John Bellamy Foster

John Bellamy Foster

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John Bellamy Foster is a professor
Professor
A professor is a scholarly teacher; the precise meaning of the term varies by country. Literally, professor derives from Latin as a "person who professes" being usually an expert in arts or sciences; a teacher of high rank...

 of sociology
Sociology
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

 at the University of Oregon
University of Oregon
-Colleges and schools:The University of Oregon is organized into eight schools and colleges—six professional schools and colleges, an Arts and Sciences College and an Honors College.- School of Architecture and Allied Arts :...

 and also editor of Monthly Review
Monthly Review
Monthly Review is an independent Marxist journal published 11 times per year in New York City.-History:The publication was founded by Harvard University economics instructor Paul Sweezy, who became the first editor...

, an independent socialist magazine. His writings have focused on political economy
Political economy
Political economy originally was the term for studying production, buying, and selling, and their relations with law, custom, and government, as well as with the distribution of national income and wealth, including through the budget process. Political economy originated in moral philosophy...

, environmental sociology
Environmental sociology
Environmental sociology is typically defined as the sociological study of societal-environmental interactions, although this definition immediately presents the perhaps insolvable problem of separating human cultures from the rest of the environment...

, and Marxist theory
Marxism
Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centers upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th...

. He has written several books, including: 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
Brett Clark (sociologist)
Brett Clark is an assistant professor of sociology at North Carolina State University. His areas of interest are ecology, political economy and science.-Works and awards:...

 and Richard York), and The Ecological Revolution: Making Peace with the Planet.

Beginnings and Academic Career


Foster was already active in the anti-war
Anti-war
An anti-war movement is a social movement, usually in opposition to a particular nation's decision to start or carry on an armed conflict, unconditional of a maybe-existing just cause. The term can also refer to pacifism, which is the opposition to all use of military force during conflicts. Many...

 and environmental movements before enrolling at Evergreen State College in 1971, focusing on the study of economics
Economics
Economics is the social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. The term economics comes from the Ancient Greek from + , hence "rules of the house"...

 in response to the unfolding crisis in the capitalist economy and US involvement with the coup in Chile that replaced the popularly elected pro-USSR Socialist government of Salvador Allende
Salvador Allende
Salvador Allende Gossens was a Chilean physician and politician who is generally considered the first democratically elected Marxist to become president of a country in Latin America....

. It was at Evergreen that he met Robert W. McChesney
Robert W. McChesney
Robert Waterman McChesney is an American professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is the Gutgsell Endowed Professor in the Department of Communication. His work concentrates on the history and political economy of communication, emphasizing the role media play in democratic...

, who introduced him to Monthly Review
Monthly Review
Monthly Review is an independent Marxist journal published 11 times per year in New York City.-History:The publication was founded by Harvard University economics instructor Paul Sweezy, who became the first editor...

 and the work of Paul M. Sweezy and Harry Magdoff
Harry Magdoff
Henry Samuel Magdoff , was a prominent American socialist commentator. He held several administrative positions in government during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt and later became co-editor of the Marxist publication, Monthly Review.-Early years:A child of poor Russian-Jewish immigrants,...

.

In 1976 Foster moved to Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 and entered the political science
Political science
Political Science is a social science discipline concerned with the study of the state, government and politics. Aristotle defined it as the study of the state. It deals extensively with the theory and practice of politics, and the analysis of political systems and political behavior...

 graduate program at York University
York University
York University is a public research university in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is Canada's third-largest university, Ontario's second-largest graduate school, and Canada's leading interdisciplinary university....

 in Toronto
Toronto
Toronto is the provincial capital of Ontario and the largest city in Canada. It is located in Southern Ontario on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. A relatively modern city, Toronto's history dates back to the late-18th century, when its land was first purchased by the British monarchy from...

, where he studied with Neal Wood
Neal Wood
A Marxist scholar of the history of political thought, Neal Wood located political ideas within social relations, property forms, and popular struggles, writing on topics as variant as the British Communist Party, John Locke, Aristotle, Edmund Burke, and St...

