Because of its growing size, this file has been split into these separate files:
- MAA.htm — Words and phrases starting with the letters Maa-Mac.
- MAD.htm — Words and phrases starting with the letters Mad-Mam.
- MAN.htm — Words and phrases starting with the letters Man.
- MAO.htm — Words and phrases starting with the letters Mao-Maq.
- MAR.htm — Words and phrases starting with the letters Mar.
- MAS.htm — Words and phrases starting with the letters Mas.
- MAT.htm — Words and phrases starting with the letters Mat-Maw.
- MAX.htm — Words and phrases starting with the letters Max-Maz.
- MB.htm — Words and phrases starting with the letters Mb-Md.
- ME.htm — Words and phrases starting with the letters Me-Mh.
- MI.htm — Words and phrases starting with the letters Mi-Mn.
- MO.htm — Words and phrases starting with the letters Mo-Mt.
- MU.htm — Words and phrases starting with the letters Mu-Mz.
Although this older “M.htm” file still exists (in case there are still links to its
contents), all new entries and revisions to old entries are being made to the above files.
MACH, Ernst (1838-1916)
Austrian physicist and philosopher. Mach was one of the founders of “empirio-criticism”, a form of positivism or idealist empiricism. Mach viewed reality as a “complex of sensations”, which is a prominent form of subjective idealism. Lenin strongly criticizes Mach’s views, and subjective idealism in general, in his important philosophical work, Materialism and Empirio-Criticism (1908).
One of Mach’s idealist notions was that a great many entities we talk about in science, such as molecules and atoms, do not actually have any real existence, but are merely “theoretical constructs” which we have found to be useful in conceptualizing how the world works despite their non-existence! In the case of atoms and molecules, it was only in his old age, shortly before his death, and long after the further absolute confirmation of the existence of molecules and atoms by many experiments, and with Einstein’s theoretical explanation of Brownian motion which depended on the actual existence of atoms and molecules, did Mach finally, yet still reluctantly, admit that atoms probably really did exist.
MACH’S PRINCIPLE (or CONJECTURE) (Philosophy of Science)
The vague hypothesis that “mass there influences inertia here”. According to Mach both inertia and gravitation are consequences of the general distribution of matter in the universe.
Mach was an extreme relativist. While Newton argued that there were such things as “absolute space” and “absolute time”, Mach would have none of either. He argued that the notions of rest and motion are meaningless except against a material background as a reference. More specifically, he argued that the local physical laws observed on the earth depend on the large-scale distribution of matter in the universe, or—as is often said—upon the existence of the “fixed stars”. Newton had pointed out that if you spin two spheres tied together around a point between them there will be a tension on the rope, a tension that is not there if the two spheres are not spinning. This he took to be a method of distinguishing one type of relative motion from absolute rest. Since Mach was determined to explain all motion as being entirely relative, he had to explain why there was tension in the rope in one case and not the other. The best he could come up with was to claim that “somehow” the existence of the rest of the matter in the universe creates the inertia in the spheres that causes the rope between them to have tension when they are spun relative to that external mass (the “fixed stars”). He used a similar argument about why the water in a spinning bucket has a concave shape even after the bucket itself is no longer moving relative to that water.
The modern view in physics is that both Newton and Mach were at least partly wrong; the result is sort of a dialectical synthesis of the ideas of absolute and relative space in the form of inertial frames. (See the Wikipedia article on inertial frames.)
Einstein had great respect for Mach as a person and for his early writings on mechanics, but as time went on he had more and more negative attitudes towards Mach’s philosophical views, such as his notion that the laws of science are merely economical ways of describing a large collection of facts. And with respect to “Mach’s Principle” (which, ironically, Einstein himself had given that name to and was for a long time quite enthusiastic about), he eventually concluded that “As a matter of fact, one should no longer speak of Mach’s principle at all.”
A term used (mostly in bourgeois economics) to refer to the study of the whole economy, or large areas of the economy, as opposed to microeconomics.
See: GOULD, Stephen Jay
MALTHUS, Thomas Robert (1766-1834)
English cleric and economist. He was an ideologist of the landed aristocracy which had become merged with the bourgeoisie and an apologist for capitalism. His famous (and erroneous) theory that the population would always expand to the point that the masses would be driven down to the bare subsistence level was put forward to explain away the qualitatively increased misery that the development of capitalism was causing in Britain. In his economic writings he tended to plagiarize others, especially Sismondi.
MANCH or MANCHA
A word in Hindi and related languages meaning “forum” or “platform”.
An informal network of bourgeois political economists in the early 19th century centered in the big industrial city of Manchester, England. Its leaders were Richard Cobden and John Bright. It strongly favored free trade and the abolition of all laws restricting or regulating capitalism, and the Corn Laws in particular. Modern laissez-faire and neoliberal ideologies are a continuation of this sort of ultra-bourgeois thinking.
MANY WORLDS THEORY (of Quantum Mechanics)
Another bizarre idealist philosophical conception of quantum mechanics that claims that every time a quantum particle event occurs (which is umpteen quintillion times per second) a separate new “parallel universe” is formed! This absurd theory was cooked up by the physicist Hugh Everett III, and amazingly, there are some people who take it seriously!
MAO ZEDONG [Old style: Mao Tsetung, or Mao Tse-tung] (1893-1976)
[To be added...]
A foreign-owned manufacturing plant in Mexico, generally near the U.S. border. Maquiladoras have often been established by U.S. corporations in order to exploit low-wage Mexican labor. They are also allowed by the Mexican government to import materials and equipment from the U.S. duty free. These advantages have allowed U.S. corporations to increase their profits by shifting their production across the border. Ironically, however, in recent years, with the rise of even cheaper wage production in China, many maquiladoras have been undercut and have closed down.
MARCUSE, Herbert (1898-1971)
German-American philosopher of the “Frankfurt School”. [More to be added...]
MARGIN CALL [Capitalist Finance]
A demand from a stock broker for additional funds from an investor who purchased stocks or other investment securities “on margin” (i.e., partly with a loan from the broker). If the value of the stocks that were purchased falls, then the value of the portion purchased with money loaned by the broker also falls, which means his collateral in the form of those stock certificates is worth less than it was earlier and the broker is now in danger of losing money. The broker thus demands that the “investor” (i.e., speculator) cover that loss in the value of the collateral by giving him an equivalent amount of money (or securities).
In a financial crisis all the speculators who have overextended themselves (i.e., most of them!) can suddenly be faced with margin calls which force them to sell other assets at a loss in order to come up with the necessary cash. Since many speculators are doing this simultaneously, it can lead to a very sudden major and continuing crash in the values of stocks and bonds in general, in a kind of vicious circle.
The marginalist theory, or Theory of Marginal Utility, in bourgeois economics, is a conception designed to replace the labor theory of value developed by Marx from the cruder versions of the classical bourgeois economists. These “more modern” bourgeois economists chafed under the well-established idea that the value of commodities derives from the amount of socially necessary labor time incorporated into them, and longed for another “source” of value which would not give the working class so much credit. They settled on the “marginal” (or “additional”) usefulness of a commodity to the purchaser, or to some hypothetical eventual purchaser.
This theory is actually quite incoherent. It cannot explain, for example, how two different commodities which are equally useful to you (whether “at the margin” or not) might commonly have such enormously different actual values. Nevertheless, this absurd notion has become a cornerstone of bourgeois economics.
[More to be added... ]
[Capitalist finance:] The total market value of all the stock issued by a corporation. Thus if a company has issued 25 million shares which are currently valued at $40 per share, the current market capitalization of that company is 25 million × $40 = $1 billion.
See also: STOCK MARKET CAPITALIZATION
An attempt to combine “socialism” with capitalism, and in particular with the capitalist commodity market (including the market for labor-power). From the revolutionary Marxist (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist) perspective this makes no sense whatsoever, because we define socialism as the transitional stage between capitalism and communism. But various types of revisionist thinkers view “socialism” as merely a modification of capitalism, and sometimes even such a slight modification that some of them consider a lightly “regulated” capitalist welfare state (such as in Scandinavia) to be “socialism”!
Clearly nothing like European social democracy can be in any way viewed as genuine socialism, either economically or politically. But couldn’t we imagine a society where there are really no capitalists, but still separate, decentralized state-run enterprises that use a market to sell commodities to each other, and sell mass-consumption commodities to the people? Couldn’t there still be a labor market as well, with these enterprises hiring workers, and even continuing to extract surplus value from them—but then turning all of this surplus value over to the state for the expansion of production and for public purposes (education, health care, retirement benefits, and so forth), with no “profits” going to any rich owners of the enterprises (because there are none)?
