and Consequences, written with Fred Magdoff, explores the financial crisis which began in the fall of 2008 and has come to affect the entire world economy. In it, he argues that the current crisis must be understood in the context of a broader crisis of monopoly-finance capitalism, one that has its roots in the tendency toward stagnation in mature capitalist economies. This tendency toward stagnation reduces investment opportunities in the "real" productive economy, thus driving capital to seek other sources of profit—particularly, since the 1980s, through financialization. And yet, far from providing a solution, the construction of a "casino" economy built on speculation and increasingly complex financial mechanisms is collapsing under the weight of its own contradictions, and the underlying problem—the crisis in the productive economy—is becoming more and more apparent. The only viable solution, Foster argues, is the economic remedy advocated in The Communist Manifesto proposed by Karl Marx in 1848: a radical restructuring of the entire economy to meet the needs of the vast majority, a reorientation toward production for social use as opposed to private gain.

The Ecological Revolution: Making Peace with the Planet, is a collection focusing on the ecological crisis, and includes essays on global warming, peak oil, species extinction, world water shortages, global hunger, alternative energy sources, sustainable development, and environmental justice. Foster argues that we have reached a turning point in human relations with the earth, and that any attempt to solve our problems merely by technological, industrial or free market means, divorced from fundamental social relations, cannot succeed.[7] This was followed by The Ecological Rift: Capitalism's War on the Earth, co-authored by Brett Clark and Richard York, and, with Fred Magdoff, What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know about Capitalism, a basic introductory primer on the political economy of the ecological crisis that was abridged and linguistically simplified in an attempt to make it more accessible to the majority of the population who still often lack proper intellectual references and training.

The Endless Crisis: How Monopoly-Finance Capital Produces Stagnation and Upheaval from the USA to China (2012), co-authored with Robert W. McChesney, traces the origins of economic stagnation and explains what it means for a clear understanding of our current situation. The authors point out that increasing monopolization of the economy—when a handful of large firms dominate one or several industries—leads to an over-abundance of capital and too few profitable investment opportunities, with economic stagnation as the result. Absent powerful stimuli to investment, such as historic innovations like the automobile or major government spending, modern capitalist economies have become increasingly dependent on the financial sector to realize profits. And while financialization may have provided a temporary respite from stagnation, it is a solution that cannot last indefinitely, as instability in financial markets over the last half-decade has made clear.[5]

Selected Books[edit]

  • The Endless Crisis: How Monopoly-Finance Capital Produces Stagnation and Upheaval from the USA to China with Robert W. McChesney, 2012
  • What Every Environmentalist Needs To Know about Capitalism: A Citizen's Guide to Capitalism and the Environment with Fred Magdoff, 2011
  • The Ecological Rift: Capitalism's War on the Earth with Brett Clark and Richard York, 2010
  • The Ecological Revolution: Making Peace with the Planet 2009
  • The Great Financial Crisis: Causes and Consequences with Fred Magdoff, 2009
  • Critique of Intelligent Design: Materialism versus Creationism from Antiquity to the Present with Brett Clark and Richard York, 2008
  • Naked Imperialism: The U.S. Pursuit of Global Dominance 2006
  • Pox Americana: Exposing the American Empire co-edited with Robert W. McChesney, 2004
  • Ecology Against Capitalism 2002
  • Marx’s Ecology: Materialism and Nature 2000
  • Hungry For Profit: The Agribusiness Threat to Farmers, Food, and the Environment co-edited with Fred Magdoff and Fred Buttel, 1999
  • The Vulnerable Planet: A Short Economic History of the Environment 1999, 2nd Ed.
  • In Defense of History: Marxism and the Postmodern Agenda co-edited with Ellen Meiksins Wood, 1996
  • Capitalism and the Information Age: The Political Economy of the Global Communication Revolution co-edited with Ellen Meiksins Wood and Robert W. McChesney, 1998
  • The Faltering Economy: The Problem of Accumulation under Monopoly Capitalism co-edited with Henryk Szlajfer, 1984

Selected Articles[edit]

Many additional pieces are available on the Monthly Review website.