, Ellen Meiksins Wood
Ellen Meiksins Wood
-Biography:Wood was born Ellen Meiksins one year after her parents, Latvian Jews active in the Bund, arrived in New York from Europe as political refugees. She was raised in the United States and Europe.Wood received a B.A...

, Gabriel Kolko
Gabriel Kolko
Gabriel Kolko is an American historian and author.Kolko was born in Paterson, New Jersey, attended Kent State University and the University of Wisconsin , married Joyce Manning in 1955, and received his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1962. Following graduation he taught at the University of Pennsylvania...

, Robert Cox
Robert W. Cox
Robert Cox is a former political science professor and United Nations officer. He is cited as one of the intellectual leaders, along with Susan Strange, of the British School of International Political Economy and is still active as a scholar after his formal retirement, writing and giving...

, 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
Quarterly Journal of Economics
The Quarterly Journal of Economics, or QJE, is a peer-reviewed academic journal published by the Oxford University Press and edited at Harvard University's Department of Economics. Its current editors are Robert J. Barro, Elhanan Helpman and Lawrence F. Katz...

 and Science & Society
Science & Society
Science & Society is the oldest continuously-published journal of Marxist scholarship still extant.It publishes peer-reviewed essays in economics, philosophy of science, historiography, women's studies, literature, the arts, and other social science disciplines...

, 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
University of Oregon
-Colleges and schools:The University of Oregon is organized into eight schools and colleges—six professional schools and colleges, an Arts and Sciences College and an Honors College.- School of Architecture and Allied Arts :...

, and became a full professor of sociology in 2000. He teaches there today and lives with his wife and two children in Eugene
Eugene, Oregon
Eugene is the second largest city in the U.S. state of Oregon and the seat of Lane County. It is located at the south end of the Willamette Valley, at the confluence of the McKenzie and Willamette rivers, about east of the Oregon Coast.As of the 2010 U.S...

.

Monthly Review


Foster published his first article for Monthly Review
Monthly Review
Monthly Review is an independent Marxist journal published 11 times per year in New York City.-History:The publication was founded by Harvard University economics instructor Paul Sweezy, who became the first editor...

, “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
Monthly Review
Monthly Review is an independent Marxist journal published 11 times per year in New York City.-History:The publication was founded by Harvard University economics instructor Paul Sweezy, who became the first editor...

 editorial committee in 1989. Along with Robert McChesney
Robert W. McChesney
Robert Waterman McChesney is an American professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is the Gutgsell Endowed Professor in the Department of Communication. His work concentrates on the history and political economy of communication, emphasizing the role media play in democratic...

, who had since their days at Evergreen College become a leading scholar of the political economy of the media, Foster joined Paul Sweezy
Paul Sweezy
Paul Marlor Sweezy was a Marxist economist, political activist, publisher, and founding editor of the long-running magazine Monthly Review...

 and Harry Magdoff
Harry Magdoff
Henry Samuel Magdoff , was a prominent American socialist commentator. He held several administrative positions in government during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt and later became co-editor of the Marxist publication, Monthly Review.-Early years:A child of poor Russian-Jewish immigrants,...

 as a co-editor of Monthly Review
Monthly Review
Monthly Review is an independent Marxist journal published 11 times per year in New York City.-History:The publication was founded by Harvard University economics instructor Paul Sweezy, who became the first editor...