One important thing to seriously ponder in a thought experiment of this kind is just how stable such a system would be. In fact it would be extremely unstable, and would inevitably degenerate back into traditional capitalism. There would still be foremen, supervisors, layers of management of plants and enterprises, influential people running the government and the dominent political parties, and so forth. And these people would soon develop (if they didn’t already have) special interests of their own, both as individuals, and collectively as a new social class. In other words class society would soon reassert itself, and we would soon be back in the horrible capitalist world where we live today.
“But couldn’t we keep such tendencies under control?” someone might ask. “Couldn’t we perhaps use the methods developed in Mao’s China to have managers also engage in productive labor, to rotate streams of ordinary workers into management and government positions for limited periods of time, etc. Couldn’t we even engage in struggle against those who get too uppity and start to gather too many private privileges and too much individual power, and so forth?” The answer is that this sort of thing might work for a while, and will have to be made to work during the relatively short socialist transition period to communism. But if society is organized in such a way that these measures are permanently necessary, then an eventual breakdown and return to capitalism is inevitable. The entire underlying material basis for capitalism must be destroyed, and destroyed down to its lowest roots, if capitalism is itself to be destroyed once and for all.
And here is where it is necessary to come to understand the nature of bourgeois “right”, and how it grows out of the commodity form itself. If you have commodities, if you have commodity exchange, if you have the extraction of surplus value (even if for a time it is somehow arranged that it is put to public uses), then eventually you will have a complete system of capitalism again, because capitalism grows out of those seeds.
What we revolutionary Marxists are trying to do is to transform society so that classes no longer exist, so that class struggle no longer needs to exist, and so that not even any “struggle” to prevent the development of classes again is necessary any more! There is a way to do this, but it requires uprooting capitalism completely, and on a world scale, down even to the existence of commodity markets and the commodity form. And this is why we are also determined opponents of any “market socialism” schemes.
The main motivation for favoring “market socialism” comes from those who can only conceive of socialism in the form it took in the Soviet Union, and view that failure as something that is inevitable in a “command economy”. Thus they are straining their brains to think of another way to make socialism work. Well, there is another way, a way that was outlined by Marx, Lenin and Mao. And that way is not the state capitalism of the revisionist Soviet Union nor is it “market socialism”. Those who champion that last scheme have just not investigated the problem deeply enough to understand the inherent flaws in their proposals.
For those seeking to look into the question of “market socialism” further, I suggest first seriously studying the great work by Marx, “The Critique of the Gotha Programme” (1875) which is available online at: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1875/gotha/index.htm.
MARTIN, Bill (1956- )
An eclectic radical American intellectual who is a professor of philosophy at DePaul University in Chicago. His philosophical views have been influenced by many diverse and conflicting sources, but especially by Kant and by modern Continental philosophers such as Sartre, Althusser, Derrida and Badiou. Overall we believe it is fair to call Martin a radical Kantian, especially in ethics.
For a number of years Martin was close to the Revolutionary Communist Party and served to lend some limited academic respectability to them through this association. With Bob Avakian he co-authored a book of philosophical conversations entitled Marxism and the Call of the Future (2005). A couple years later, however, Martin broke with the RCP and became a participant in the Kasama Project whose core consists of others who have also left the orbit of the RCP. Martin considers himself to be a “Maoist”, though he is at pains to reject a number of what he views as “dogmatic principles” of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. In his book Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation (2008), as in his joint work with Avakian and elsewhere, Martin argues for a Kantian re-envisioning of ethics within Marxism. Thus Martin has many similarities to the philosophical idealists within Marxism in Lenin’s day, who also called for a “return to Kant”.
Among Martin’s other books are several on rock music and a forthcoming volume entitled A Debriefment of Maoism: Alain Badiou and the Renewal of the Communist Hypothesis, which will likely demonstrate how deeply enamored Martin and the Kasama Project are with Badiou.
MARTOV, L. (or Julius) (Real name: Yuli Osipovich Tsederbaum) (1873-1923)
A prominent Russian Menshevik leader. He was born in Istanbul into a Russian Jewish “middle-class” family. Martov led the struggle against Lenin at the Second Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party in 1903 (which was really its founding Congress). His “Mensheviks” (“minority”) were defeated on the issue of the composition of the editorial board of the Party publication Iskra [“Spark”], but won the vote on the issue of who should be allowed to be a member of the Party. (Lenin wanted a party of fully committed and dedicated revolutionaries; Martov wanted a party with much looser and broader membership rules.) This led to the split between the Mensheviks and Bolsheviks (“majority”).
Martov, however, was generally on the “left” wing of the Mensheviks, and opposed Russian participation in World War I, which he agreed with Lenin was an imperialist war. He thus became the central leader of the “Menshevik Internationalist” faction, which opposed the main Menshevik party leadership. Martov also opposed the Mensheviks becoming part of the Provisional Government after the overthrow of the tsar, but was unable to stop them from doing so and from continuing their support for the war.
Martov was thus marginalized both within the overall R.S.D.L.P., and even within the Mensheviks. After the October Revolution, he became even more marginalized, and in 1920 legally emigrated to Germany where he died three years later. In his last few years he established a newspaper called Socialist Messenger which continued publication in Paris and then New York until the last of the Mensheviks abroad petered out. It is rumored that Lenin himself provided the initial money for Martov to set up this newspaper! If true, it would not be too surprising; Lenin thought that even the enemies of the people should still be allowed a small voice, as long as they were unable to corrupt the masses.
MARX, Karl (1818-1883)
The primary founder, along with Frederick Engels, of the science of society and social revolution which is now customarily known as Marxism.
[More to be added...]
“As to myself, no credit is due to me for discovering either the existence of classes in modern society or the struggle between them. Long before me bourgeois historians had described the historical development of this class struggle and bourgeois economists the economic anatomy of the classes. What I did that was new was to demonstrate: 1) that the existence of classes is merely linked to particular historical phases in the development of production, 2) that class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat, 3) that this dictatorship itself only constitutes the transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society.” —Marx, Letter to Joseph Weydemeyer, March 5, 1852, Marx-Engels Selected Correspondence (Moscow: 1975), p. 64; in a slightly different translation in MECW 39:62.
“These two great discoveries, the materialist conception of history and the revelation of the secret of capitalistic production through surplus-value, we owe to Marx. With these discoveries socialism became a science. The next thing was to work out all its details and relations.” —Engels, Anti-Dühring (1878), MECW 25:27.
1. [As used by Marxists-Leninists-Maoists:] The science of society and social revolution, as originally established by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, and elaborated and extended by many others, especially V. I. Lenin and Mao Zedong. Short-hand for Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.
2. [As used by non-Marxists:] The ideas of Karl Marx (and sometimes Engels), as interpreted and distorted by bourgeois professors and other ideologists.
[To be added...]
MARXISM-LENINISM — The Science Of
See: SCIENCE OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXISM (MLM)
[To be added...]
MARXIST-LENINIST CLASS INTEREST THEORY OF ETHICS
See: CLASS INTEREST THEORY OF ETHICS
Rare, but severe and nearly simultaneous die-offs of vast numbers of species of animals and plants. The most famous such extinction event brought the Cretaceous Period to an end, wiping out the dinosaurs. This is now generally thought to be due to the collision of a large asteroid or comet with the Earth some 65 million years ago. However, today there is another mass extinction episode in progress, though perhaps not quite as swift as that which wiped out the dinosaurs. This is the Great Capitalist Mass Extinction, which—unlike previous mass extinctions which were brought about by natural events—is due to the horribly irresponsible mismanagement of the world by the ruling capitalist class.
|The Great Mass Extinction Episodes in the History of the Earth|
|Extinction Episode||Millions of
|Ordovician||440||Devastated early marine fauna.|
|Devonian||370||Devastated early marine fauna; eliminated |
more than 20% of marine families.
|Permo-Triassic||250||Possibly the worst extinction event in Earth |
history. More than 50% of families died out.
|End-Triassic||202||50% of genera eliminated.|
|65||50% of genera eliminated, including |
the dinosaurs. Caused by asteroid or comet.
|Present Time||Some notable human-caused extinctions over past |
12,000 years, but huge qualitative increase in
extinctions occurring right now.
