Magazine article Monthly Review

Notes from the Editors

Magazine article Monthly Review

Notes from the Editors

Article excerpt

Secular stagnation (or the trend towards long-term slow growth and continuing high unemployment/underemployment) has become a big issue in the mature economies since 2013, when former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers raised the question at an IMF economic forum. Compilations of work on the subject can now be found on the Internet, such as the one by economists Coen Teulings and Richard Baldwin; which however leaves out all contributions by heterodox economists ("Secular Stagnation: Facts, Causes and Cures," August 15, 2014, http://voxeu.org). Teulings and Baldwin credit Summers with having "resurrected" the secular stagnation issue. But is this true? Only in the sense that he reintroduced it to mainstream neoclassical economics. It has long been a topic on the left, and particularly in Monthly Review, where editor Paul Sweezy explicitly drew attention to the "secular stagnation" question more than forty years ago ("Notes on the U.S. Situation at the End of 1972," MR, January 1973)-with MR tracking the stagnation trend month by month in the four decades that followed. (Even before this, Harry Magdoff, who joined Sweezy as coeditor of MR in 1969, initiated what was to be a continuing empirical analysis of the relation between stagnation and financialization, with his article "The Problems of U.S. Capitalism" for the Socialist Register, 1965.)

Especially noteworthy in this respect was Sweezy's path-breaking lecture "Why Stagnation?" delivered to the Harvard Economics Club in March 1982 (appearing in MR in June 1982). This raises the intriguing question: Was Summers present at Sweezy's "Why Stagnation?" talk? We contacted Summers's office on August 24, and were told that he said he didn't recall, "but could be!"; his office then contacted us later the same day and said that he had reconsidered this and while he still did not remember, he thought it "unlikely." Whether or not Summers was actually present on this occasionand he believes it likely he was not-the question remains as to whether he was aware at the time of Sweezy's talk, and of his general argument on stagnation. It is hard to imagine how all of this could have passed Summers by completely. And if not Summers himself, what about other economists in Cambridge at the time? Sweezy's "Why Stagnation?" talk at the Harvard Economics Club in 1982 attracted considerable attention and a good audience. Now that mainstream economics is beginning to face up to the reality of secular stagnation, the questions raised by Sweezy's talk extend to the history of ideas-how they survive in times when they are anathema and reappear when their truth is reasserted by facts.

Isn't it about time, then, that orthodox economists, Summers included, began to acknowledge the enormous work done on this topic on the left over decades, and indeed the greater complexity and historicity of the analysis to be found there-not only in MR but within heterodox economics more generally? Such an admission might even do orthodox economists some good.

We are pleased to announce that our friend Marta Harnecker's book, A World to Build: New Paths toward Twenty-First Century Socialism, to be published by Monthly Review Press in November, won Venezuela's prestigious 2013 Libertador (Liberator) Award for Critical Thought, established in 2005 by President Hugo Chávez. The award was given to Harnecker in August by President Nicolás Maduro. Maduro also presented five honorable mentions for outstanding works considered for the award; the first of these was for MR author Samir Amin's new book, The Implosion of Contemporary Capitalism (Monthly Review Press, 2013). Our congratulations to Marta and Samir!

The 2008 Libertador Award, it should be noted, was given to István Mészáros for his book The Challenge and Burden of Historical Time (Monthly Review Press, 2008). In order to obtain further information on these books by Harnecker, Amin, and Mészáros, or to purchase them, visit Monthly Review Press at http://monthlyreview. …

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