  • "Weber and the Environment: Classical Foundations for a Post-exemptionalist Sociology," coauthored with Hannah Holleman, American Journal of Sociology, vol. 117, no. 6 (May 2012), pp. 1625–73.
  • "Marx's Ecology in the 21st Century," coauthored with Brett Clark, World Review of Political Economy, vol. 1, no. 1 (March 2010), pp. 142–56.
  • "The Midas Effect: A Critique of Climate Change Economics," coauthored with Brett Clark and Richard York, Development and Change, vol. 40, no. 6 (November 2009), pp. 1085–96.
  • "Ecological Imperialism and the Global Metabolic Rift: Unequal Exchange and the Guano/Nitrates Trade," coauthored with Brett Clark, International Journal of Comparative Sociology, vol. 50, no. 3-4 (2009), pp. 311–34.
  • "The Sociology of Ecology: Ecological Organicism versus Ecosystem Ecology in the Social Construction of Ecological Science, 1926-1935," coauthored with Brett Clark, Organization & Environment, vol. 21, no. 3 (September 2008), pp. 311–52.
  • "The Podolinsky Myth: An Obituary; An Introduction to ‘Human Labour and Unity of Force' by Sergei Podolinsky," coauthored with Paul Burkett, Historical Materialism, no. 16 (2008), pp. 115–61.
  • "Classical Marxism and the Second Law of Thermodynamics: Marx/Engels, the Heat Death of the Universe Theory, and the Origins of Ecological Economics," coauthored with Paul Burkett, Organization and Environment, vol. 21, no. 1 (March 2008), pp. 1–35.
  • "The Critique of Intelligent Design: Epicurus, Marx, Darwin and Freud and the Materialist Defense of Science," coauthored with Brett Clark and Richard York, Theory and Society, vol. 36 (December 2007), pp. 515–46.
  • "The Environmental Conditions of the Working Class: An Introduction to Selections from Frederick Engels' The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844," coauthored with Brett Clark, Organization & Environment, vol. 19, no. 3 (September 2006), pp. 375–88.
  • "Metabolism, Energy, and Entropy in Marx's Critique of Political Economy: Beyond the Podolinsky Myth," coauthored with Paul Burkett, Theory and Society, vol. 35, no. 1 (February 2006), pp. 109–56.
  • "The Treadmill of Accumulation: Schnaiberg's Environment and Marxian Political Economy," Organization and Environment, vol. 18, no. 1 (March 2005), pp. 7–18.
  • "Ecological Economics and Classical Marxism: Podolinsky's ‘Socialism and the Unity of Physical Forces' and the Responses of Marx and Engels," coauthored with Paul Burkett, Organization and Environment, vol. 17, no. 1 (March 2004), 28 pp. 32–60.
  • "Land, the Color Line and the Quest of the Silver Fleece: An Introduction to W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk and The Quest of the Silver Fleece (selections)," coauthored with Brett Clark, Organization and Environment, vol. 16, no. 4 (December 2003), pp. 459–69.
  • "Marx's Ecology in Historical Perspective," International Socialism, no. 97 (Autumn 2002), pp. 71–86.
  • "Hellen Keller and the Touch of Nature: An Introduction to Keller's The World I live In (Selections)," coauthored with Brett Clark, Organization and Environment, vol. 15, no. 3 (September 2002), pp. 278–84.
  • "Marx and the Dialectic of Orgainc/Inorganic Relations: A Rejoinder to Salleh and Clark," coauthored with Paul Burkett, Organization and Environment, vol. 14, no. 4 (December 2001), pp. 451–62.
  • "William Stanley Jevons and The Coal Question : An Introduction to Jevons' ‘Of the Economy of Fuel'," coauthored with Brett Clark, Organization and Environment, vol. 14, no. 1 (March 2001), pp. 93–98.
  • "The Dialectic of Organic/Inorganic Relations: Marx and the Hegelian Philosophy of Nature," coauthored with Paul Burkett, Organization and Environment, vol. 13, no. 4 (December 2000), pp. 403–25.
  • "E. Ray Lankester, Ecological Materialist: Introduction to ‘The Effacement of Nature by Man," Organization and Environment, vol. 13, no. 2 (June 2000), pp. 233–35.
  • "Marx's Theory of Metabolic Rift: Classical Foundations for Environmental Sociology," American Journal of Sociology, vol. 105, no. 2 (September 1999), pp. 366–405.
  • "Contradictions in the Universalization of Capitalism," Monthly Review, vol. 50, no. 11 (April 1999), pp. 29–39.
  • "The Age of Planetary Crisis: The Unsustainable Development of Capitalism" (in special issue on "The Future of Capitalism"), Review of Radical Political Economics, vol. 29, no. 4 (Fall 1997), pp. 113–42.
  • "The Crisis of the Earth: Marx's Theory of Ecological Sustainability as a Nature-Imposed Necessity for Human Production," Organization and Environment, vol. 10, no. 3 (September 1997), pp. 280–97.
  • "The Long Stagnation and the Class Struggle," Journal of Economic Issues, vol. 31, no. 2 (June 1997), pp. 445–51.
  • "Market Fetishism and the Attack on Social Reason: A Comment on Hayek, Polanyi and Wainwright," Capitalism, Nature, Socialism, vol. 6, no. 4 (December 1995), pp. 101–107.
  • "The Limits of Environmentalism Without Class: Lessons from the Ancient Forest Crisis of the Pacific Northwest," Capitalism, Nature, Socialism, vol. 4, no. 1 (March 1993), pp. 11– 41.
  • "The Absolute General Law of Environmental Degradation Under Capitalism," Capitalism, Nature, Socialism, vol. 3, no. 3 (September 1992), pp. 77–82.
  • "Crises Lasting for Decades," Science & Society, vol. 54, no. 1 (Spring 1990), pp. 73–81.
  • "Monopoly Capital Theory and Stagflation," Review of Radical Political Economics, vol. 17, nos. 1 and 2 (Spring and Summer 1985), pp. 221–25.
  • "Sources of Instability in the U.S. Political Economy and Empire," Science & Society, vol. XLIX, no. 2 (Summer 1985), pp. 167–193.
  • "The Political Economy of Joseph Schumpeter: A Theory of Capitalist Development and Decline," Studies in Political Economy, no. 15 (Fall 1984), pp. 5–42.
  • "Understanding the Significance of the Great Depression," Studies in Political Economy, no. 11 (Summer 1983), pp. 177–196.
  • "Theories of Capitalist Transformation: Critical Notes on the Comparison of Marx and Schumpeter," Quarterly Journal of Economics, vol. XCVIII, no. 2 (May 1983), pp. 327–33l.