[Source: Peter Ward & Donald Brownlee, Rare Earth, (NY: Copernicus |
Books, 2004), pp. 179-183, with additional comments added.]
The method of revolutionary leadership summarized by the phrase “from the masses, to the masses”.
“The mass line is the primary method of revolutionary leadership of the masses, which is employed by the most conscious and best organized section of the masses, the proletarian party. It is a reiterative method, applied over and over again, which step by step advances the interests of the masses, and in particular their central interest within bourgeois society, namely, advancing towards proletarian revolution. Each iteration may be viewed as a three step process: 1) gathering the diverse ideas of the masses; 2) processing or concentrating these ideas from the perspective of revolutionary Marxism, in light of the long-term, ultimate interests of the masses (which the masses themselves may sometimes only dimly perceive), and in light of a scientific analysis of the objective situation; and 3) returning these concentrated ideas to the masses in the form of a political line which will actually advance the mass struggle toward revolution. Because the mass line starts with the diverse ideas of the masses, and returns the concentrated ideas to the masses, it is also known as the method of ‘from the masses, to the masses’. Though implicit in Marxism from the beginning, the mass line was raised to the level of conscious theory primarily by Mao Zedong.” —Scott H., The Mass Line and the American Revolutionary Movement, Chapter 43.
See also: MASS PERSPECTIVE below.
“A mass perspective is a point of view regarding the masses
which recognizes: 1) That the masses are the makers of history, and that revolution
can only be made by the masses themselves; 2) That the masses must come to see through
their own experience and struggle that revolution is necessary; and 3) That the
proletarian party must join up with the masses in their existing struggles, bring
revolutionary consciousness into these struggles, and lead them in a way which brings
the masses ever closer to revolution. A mass perspective is based on the fundamental
Marxist notion that a revolution must be made by a revolutionary people, that a
revolutionary people must develop from a non-revolutionary people, and that the people
change from the one to the other through their own revolutionizing practice.
“The relation between the mass line and a mass perspective is simply that only those with a mass perspective will see much need or use for the mass line. It is possible to have some notion of the mass line technique, and yet fail to give it any real attention because of a weak mass perspective. On the other hand, it is also possible to have a mass perspective and still be more or less ignorant of the great Marxist theory of the mass line.
“The mass line and a mass perspective are nevertheless best viewed as intimately related, as integrated aspects of the Marxist approach toward the masses and revolution. I have found the most felicitous phrase for both aspects together is ‘the mass line and its associated mass perspective’.” —Scott H., The Mass Line and the American Revolutionary Movement, Chapter 43.
See also: SECTARIAN
[To be added...]
See also below and: PEOPLE, The
MASSES — Shortcomings Of
“The masses too have shortcomings, which should be overcome by criticism and self-criticism within the people’s own ranks, and such criticism and self-criticism is also one of the most important tasks of literature and art. But this should not be regarded as any sort of ‘exposure of the people’. As for the people, the question is basically one of education and of raising their level. Only counter-revolutionary writers and artists describe the people as ‘born fools’ and the revolutionary masses as ‘tyrannical mobs’.” —Mao, “Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art” (May 1942), SW 3:91-92.
[To be added...]
[To be added...]
MATERIALISM VS. IDEALISM
[To be added...]
“The spirit of materialism is intolerable to the idealist!!” —a wonderfully ironic statement by Lenin while speaking specifically of Hegel’s discussion of Democritus, “Conspectus of Hegel’s Book Lectures on the History of Philosophy” (1915), LCW 38:267.
MATERIALISM AND EMPIRIO-CRITICISM
This is a great philosophical work by Lenin which defends and develops scientific materialism. It was written in 1908 and first published in May 1909. Its purpose was to combat various Kantian, religious and other idealist doctrines which were becoming popular among a certain strata of the Russian revolutionary movement, including among some of the Bolsheviks.
In the late 19th century, physics entered into a period of crisis with the discovery of radioactivity and other anomalies, and the advent of the earliest quantum-related speculations. Thus some of the materialist assumptions, that most physicists had explicitly or tacitly assumed, came into question, especially by scientists and philosophers who had been strongly influenced by Kant or early forms of positivism. These idealist theories spread beyond physics and philosophy, and led to a resurgence of subjective idealism among intellectuals. It was the intrusion of this trend into the revolutionary movement itself that alarmed Lenin, and moved him to write this book.
Since at the beginning of the 21st century Kantianism and various other forms of philosophical idealism are once again quite rampant, even among some philosophers who claim to be Marxists or influenced by Marxism, and since these people are misleading many young revolutionaries in the universities, it is all the more important to once again promote the serious study of Lenin’s Materialism and Empirio-Criticism.
MATERIALIST CONCEPTION OF HISTORY
See: HISTORICAL MATERIALISM
“Logically” this should mean the mathematical development of any form of logic. In practice, in bourgeois society, it usually just means the mathematical development of the various kinds of deductive logic. It is almost always propounded in axiomatic form, that is, along the same lines as geometry usually is, with axioms, postulates, theorems, proofs, and so forth. As with most of modern mathematics, it can soon become highly abstruse to the point where only specialists can understand the more complex arguments and proofs.
MATHEMATICAL OBJECT (or ENTITY)
This category includes the various kinds of numbers (natural numbers such as 1, 2, 3...), integers, real numbers (i.e., numbers that can be represented as a ratio or fraction of two integers), complex numbers, vectors, etc., and the various types of geometric shapes (points, lines, planes, triangles, circles, pentagons, cubes, spheres, etc.), and so forth. All of these kinds of entities are abstractions; that is, they are concepts or ideal figures that have been abstracted out of objects or collections that approximate them in some way in the physical world.
From pairs of things we have abstracted the concept of the number 2; from trios we have abstracted the number 3; from very tiny specks and motes we have abstracted the concept of a mathematical point; from things in a row or more or less straight scratches and marks we have abstracted the concept of a straight line. Once a stock of such elementary abstractions have been formed we can extend them and combine them. Thus the number 31 can be comprehended even if we have never directly abstracted that particular number from varying collections of 31 items. A regular equilateral 73-sided two-dimensional figure can be contemplated (and recognized to approximate a circle) even if we have never actually seen a close physical approximation of such a figure.
In the philosophy of mathematics there have been many and continuing disputes about the actual (“ontological”) nature of mathematical objects, along with disputes about the nature of abstractions in general. In what sense can these entities be said to “exist”? Do they form part of “reality”, even though they are not physical things? Such questions arise because people were (and often still are) very confused by the nature of abstraction. As usual in philosophy, the two big camps are materialism and idealism. Mathematical idealism is often termed mathematical Platonism (see entry below).
We materialists view abstraction as being an important and necessary way for human beings to think about and understand the world, meaning primarily the physical world and human society. Our ability to form abstractions evolved in our species (and to lesser degrees in other animal species on Earth) because this promoted our survival. But we grant that some of the systems of abstractions we have created are so complex, and the interrelationships among the different abstract elements are sometimes so difficult to immediately grasp, that the thorough investigation of these abstract realms often requires a tremendous amount of concentrated thought. This is especially the case in mathematics. This is the “world of abstractions” that mathematicians (and others) often imagine to be on an ontological par with the physical world.
There are indeed actual logical relationships between mathematical objects, relationships which are not themselves arbitrary or “mere human inventions”, but real relationships that derive from the definitions and logical structure of those systems of abstract mathematical objects. On the one hand, humans did create these abstract mathematical objects in their minds, but the mathematical objects they created have objective characteristics. Other intelligent life somewhere in the universe, which creates those same abstract mathematical objects, will come to the same mathematical conclusions about them as we do—because the same logical relationships will hold between those same abstract elements. We find that the sum of the interior angles of a two-dimensional Euclidean triangle add up to 180 degrees, and so will they.
The branches of mathematics that we human beings have created are not themselves “part” of the universe (except in the sense that the representations of this mathematics, whether on paper or in our brains, has a physical basis). If you list all the things that exist in the universe, the number 2 will not be among them along with trees and chairs. But on the other hand, the systems of mathematical abstraction do have objective logical relationships within them. The thorough exploration of those objective logical relationships between these abstract mathematical “objects” is what mathematics is all about.