 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


Foster’s initial research centered on Marxian political economy
Marxian economics
Marxian economics refers to economic theories on the functioning of capitalism based on the works of Karl Marx. Adherents of Marxian economics, particularly in academia, distinguish it from Marxism as a political ideology and sociological theory, arguing that Marx's approach to understanding the...

 and theories of capitalist
Capitalism
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

 development, with a focus on Paul Sweezy
Paul Sweezy
Paul Marlor Sweezy was a Marxist economist, political activist, publisher, and founding editor of the long-running magazine Monthly Review...

 and Paul Baran’s
Paul A. Baran
Paul Alexander Baran was an American economist known for his Marxist views. In 1951 Baran was promoted to full professor at Stanford University and Baran was the only tenured Marxist economist in the United States until his death in 1964...

 theory of monopoly capital
Monopoly Capital
Monopoly Capital: An Essay on the American Economic and Social Order is an essay from 1966 by Paul Sweezy and Paul A. Baran. It made a major contribution to Marxist theory by shifting attention from the assumption of a competitive economy to monopolistic aspects of giant corporations that dominate...

. In the late 1980s, Foster turned toward issues of ecology
Ecology
Ecology is the scientific study of the relations that living organisms have with respect to each other and their natural environment. Variables of interest to ecologists include the composition, distribution, amount , number, and changing states of organisms within and among ecosystems...

. 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
Socialism
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

 alternative. During this period he published The Vulnerable Planet: A Short Economic History of the Environment; Marx’s Ecology: Materialism and Nature, which received the book award from the Marxist
Marxism
Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centers upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th...

 section of the American Sociological Association
American Sociological Association
The American Sociological Association , founded in 1905 as the American Sociological Society , is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the discipline and profession of sociology by serving sociologists in their work and promoting their contributions to serve society.The ASA holds its...

; and Ecology Against Capitalism, as well as numerous articles.

As editor of Monthly Review
Monthly Review
Monthly Review is an independent Marxist journal published 11 times per year in New York City.-History:The publication was founded by Harvard University economics instructor Paul Sweezy, who became the first editor...

, Foster returned to his earlier work on the political economy of capitalism
Capitalism
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

, but with a renewed focus on the role of U.S. foreign policy
Foreign policy of the George W. Bush administration
During his campaign for election as President of the United States, George W. Bush's foreign policy platform included support for a stronger economic and political relationship with Latin America, especially Mexico, and a reduction of involvement in "nation building" and other small-scale military...

 following September 2001. His 2006 book Naked Imperialism, along with frequent editorials in the pages of Monthly Review
Monthly Review
Monthly Review is an independent Marxist journal published 11 times per year in New York City.-History:The publication was founded by Harvard University economics instructor Paul Sweezy, who became the first editor...

, 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
Paul Sweezy
Paul Marlor Sweezy was a Marxist economist, political activist, publisher, and founding editor of the long-running magazine Monthly Review...

 and Baran’s
Paul A. Baran
Paul Alexander Baran was an American economist known for his Marxist views. In 1951 Baran was promoted to full professor at Stanford University and Baran was the only tenured Marxist economist in the United States until his death in 1964...

 theory of monopoly capital
Monopoly Capital
Monopoly Capital: An Essay on the American Economic and Social Order is an essay from 1966 by Paul Sweezy and Paul A. Baran. It made a major contribution to Marxist theory by shifting attention from the assumption of a competitive economy to monopolistic aspects of giant corporations that dominate...

 in light of the current financially-led
Financial capital
Financial capital can refer to money used by entrepreneurs and businesses to buy what they need to make their products or provide their services or to that sector of the economy based on its operation, i.e. retail, corporate, investment banking, etc....

 phase of capitalism, which he terms “monopoly-finance Capital.” In this context he has written several articles for Monthly Review
Monthly Review
Monthly Review is an independent Marxist journal published 11 times per year in New York City.-History:The publication was founded by Harvard University economics instructor Paul Sweezy, who became the first editor...

 on the financialization
Financialization
Financialization is a term sometimes used in discussions of financial capitalism which developed over several decades leading up to the 2007-2010 financial crisis, and in which financial leverage tended to override capital and financial markets tended to dominate over the traditional industrial...

 of capitalism
Capitalism
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

 and financial crisis of 2007-08
Subprime mortgage crisis
The U.S. subprime mortgage crisis was one of the first indicators of the late-2000s financial crisis, characterized by a rise in subprime mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures, and the resulting decline of securities backed by said mortgages....