Selected Book Chapters[edit]

  • "Marx's Ecology and its Historical Significance," in Michael Redclift and Graham Woodgate, ed., International Handbook of Environmental Sociology, second edition (Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar, 2010), 106-20. (Revised, updated, and expanded version "Marx's Ecology in Historical Perspective—see under major non-peer reviewed scholarly articles above.)
  • "The Financialization of Wealth and the Crisis of 2007-2009," coauthored with Hannah Holleman, in Henry Veltmeyer, ed., Imperialism, Crisis and Class Struggle: The Enduring Verities and Contemporary Face of Capitalism—Essays in Honour of James Petras (London: Brill, 2010), pp. 163–73.
  • "Paul Alexander Baran 1910-1964" in Biographical Dictionary of Dissenting Economists, edited by Philip Arestis and Malcolm Sawyer (Brookfield, Vermont: Edward Elgar Publishing, 1992), pp. 22–29.
  • "Liberal Practicality and the U.S. Left," in Ralph Miliband, Leo Panitch and John Saville, ed. The Retreat of the Intellectuals: Socialist Register, 1990 (London: Merlin Press, 1990), pp. 265–89.
  • "The Uncoupling of the World Order: A Survey of Global Crisis Theories," in Mark Gottdiener and Nikos Kominos, ed. Capitalist Development and Crisis Theory: Accumulation, Regulation and Spatial Restructuring (London: Macmillan Press, 1989), pp. 99–122.
  • "What is Stagnation?" in Robert Cherry, et al., ed. The Imperiled Economy: Macroeconomics from a Left Perspective (New York: Union for Radical Political Economics, 1987), pp. 59–70.

External links[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "John Bellamy Foster" (fee, via Fairfax County Public Library). The Writers Directory. Detroit: St. James Press. June 8, 2012. Gale Document Number: GALE|K1649567701. Retrieved 2013-01-21.  Gale Biography In Context (subscription required)
  2. ^ "John Bellamy Foster" (fee, via Fairfax County Public Library). Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale. February 17, 2012. Gale Document Number: GALE|H1000119139. Retrieved 2013-01-21.  Gale Biography In Context. (subscription required)
  3. ^ The Planetary Emergency with Brett Clark, Monthly Review
  4. ^ University of Oregon, Department of Sociology. "Faculty Homepage". 
  5. ^ a b Monthly Review Press. "The Endless Crisis". 
  6. ^ Elwell, Frank, W., ed. (2009). Macrosociology: The Study of Sociocultural Systems. Lewiston: Edwin Mellen. pp. 77–106, Chapter 3. 
  7. ^ John Bellamy Foster (2009). The Ecological Revolution: Making Peace with the Planet, Monthly Review Press, New York, p. 13.