One of a number of related views about the nature of mathematical “objects” (such as numbers, points, lines, and triangles) and their properties and inter-relationships, which are (or seem to be) along the lines of Platonism in general. That is, ideas about mathematical abstractions which are examples of philosophical idealism.
Platonists are philosophical idealists, who hold that ideas (rather than matter) are primary in the world. Since mathematics is the exploration of the logical interrelationships between certain sorts of abstractions (relating primarily to quantity and form), and since abstractions are themselves ideas, mathematicians have very often been seduced by Platonism. They often view abstract entities such as numbers and geometric shapes as having an independent existence from the physical world (in addition to physical objects). For example, the great British number theorist G. H. Hardy wrote:
“For me, and I suppose for most mathematicians, there is another reality [besides ‘physical reality’ —SH], which I will call ‘mathematical reality’.... I believe that mathematical reality lies outside us, that our function is to discover or observe it.” [G. H. Hardy, A Mathematician’s Apology (Cambridge University Press, 1969), p. 123.]
Martin Gardner, the expert on mathematical games, put it this way in explaining why he is an “unashamed Platonist” when it comes to mathematics:
“If all sentient beings in the universe disappeared, there would remain a sense in which mathematical objects and theorems would continue to exist even though there would be no one around to write or talk about them. Huge prime numbers would continue to be prime even if no one had proved them prime.” [Martin Gardner, When You Were a Tadpole and I Was a Fish (2009)]
The idealist flaw in the thinking here is that while prime numbers will still be prime
(whether or not anyone has yet proven this for particular numbers), numbers are
nevertheless not part of the world in the sense that atoms and planets and people are.
Numbers are intellectual abstractions, or mental constructs. And whether a number is prime
or not is a matter of a certain type of logical relationship of that number to the other
The “worldly existence” of ideas, abstractions, and indeed even numbers and geometric shapes, depends on the prior existence of matter, if only in the form of thinkers who can generate such abstractions in their mind/brain.
MATHEMATICS — And the World
[To be added... ]
“But it is not at all true that in pure mathematics the mind deals only with its own creations and imaginations. The concepts of number and figure have not been derived from any source other than the world of reality. The ten fingers on which men learnt to count, that is, to perform the first arithmetical operation, are anything but a free creation of the mind. Counting requires not only objects that can be counted, but also the ability to exclude all properties of the objects considered except their number—and this ability is the product of a long historical development based on experience.... Like all other sciences, mathematics arose out of the needs of men: from the measurement of land and the content of vessels, from the computation of time and from mechanics. But, as in every department of thought, at a certain stage of development the laws, which were abstracted from the real world, become divorced from the real world, and are set up against it as something independent, as laws coming from outside, to which the world has to conform. That is how things happened in society and in the state, and in this way, and not otherwise, pure mathematics was subsequently applied to the world, although it is borrowed from this same world and represents only one part of its forms of interconnection—and it is only just because of this that it can be applied at all.” —Engels, Anti-Dühring (1878), MECW 25:37.
1. [In materialist philosophy:] All the physical constituents of reality, including matter in the physics sense (see below) and also energy. But this category does not include mind and mental phenomena, which are special ways of looking at the functioning of certain complex organizations of matter (e.g., brains).
“[T]he sole ‘property’ of matter with whose recognition philosophical materialism is bound up is the property of being an objective reality, of existing outside the mind.” —Lenin, “Materialism and Empirio-Criticism” (1908), LCW 14:260-1.
2. [In physics:] The substance from which physical objects are composed; the material substance that is generally considered to occupy space, have mass (“weight”), and which most prominently exists in the form of atoms and their constituent parts (such as protons, neutrons and electrons). Matter in this sense is now known to be interconvertable with energy, and this is one reason why there needs to be the broader philosophical sense of the term ‘matter’ as well. Within contemporary physics there are several categories of matter, including ordinary matter (of which everyday objects are composed), anti-matter, and the hypothesized dark matter.
See: MORAL MAXIM
International Worker’s Day: The primary holiday of the international working class celebrated on May first each year.
MAY FOURTH MOVEMENT
An important radical nationalist movement of Chinese students and intellectuals which grew out of demonstrations by students at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on May 4, 1919. This demonstration condemned both the unfair terms of the Versailles Treaty ending World War I which granted significant territorial concessions from China to Japan, and also the weak warlord government in control of Beijing which went along with this imperialist deal.
MEANING OF A WORD
The meaning of a word is determined by the implications of the various contexts in which it is used. Once we learn how to read and use dictionaries, we often determine the meaning of a new or problematic word by looking it up in a dictionary. But how did we ever discover the meanings of the thousands of words we learned before we could read? In a few cases it was by asking somebody else, but in most cases it was simply through our own deductions from the contexts in which those words were used, both the real life contexts and the linguistic contexts (the other words around it). Dictionary makers use the same methods, though usually more carefully and systematically. There are, however, some technical words which are simply defined by fiat when they are first introduced by someone.
[For a more extensive discussion of this topic see chapter 2, section 5 (“Determining What a Word Means”), of my work in progress, The Marxist-Leninist-Maoist Class Interest Theory of Ethics at http://www.massline.org/Philosophy/ScottH/MLM-Ethics-Ch1-2.pdf. —S.H.]
MEANS OF PRODUCTION
The totality of the material elements of economic production, including the factories, mines, machinery, tools, raw materials, land, buildings, means of transport, etc. (Human labor is not included in this category; the means of production together with the application of the human work force to these material elements are collectively known as the productive forces.)
See also: INSTRUMENTS OF PRODUCTION
A crude and simplistic form of materialism which views all nature as being constructed on basic mechanical principles such as those which govern old-fashioned clocks. This is the most common sort of naive materialism.
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1. [In Marxist usage:] Views which are opposed to dialectics, such as views which deny the unity and connections which exist among things in the world, or which deny the struggle of opposites that exist within things, or which take a static view of the world or parts of it and deny the possibility of any development.
2. [In non-Marxist usage:] The branch of philosophy, or philosophical views, which are concerned with the ultimate nature of reality, which sorts of things truly exist, which things depend on the existence of other things, etc. The primary sphere here is also called ontology.
See also: Philosophical doggerel about metaphysics.
“To the metaphysician, things and their mental reflexes, ideas, are
isolated, are to be considered one after the other and apart from each other, are
objects of investigation fixed, rigid, given once for all. He things in absolutely
irreconcilable antitheses.... For him a thing either exists or does not exist; a
thing cannot at the same time be itself and something else. Positive and negative
absolutely exclude one another; cause and effect stand in a rigid antithesis one to
“At first sight this mode of thinking seems to us very luminous, because it is that of so-called sound common sense. Only sound common sense, respectable fellow that he is, in the homely realm of his own four walls, has very wonderful adventures directly he ventures out into the wide world of research. And the metaphysical mode of thought, justifiable and and even necessary as it is in a number of domains whose extent varies according to the nature of the pariticular object of investigation, sooner or later reaches a limit, beyond which it becomes one-sided, restricted, abstract, lost in insoluable contradictions. In the contemplation of individual things, it forgets the connection between them; in the contemplation of their existence, it forgets the beginning and end of that existence; of their repose, it forgets their motion. It cannot see the wood for the trees.” —Engels, Anti-Dühring, MECW 25:22-23.
METHODS OF WORK“...we are faced with the serious problem of methods of work. It is not enough to set tasks, we must also solve the problem of the methods for carrying them out. If our task is to cross a river, we cannot cross it without a bridge or a boat. Unless the bridge or boat problem is solved, it is idle to speak of crossing the river. Unless the problem of method is solved, talk about the task is useless.” —Mao, “Be Concerned with the Well-Being of the Masses, Pay Attention to Methods of Work” (Jan. 27, 1934), SW1:150.
MICHURIN, Ivan Vladimirovich (1855-1935)
Russian horticulturalist whose theory of cross-breeding was based on the idea that acquired characteristics of plants and animals could be inherited. Unfortunately, this erroneous theory was adopted by Trofim Lysenko and became for a long while the official doctrine of the Soviet Union during the years of Stalin and Khrushchev. This led to considerable damage to Soviet genetic research and Soviet agriculture.
A term used (mostly in bourgeoic economics) to refer to studies or descriptions of small and semi-isolated parts of the economy, such as how individual firms or households typically function from an economic perspective. Compare with macroeconomics which studies the overall operation of the economy.