.

Critique of Intelligent Design, Foster’s book co-authored with Brett Clark
Brett Clark (sociologist)
Brett Clark is an assistant professor of sociology at North Carolina State University. His areas of interest are ecology, political economy and science.-Works and awards:...

 and Richard York, is a continuation of his research on materialist philosophy
Materialism
In philosophy, the theory of materialism holds that the only thing that exists is matter; that all things are composed of material and all phenomena are the result of material interactions. In other words, matter is the only substance...

 and the relationship between ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus
Epicurus
Epicurus was an ancient Greek philosopher and the founder of the school of philosophy called Epicureanism.Only a few fragments and letters remain of Epicurus's 300 written works...

 and Karl Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

. Drawing on his ecological work, particularly Marx’s Ecology, Foster defends historical materialism
Historical materialism
Historical materialism is a methodological approach to the study of society, economics, and history, first articulated by Karl Marx as "the materialist conception of history". Historical materialism looks for the causes of developments and changes in human society in the means by which humans...

 as fundamental to a rational, scientific
Science
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

 worldview, against proponents of Intelligent Design
Intelligent design
Intelligent design is the proposition that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection." It is a form of creationism and a contemporary adaptation of the traditional teleological argument for...

 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
Capitalism
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

, one that has its roots in the tendency toward stagnation
Economic stagnation
Economic stagnation or economic immobilism, often called simply stagnation or immobilism, is a prolonged period of slow economic growth , usually accompanied by high unemployment. Under some definitions, "slow" means significantly slower than potential growth as estimated by experts in macroeconomics...

 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
Financialization
Financialization is a term sometimes used in discussions of financial capitalism which developed over several decades leading up to the 2007-2010 financial crisis, and in which financial leverage tended to override capital and financial markets tended to dominate over the traditional industrial...

. 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
The Communist Manifesto
The Communist Manifesto, originally titled Manifesto of the Communist Party is a short 1848 publication written by the German Marxist political theorists Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. It has since been recognized as one of the world's most influential political manuscripts. Commissioned by the...

 proposed by Karl Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

 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. This was followed by The Ecological Rift: Capitalism's War on the Earth, co-authored by Brett Clark
Brett Clark (sociologist)
Brett Clark is an assistant professor of sociology at North Carolina State University. His areas of interest are ecology, political economy and science.-Works and awards:...

 and Richard York, and, with Fred Magdoff, What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know about Capitalism, a basic introductory primer
Primer (textbook)
A primer is a first textbook for teaching of reading, such as an alphabet book or basal reader. The word also is used more broadly to refer to any book that presents the most basic elements of a subject....

 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.

See also

  • Monthly Review
    Monthly Review
    Monthly Review is an independent Marxist journal published 11 times per year in New York City.-History:The publication was founded by Harvard University economics instructor Paul Sweezy, who became the first editor...

  • Eco-socialism
    Eco-socialism
    Eco-socialism, green socialism or socialist ecology is an ideology merging aspects of Marxism, socialism, green politics, ecology and alter-globalization...

  • Environmental sociology
    Environmental sociology
    Environmental sociology is typically defined as the sociological study of societal-environmental interactions, although this definition immediately presents the perhaps insolvable problem of separating human cultures from the rest of the environment...

  • Naked Imperialism
  • Critique of Intelligent Design
  • Ian Angus
    Ian Angus
    Ian Angus is a socialist and ecosocialist activist in Canada. Angus joined the New Democratic Party in 1962 and then the Young Socialists in Ottawa in 1964. He was active in the YS and the League for Socialist Action into the 1970s...

  • Derek Wall
    Derek Wall
    Derek Wall is an English politician and member of the Green Party of England and Wales. Formerly the party's Principal Speaker, he is known as a prominent ecosocialist, campaigning both for environmentalism and socialism. Alongside his political role, Wall is an academic and a writer, having...


External links