The period of about 1,000 years, from the time of the collapse of the Roman Empire at around 500 C.E. (“A.D.”) to about 1500 C.E. In other words, roughly the period of feudalism in Europe.
[In common bourgeois usage:] A vague sort of class category, or occasionally more precisely defined on the basis of arbitrary family income ranges, such as “families which have an income of more than $20,000 per year and less than $500,000 per year”. As this example shows, the “middle class” in current establishment parlance includes the greatest part of the American population.
While bourgeois writers prefer not to talk about social classes at all, they are sometimes forced to do so. But when they do, they do not use Marxist class terms which are defined on the basis of definite relationships of groups of people to the means of production. Instead, vaguely or arbitrarily defined “classes” such as the middle class are referred to. The bourgeois term the “middle class” is the rough equivalent to the Marxist term the petty bourgeoisie, though the bourgeois term also includes much of what we would call the working class or proletariat.
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The movement of people from one country or region to another. This is most often done for economic reasons, though in some cases it is done to escape ethnic, religious or political persecution. Migration is an increasingly important aspect of the globalized world economy. As of 2010 almost 3% of the world’s population (nearly 200 million people) live and work outside their native country. [Data from the Economic and Social Research Council, an organization funded by the British government.] Migrant workers and their families are very frequently subject to much increased exploitation, and to racism and mistreatment.
Government budget deficits which are occasioned specifically by large military expenditures. Capitalist governments are often very reluctant to spend money on public works or the health and welfare of the working class, even if the main purpose in doing so is to boost the overall economy through Keynesian deficit spending. But capitalist governments are willing to spend much more freely on expanding their military might, and are therefore much more willing to create “fiscal deficits” to boost the economy that way.
For example, most capitalist countries were not able to even temporarily suspend the Great Depression of the 1930s through large deficit-causing public works programs and other social expenditures; the best that most of them, including the U.S., could do along those lines was to somewhat mitigate the effects of that extremely severe overproduction crisis through rather small government deficits. But all these countries were quite willing to run truly colossal deficits for war production just before and during World War II. That military Keynesianism suspended the Depression until the massive destruction of capital during the war ended it completely.
MILL, James (1773-1836)
British economist and philosopher, who vularized the political economy of Ricardo. James Mill was a close friend of Jeremy Bentham and the father of John Stuart Mill.
MILL, John Stuart (1806-1873)
British economist and positivist philosopher. Following in the footsteps of his father, James Mill (see above), and his godfather Jeremy Bentham, he became the most famous proponent of utilitarianism, in the hedonistic form that Bentham gave to it.
Also following in the footsteps of Bentham and his father, he became the most prominent vulgarizer of classical political economy in the 19th century. He advocated conciliation between the interests of the bourgeoisie and the interests of the working class, and thought that the contradictions of capitalism could be overcome by reforming the methods of distribution into some vague bourgeois version of “socialism”.
MILLERAND, Alexandre Etienne (1859-1943)
A reactionary French politician. Though a socialist in the 1890s, in 1899 he betrayed socialism and accepted a ministerial role in the French bourgeois government. He was roundly condemned by Lenin for this betrayal in numerous articles.
An opportunist trend in Western European socialist parties at the beginning of the 20th century wherein nominally proletarian revolutionary parties struck bargains and agreements with the ruling class which allowed them some participation in bourgeois governments. Also known as “ministerialism”. Millerandism is a term used by Lenin in his 1908 article “Marxism and Revisionism” and elsewhere, and is named after the French “socialist” leader Alexandre Millerand who in 1899 became part of the reactionary French government and helped the bourgeoisie carry out imperialist policies.
A set of ways of looking at the brain at work. In other words, a set of aspects, characteristics or functions of the brains of advanced animals (especially humans of course). Thus thinking is a high-level characterization of one sort of operation that a brain carries out, while a thought is a high-level characterization of the results of that brain process in a specific situation. Awareness, concern, boredom, worrying, happiness and all the countless other such mental states, are abstract characterizations of the physical states of the brain (which, if they could be described in purely neurophysiological terms would be incomprehensibly complex compilations of the states of neural networks and of millions or billions of individual neuronal states). The mind is not “identical to” the brain; it is rather the collection of all the high-level abstract views which we must necessarily have about how our brain is functioning.
See also: FUNCTIONALISM and philosophical doggerel about mind and matter.
The most basic question of philosophy: what is the nature of the relationship between mind and body (or between mind and brain, or mind and matter). The two big schools of thought are materialism (that matter is primary and mind is a characteristic or function of certain highly complex organizations of matter such as brains) and idealism (that mind or “spirit” is primary and that matter—if it really exists at all—is somehow a creation or outgrowth of mind). Dualism, the view that mind and matter are completely independent, is often considered a third option, though to materialists it just seems to be a variety of idealism since it denies that mind is a function or characteristic of certain complicated organizations of matter (brains).
A form of political opportunism wherein a once-revolutionary party (or particular leaders of it) settle instead for ministerial positions within a bourgeois government rather than continuing to fight for complete political power for the proletariat.
See also: MILLERANDISM
MINSKY, Hyman (1919-96)
American bourgeois economist of the Keynesian or “Post-Keynesian” school. He was the son of Menshevik emmigrants from Belarus, and sort of reflected that type of thinking within the more openly bourgeois American context. He received his Ph.D. at Harvard where he was influenced by Joseph Schumpeter and Wassily Leontief. He taught at Brown University, the University of California—Berkeley, and then Washington University in St. Louis from 1965 until his retirement in 1990.
Along with Keynes and almost all other economists strongly influenced by Keynes, Minsky did not understand that economic crises are inherent to the capitalist mode of production. He did not at all understand how crises derive ultimately from the very extraction of surplus value from the working class. But he did recognize that financial crises are inherent in at least the highly financialized form of capitalism as it now occurs in modern America:
“The normal functioning of our economy leads to financial trauma and crises, inflation, currency depreciations, unemployment and poverty in the midst of what could be virtually universal affluence—in short ... financially complex capitalism is inherently flawed.” —Hyman Minsky, Stabilizing an Unstable Economy (NY: 2008), p. 320. [Of course his claim here that capitalism, correctly organized and managed, could provide “virtually universal affluence” is totally ridiculous!]
Minsky correctly viewed speculative investment bubbles as being “endogenous” in (internal
to or inherent in) capitalist financial markets. But he attributed this to an inevitable
“speculative euphoria” that develops during economic booms. This speculation he viewed as
leading to massive debt accumulation, to the point where borrowers are not able to pay off
their debts from their regular incoming revenues. Precisely why all this has to
be the case, however, he was unable to clearly explain.
If (a big if!) the workers actually were somehow able to buy all the goods that they collectively produce, then there would be no need for them to go into debt. Moreover, the capitalists could soon accumulate the additional new capital from their profits to expand production and keep the economy booming. Thus there would be no need for ever-larger debt in the economy at all. But, contrary to the conception of Minsky and other bourgeois economists, the workers cannot possibly buy back all that they produce because the value of their wages must always be significantly less than the value of the goods that they produce. Thus everything produced can only be sold if the workers are granted extensive and ever-growing credit. This credit (debt) constantly accumulates until it gets obviously excessive and its further expansion has to be limited more and more. Since the ability of the working class to buy all they produce must be curtailed by eventually restricting credit to them, there comes a time when it no longer makes sense to build more factories to further expand production. So what then are the capitalists to do with all the surplus value they have extracted? More and more they just create means for financial speculation. This is the true explanation for why the capitalists generate such “speculative euphorias” especially towards the end of boom periods, and why financialized capitalism itself inevitably develops. Thus Minsky’s notion that modern financialized capitalism can be controlled, regulated, or returned to a form of capitalism where crises do not develop is total bourgeois nonsense.
Minsky stressed the importance of the central bank (the Federal Reserve in the U.S.) as the “lender of last resort” during an economic crisis. That, however, seems pretty obvious today. His “Financial Instability Hypothesis” model of the credit system was based on ideas of other bourgeois economists going back as far as Alfred Marshall and even John Stuart Mill. But because he had at least a partial understanding of the instability of modern financial capitalism he opposed the moves of the neo-liberal ideologists of the 1980s to deregulate the economy and predicted that this would eventually lead to intensified problems in the economy—as in fact it has done. But his theory that proper regulation, central bank operations and other government policies would be able to prevent capitalist economic and financial crises is totally erroneous.
Nevertheless, because Minsky viewed modern financial capitalism, as it actually exists, as unstable and prone to crisis, his views are anathema to most bourgeois economists and the economics profession as a whole. With the outbreak of the major new financial crisis in 2008, however, some bourgeois economists are now giving his theories a more sympathetic look. Many of Minsky’s ideas have also been accepted and promoted by some semi-Marxist, semi-Keynesian political economists, such as those connected with the Monthly Review school.
“Minsky’s proposed solution to financial crisis was state intervention on two fronts: the government should run a big budget deficit and the central bank should pump money into the economy. It will be noted, despite Minsky’s pariah status in economics, that his remedy is exactly what has been adopted [in the current crisis]—in the US, the UK, the eurozone and much of the developed world. The problem is, it has not so far worked. Trillions of dollars of ready money, tax cuts and state spending were shovelled into the world economy to stop the credit crunch producing another Great Depression. Yet all these trillions are up against a powerful backwash of collapse within the real economy.” —Paul Mason, Meltdown: The End of the Age of Greed, 2009, p. 156.
A “moment” or turning point when what appeared to be a solid and stable capitalist economy and financial system is either on the verge of developing into a serious financial crisis, or actually begins to do so. The term, which is used mostly by bourgeois economists in the Keynesian tradition, honors the bourgeois economist Hyman Minsky (see entry above) who gave a partial (and somewhat confused) explanation for why financial crises arise in a financialized capitalist economy rife with debt. The gist of Minsky’s theory is that asset and investment bubbles inevitably arise in such a capitalist economy, and when the bubbles collapse many lenders are forced to suddenly reduce their exposure to bad debt, which in effect turns many of them into Ponzi-like schemes trying to keep their head above water by suckering in new investors. Sometimes the term “Minsky moment” is used to describe that immediate pre-crisis situation, and sometimes it is used to refer to the period when a full-fledged financial crisis actually begins.
Minsky was, however, unable to adequately explain why this massive debt develops in the first place, or why capitalism is forced to become more and more financialized. He thus imagined that what his followers now call “Minsky moments” could be avoided, and severe capitalist crises could themselves be permanently avoided if the capitalist system were properly managed and regulated. This is utter nonsense.
A rough indicator of the economic misery in a country at a particular time, which is defined as the sum of the unemployment rate and the rate of inflation. Thus if the official unemployment rate is 5.5% and the rate of inflation for consumer goods is officially 3.8%, the “misery index” would be 9.3%.
As of December 2009, with the continuing development of the current economic crisis, the U.S. misery index reached 11.8%. The highest the U.S. index ever reached was 22% in 1980, during a period of both recession and very high inflation. But over the next few years, we should expect to see that record broken as the U.S. and world economy continue to move toward the Second Great Depression. Unemployment figures have already nearly equaled the 1980 level, and inflation will zoom up at some point as the government perpetually tries to pump up the economy with additional trillions of deficit dollars.
Though popular with bourgeois journalists writing on economics, the misery index is pretty phony in a number of ways. The true rate of unemployment, for example, is much higher than the official rate, and the official rate of inflation is always more than they claim as far as the basic working class is concerned. (The price of expensive luxury goods doesn’t much concern us!) In addition, the standards used by the government to measure unemployment and inflation are not constant; in general, as time goes by the government more and more tries to hide the true situation by systematically distorting the real statistics. Moreover, unemployment and inflation are not equally bad (as the misery index tacitly assumes). For those who are actually unemployed, unemployment is far more serious. Still, it might be said that the changes in the misery index are somewhat useful in showing the current trends in the economy. And that trend at the present time is not at all good.
MISTAKES — Attitude Towards
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See also: PAST MISTAKES
See: MULTI-NATIONAL CORPORATION
MODE OF APPROPRIATION
The means by which wealth (or the “surplus product”) is extracted from the laboring population in a particular form of class society. I.e., the way that economic exploitation occurs in that type of society.
MODE OF PRODUCTION
One of the major forms of the economic organization of society: primitive communalism, slave production, feudalism, capitalism, socialism or communism. The mode of production can be viewed as a combination of the productive forces of society together with the social relations of production. Once the ever-advancing and developing productive forces become restrained or fettered by the existing relations of production, the current mode of production begins to break down. An era of socio-economic revolution then begins which leads to a new mode of production more in tune with the advancing productive forces. We Marxists conclude that this social development must ultimately result in communist society with a communist mode of production.
MOLOTOV, Vyacheslav Mikhailovich (1890-1986)
A top leader of the Soviet Union during the Stalin era, and one of his main lieutenants. [More to be added... ]
[In the philosophy of Leibniz]: The supposed “ultimate” units of reality which give rise to matter and mind. Thus an entity postulated to underly a dualistic conception of the world. The notion is clearly incoherent. God is supposed to be the “supreme monad”, whatever that means.
A complex of various theories in bourgeois economics, championed by reactionary economists such as Milton Friedman. Two prominent specific monetarist views are:
1. The theory that inflation is basically caused by the undue expansion of the money supply. (Marxist political economy pretty much agrees with this!)
2. The theory that capitalist economic crises (recessions and depressions) are caused by mismanagement of the money supply. (This is utter bourgeois stupidity which doesn’t begin to understand that crises are inherent in the capitalist exploitation of labor!)
[In bourgeois economics:] Attempts to control a capitalist economy simply through the manipulation of the money supply and interest rates. While such measures can be effective in “fine tuning” the economy in ordinary times (non-crisis situations), when a major economic crisis breaks out “monetary policy” soon proves virtually useless.
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MONEY — Obsession With
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“When the accumulation of wealth is no longer of high social importance, there will be great changes in the code of morals. We shall be able to rid ourselves of many of the pseudo-moral principles which have hag-ridden us for two hundred years, by which we have exalted some of the most distasteful of human qualities into the position of the highest virtues. We shall… dare to assess the money-motive at its true value. The love of money as a possession… will be recognised for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease…” —John Maynard Keynes, “The Future”, Essays in Persuasion (1931).
MONEY CREATION BY COMMERCIAL BANKS
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MONEY MARKET FUND
A type of capitalist investment aimed at individual savers which pays interest, but which also attempts to keep the value of its shares constant. The intent is to avoid the risks associated with the rise and fall of stocks, and allow those who invest in these funds to treat them like interest-bearing checking or savings accounts. In recent decades these funds became very popular with many “middle class” investors.
The problem is that very few capitalist investments are really guaranteed to maintain their value—including those the money market funds themselves invest in. This is especially the case during a financial crisis. Thus on September 17, 2008 there was a major run on money market funds in the U.S. which caused them to “break the buck” (or in other words, to drop below their nominally “constant” $1.00/share price). This so threatened the very weakened financial system at that point that the government was forced to extend its guarantees (and possible bailouts) to these funds for a period of time as well as to many banks, Wall Street investment firms, and so forth.
The view that everything in the world is derived from, or can be explained by, the existence of just one fundamental type of thing. There are various kinds of naive monism (“all is made of water”), but the more modern view of monism is just that it is a denial of dualism. Dialectical materialism is a type of monism because it holds that although mind exists, it exists as a set of characteristics or functional aspects of the brain (i.e., of highly organized matter in motion). That is, matter is primary, and mind depends on matter, is an “outgrowth” or “development” or set of aspects or characteristics of certain complex forms of matter (brains, or their equivalent).
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See also: OLIGOPOLY
MONOPOLY — and CRISES Although the concentration of production in the form of oligopolies or monopolies can provide the means for the capitalists to better postpone economic crises (because of their greater reserves, etc.), when these crises do finally break out they are then all the more extreme. Similarly, the tendency towards concentration that always existed during crises in pre-monopoly capitalism very much intensified in the monopoly capitalist era. Instead of small firms being swallowed up by larger firms, we now find firms which are themselves very large being swallowed up by the handful of truly giant firms which remain in that industry.
“Crises of every kind—economic crises most frequently, but not only these—in their turn increase very considerably the tendency towards concentration and towards monopoly.” —Lenin, “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism” (1916), LCW 22:209.
MONOPOLY — History of Its Development
[Intro to be added... ]
“Thus, the principal stages in the history of monopolies [in Europe] are the following: (1) 1860-70, the highest stage, the apex of development of free competition; monopoly is in the barely discernible, embryonic stage. (2) After the crisis of 1873, a lengthy period of development of cartels; but they are still the exception. They are not yet durable. They are still a transitory phenomenon. (3) The boom at the end of the nineteenth century and the crisis of 1900-03. Cartels become one of the foundations of the whole of economic life. Capitalism has been transformed into imperialism.” —Lenin, “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism” (1916), LCW 22:202.
MONOPOLY CAPITAL (1966 Book)
This is an influential book written by Paul M. Sweezy and Paul Baran, and published in 1966. There are widely differing opinions as to just how correct and important this book is. John Bellamy Foster, who is now the editor of the magazine Sweezy co-founded, Monthly Review, talks about the book in rather glowing terms:
“The appearance in 1966 of Monopoly Capital by Baran and
Sweezy (published two years after Baran’s death) represented a turning point in
Marxian economics. Although described by the authors themselves as a mere
‘essay-sketch’, it rapidly gained widespread recognition as the most important
attempt thus far to bring Marx’s Capital up to date, as well as providing
a formidable critique of prevailing Keynesian orthodoxy.
“Where Sweezy himself was concerned, Monopoly Capital reflected dissatisfaction with the analysis of accumulation and crisis advanced in The Theory of Capitalist Development [his book from 1942]. His earlier study had been written when mainstream economics was undergoing rapid change due to the Keynesian ‘revolution’ and the rise of imperfect competition theory. Thus, he had provided a detailed elaboration of both Marx’s theory of realization crisis (or demand-side constraints in the accumulation process), and of work by Marx and later Marxian theorists on the concentration and centralization of capital. As with mainstream theory, however, these two aspects of Sweezy’s analysis remained separate; and hence he failed to develop an adequate explanation of the concrete factors conditioning investment demand in an economic regime dominated by the modern large enterprise. It was essentially this critique of Sweezy’s early efforts that was provided by Josef Steindl in Maturity and Stagnation in American Capitalism (1952: 243-6), who went to show how a more unified theory could ‘be organically developed out of the underconsumptionist approach to Marx’ based on Michal Kalecki’s model of capitalist dynamics, which had connected the pehenomenon of realization crisis to the increasing ‘degree of monopoly’ in the economy as a whole.
“In fact, it was out of this argument, as outlined by Steindl, that the underlying framework for Baran and Sweezy’s own contribution in Monopoly Capital was derived. Thus, they suggested that Marx’s fundamental ‘law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall’ associated with accumulation in the era of free competition, had been replaced, in the more restrictive competitive environment of monopoly capitalism, by a law of the tendency of the surplus to rise (defining surplus as the gap, at any given level of production, between output and socially necessary costs of production). Under these circumstances, the critical economic problem was one of surplus absorption. Capitalist consumption tended to account for a decreasing share of capitalist demand as income grew, while investment was hindered by the fact that it took the form of new productive capacity, which could not be expanded for long periods of time independently of final, wage-based demand. Despite the fact that there was always the possibility of new ‘epoch-maing innovations’ emerging that would help absorb the potential economic surplus, all such innovations—resembling the steam engine, the railroad and the automobile in their overall effect—were few and far between. Hence Baran and Sweezy concluded that the system had a powerful tendency toward stagnation, largely countered thus far through the promotion of economic waste by means of ‘the sales effort’ (including its penetration into the production process) and military expenditures, and through the expansion of the financial sector. All such ‘countervailing influences’ were, however, of a self-limiting character and could be expected to lead to a doubling-over of contradictions in the not too distant future.” —John Bellamy Foster, “Paul Malor Sweezy”, in John Eatwell, et al., eds., The New Palgrave: Marxian Economics (1990), p. 352-3.
However, to my eyes much of this seems to be unnecessary and even downright
wrong. Yes, there is a more fully coherent “underconsumptionist” approach (or
overproductionist approach, I would prefer to say) than Sweezy put forward in his
1942 book, and it comes straight out of Marx himself. The problem, it seems to me, is
that not only in 1942, but also in this 1966 book Monopoly Capital there
is an unnecessary and incorrect adulteration of Marx with Keynesian conceptions. Thus
contrary to Foster’s comment that this book provides “a formidable critique of prevailing
Keynesian orthodoxy”, I would say the book has still not sufficiently broken
The basic problem with capitalism is that it does not pay the workers enough to buy back all that they produce for the capitalists. The capitalists themselves can for a long while spend a large part of the surplus value they extract from the workers in building new factories and buying more machinery. And for a fairly long while they can still sell the output from these new and old factories by granting credit to the workers and by having the government borrow money from the rich (or else simply print up money) to buy weapons, military supplies, and other commodities. In other words, the continual and ever-faster expansion of debt can keep the system working for quite a while. But eventually this massive credit bubble must pop, and then—according to Marx—the only thing that can clear the ground for a new expansion is the destruction of all the old excess capital, including that massive overhang of excess factories and machinery that was artificially built up during the long credit boom. This is really pretty much all there is to it, and no Keynesian conceptions at all are necessary to further explicate the situation.
It is true that Sweezy and Baran were right to point out mechanisms such as wastefulness, innovation, and so forth, as ways which to a degree help keep the system going for a while. But these are quite secondary to the main thing, the expansion of the consumer and government credit bubbles. That is the place to focus one’s attention! And when this giant credit bubble pops it is totally inadequate to say that there will then be stagnation; actually there will then be long-term and intractable economic depression!
So while there are indeed some things of interest in the book Monopoly Capital, and some valid points, overall it still seems to me to be a Keynesian-influenced down-playing of how central and how serious the economic contradictions really are within the capitalist system. —S.H.
One of several names for the form capitalism has taken during the capitalist-imperialist era (starting in the late 19th century). It is also called capitalist-imperialism and finance capitalism. [More to be added... ]
An important Marxist magazine in the United States, established by Paul Sweezy and Leo Huberman in 1949. After Huberman died, Harry Magdoff became a co-editor with Sweezy, and now that Sweezy and Magdoff have both died, it is edited by John Bellamy Foster. [More to be added... ]
MONTHLY REVIEW SCHOOL
This is not a formal school, but a loose collection of political economists centered around the Monthly Review magazine (see above). Many or most of these economists also are influenced by Keynes to one degree or another, as well as by Marx.
MOORE, G. E. [George Edward] (1873-1958)
English idealist philosopher. In ethics he was an intuitionist who believed the word ‘good’ is indefinable.
See also: Philosophical doggerel about Moore.
MOORE, Samuel (1838-1911)
English lawyer and member of the (First) International, and friend of Marx and Engels. He translated into English Vol. 1 of Marx’s Capital (in collaboration with Edward Aveling) and also the Manifesto of the Communist Party.
The word ‘moral’ is often a slightly more formal near synonym for either ‘good’ or ‘right’, depending on the context. Thus “He’s a moral person” means something very nearly the same as “He’s a good person”.
MORAL HAZARD (In bourgeois economics)
A variety of related views, such as:
1) The problem that having insurance can cause people to behave in more risky ways. (This is bad from the perspective of the bourgeoisie not because it increases the risk of harm to people, but because it increases the chances that they will collect insurance, thus leading to rising insurance premiums.)
2) Government bailouts of failing companies (even if there was no previous promise that this would occur), which amounts to a form of insurance payment anyway, and tends to increase the chances that companies will act imprudently (stupidly!) again in the future. This should lead bourgeois economists to oppose government bailouts, but most of them find some special excuse to make an exception when the matter comes up in any major way—such as at the present time with the trillions of dollars being given to banks that recklessly invested in “securities” based on highly risky sub-prime mortgages.
A general rule about what is right or wrong, such as “Lying is wrong.” According to Kantian ethics, such moral maxims are absolutes, and must always be followed regardless of the circumstances or the specific consequences. But more rational people understand that there are times when lying is not wrong (and even occasions when it is morally wrong not to lie!). Therefore, more rational people treat virtually all moral maxims not as absolutes, but rather more like “rules of thumb” which are generally valid, but not invariably so. On this conception, moral maxims must be evaluated in the particular situation, and by ascertaining if they agree or conflict with more general moral principles, and especially the most central moral principle: something is good and right only if it answers to (or satisfies) the interests (or meets the needs) of the people.
See also: CLASS INTEREST THEORY OF ETHICS
1. Conformity to the standards of right conduct.
2. The norms, standards, principles or rules of right conduct themselves.
3. Ethics, although most philosophers (Marxist and non-Marxist alike) try to keep the concepts of ethics and morality separate, with ethics being the theory behind any system of morality.
MORALITY — As Viewed by Different Classes
[To be added... ]
“But how do things stand today? What morality is preached to us today?
There is first Christian-feudal morality, inherited from earlier religious times; and
this is divided, essentially, into a Catholic and a Protestant morality, each of which
has no lack of subdivisions, from the Jesuit-Catholic and Othodox-Protestant to loose
‘enlightened’ moralities. Alongside these we find the modern-bourgeois morality and
beside it also the proletarian morality of the future, so that in the most advanced
European countries alone the past, present and future provide three great groups of
moral theories which are in force simultaneously and alongside each other. Which, then,
is the true one? Not one of them, in the sense of absolute finality; but certainly
that morality contains the maximum elements promising permanence which, in the present,
represents the overthrow of the present, represents the future, and that is proletarian
“But when we see that the three classes of modern society, the feudal aristocracy, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, each have a morality of their own, we can only draw the one conclusion: that men, consciously or unconsciously, derive their ethical ideas in the last resort from the practical relations in which they carry on production and exchange.” —Engels, Anti-Dühring, MECW 25:86-87.
MORALITY — and Capitalism
[Intro to be added...]
Many of the most determined defenders of capitalism have argued that morality has no place whatsoever in capitalist business. Milton Friedman, for example, argued that the doctrine of “social responsibility”, that corporations should care about the community and not just profit, is highly subversive to the capitalist system and can only lead towards “totalitarianism”!
[In a free market capitalist economy] “there is one and only one social responsibility of business—to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits...” —Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom (1962), ch. 8, p. 133. Friedman strongly reaffirmed this bourgeois point of view in his 6-page essay “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits”, The New York Times Magazine, Sept. 13, 1970.
MORALITY — Common Elements of Different Class Moralities
[To be added... ]
“But nevertheless there is [a] great deal which the three moral theories mentioned above have in common — is this not at least a portion of a morality which is fixed once and for all? — These moral theories represent three different stages of the same historical development, have therefore a common historical background, and for that reason alone they necessarily have much in common. Even more. At similar or approximately similar stages of economic development moral theories must of necessity be more or less in agreement. From the moment when private ownership of movable property developed, all societies in which this private ownership existed had to have this moral injunction in common: Thou shalt not steal. Does this injunction thereby become an eternal moral injunctions? By no means. In a society in which all motives for stealing have been done away with, in which therefore at the very most only lunatics would ever steal, how the preacher of morals would be laughed at who tried solemnly to proclaim the eternal turth: Thou shalt not steal!” —Engels, Anti-Dühring, MECW 25:87.
MORALITY — Supposedly Unchanging
[To be added... ]
“We therefore reject every attempt to impose on us any moral dogma whatsoever as an eternal, ultimate and for ever immutable ethical law on the pretext that the moral world, too, has its permanent principles which stand above history and the differences between nations. We maintain on the contrary that all moral theories have been hitherto the product, in the last analysis, of the economic conditions of society obtaining at the time. And as society has hitherto moved in class antagonisms, morality has always been class morality; it has either justified the domination and interests of the ruling class, or ever since the oppressed class became powerful enough, it has represented its indignation against this domination and the future interests of the oppressed. That in this process there has on the whole been progress in morality, as in all other branches of human knowledge, no one will doubt. But we have not yet passed beyond class morality. A really human morality which stands above class antagonisms and above andy recollection of them becomes possible only at a stage of society which has not only overcome class antagonisms but has even forgotten them in practical life.” —Engels, Anti-Dühring, MECW 25:87-88.
A word in Hindi and related languages meaning “front”. In India the word morcha does not have the negative connotations that the word ‘front’ has in politics in the U.S. (i.e., as an organization secretly dominated by some political party), and many organizations have the word morcha as part of their name.
A loan (from a bank or other financial company) for the purpose of buying a house (or other real estate), and for which the property itself serves as the security for the loan. If the person buying the house fails at any time to make the interest payments due on the mortgage, the bank may foreclose on the loan and take ownership of the house (which it will then sell to someone else).
See also: ADJUSTABLE RATE MORTGAGE (ARM), REVERSE MORTGAGE, SUB-PRIME MORTGAGE
MOSADDEGH, Mohammad [Pronounced, roughly: mo-sad-DECK] (1882-1967)
Nationalist prime minister of Iran, elected in 1951 and serving until August 19, 1953 when he was overthrown in a coup d’état organized by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. Mosaddegh, who was from an aristocratic family, was actually quite conservative, and was opposed to communism and any type of “socialism”. But he was also a nationalist who opposed foreign intervention in Iran and who believed the national resources of the country (including its oil) should belong to Iranians and not foreigners. He also favored some bourgeois democratic reforms such as ending forced feudal labor on landlords’ estates.
The Iranian oil industry had been controlled since 1913 by the British-owned Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC), later renamed British Petroleum, and then BP. When Mosaddegh tried to nationalize AIOC, the British imperialists and their American allies began falsely calling him “pro-Soviet” and “pro-Communist”. Winston Churchill, for example, said that Mosaddegh was “increasingly turning towards communism”. Determined not to lose their imperialist control of Iranian oil, Britain’s spy agency (MI6) arranged with the U.S. CIA to organize a coup to overthrow Mosaddegh. The chief of the CIA’s Near East and Africa division, Kermit Roosevelt, Jr. (the grandson of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt) then went to Tehran and directed the coup, which the CIA called “Operation Ajax”. The fact that by their own bourgeois standards Mosaddegh had been democratically elected didn’t bother them in the least. Mosaddegh was imprisoned for three years and then kept under house arrest until his death.
This CIA coup restored the absolute monarchy of Shah Pahlavi, who ruled in a viciously tyranical manner with the aid of his secret police organization SAVAK until he himself was overthrown in 1979.
MOTION — Dialectics Of
[Intro to be added... ]
“[T]he question is not whether there is movement, but how to express it in the logic of concepts.” —Lenin, “Conspectus of Hegel’s Book Lectures on the History of Philosophy” (1915), LCW 38:256.
MOVEMENT — Dialectics Of
See: MOTION—Dialectics Of
Unit of area measure commonly used in China through the Mao era, and equal to about 1/6 acre. It is now more precisely defined as 666 2/3 square meters (which is roughly equivalent to 797.3 square yards or 0.1647 acres).
MULTI-NATIONAL CORPORATION (MNC)
[Often without the hyphen.] A corporation which, though usually based in one imperialist country, operates not only in that country but in many other countries as well. Also called a transnational corporation (or TNC).
MUMIA ABU-JAMAL (1954- )
An Afro-American political prisoner who was wrongly convicted of murdering a policeman in 1981 in what was clearly a grossly unfair trail. He has been on death row in Pennsylvania since then awaiting execution, while attempting to win a new (and fair) trial through the legal appeal process. There have been both temporary legal victories and serious legal setbacks for him, but he has remained on death row for nearly three decades now. However, Mumia also has widespread mass support in the U.S., and perhaps even more so in Europe and other parts of the world. Most of the world considers the death penalty barbaric and uncivilized, and chooses to support Mumia on that basis whether or not he is guilty of the crime he is charged with.
Mumia was born Wesley Cook in 1954, and during the period of Black Liberation Struggle and revolutionary upsurge during the 1960s he became a member of the Black Panther Party. In later years he was a political activist, journalist, broadcaster and part-time cab driver. Since his imprisonment he has written several books and broadcast a series of powerful news commentaries under the title “Live from Death Row”.
Mumia’s case has generated enormous controversy, with reactionaries rabidly determined to execute him for a whole variety of reasons: to set an example for all those who kill cops (as they insist Mumia did despite the unfair trial); to show that even killing a cop in self-defense is unacceptable (as some suspect may have been the situation here); to stop protests about unfair trials (no matter how unfair they really are); for racist reasons (because Mumia is Black); and for political reasons (because Mumia is and remains a revolutionary). Because we Marxists are absolutely opposed to all these excuses to kill Mumia, we must continue to firmly work in support of him, and insistently call for his freedom.
Any religious philosophy which accepts the possibility of mystical experiences, divine intuitions, and “direct experiences of God”. Most mystics believe they can achieve an experience of some deep reality through the temporary union of their “soul” with God, and hold that “true reality” can only be known in this way. Materialists dismiss all this as the fantastical misinterpretation of confused internal mental states which miseducated people are prone to.
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