Paul Sweezy, an American socialist thinker, is recognised as one of the most important Marxist economists of the 20th century. His famous works, “The Theory of Capitalist Development” (1942) and “Monopoly Capital” (1966), have made significant contributions to Marxist economic theory. In his works, he analysed the monopoly stage, workings, and crisis tendencies of capitalism.
In addition to his academic persona, Sweezy, who was the founder and publisher of the Monthly Review magazine, also led socialist thought and movement. The significant economic questions Sweezy dedicated his life to remain fundamental for socialists today. If you want to learn more about his life and works, you can check out this article on Zatrun.com.
Who is Paul Sweezy?
Paul Sweezy was born on April 10, 1910, in New York, as a child of a wealthy family. He received education at Harvard University and met famous economist Joseph Schumpeter there. Schumpeter encouraged Sweezy to study the dynamics and crises of capitalism. In the 1930s, Sweezy became interested in Keynesian economics and was one of the first critics of Keynes’ General Theory. According to him, Keynes did not explain the instability of capitalism adequately and ignored Marxist value theory.
Sweezy left Harvard in 1938 and joined left-wing political movements. He and Leo Huberman founded a magazine named “Monthly Review” in 1942. Marxist analyses were published in this magazine. The magazine made significant contributions to the development of Marxist thought and keeping revolutionary movements alive in the US and the world.
Paul Sweezy continued editing the magazine until 2000. He passed away at the age of 93 on February 27, 2004, in New York. He collected some of the articles he published in the magazine in his book named “The Theory of Capitalist Development” in 1946. This book is considered a comprehensive work presenting classical and contemporary interpretations of Marxist economic theory.
Paul Sweezy’s works and magazine have influenced both economics and the socialist movement. Sweezy’s theories and analyses remain relevant and are being discussed by new generations. The Monthly Review magazine he founded continues to publish and is followed by the socialist school.
His Contributions to Economics
Paul Sweezy’s contributions to Marxist economics include his significant works. His first important contribution was the book “The Theory of Capitalist Development,” published in 1942, which collected his essays published in the journal. In this book, Sweezy developed Marx’s theory of the crisis of the realization of surplus value to explain capitalism’s tendency towards stagnation. He also analysed the historical stages of capitalism and the characteristics of monopoly capitalism.
Sweezy’s second important contribution was the book “Monopoly Capital,” which he co-authored with Paul Baran. In this book, Sweezy and Baran argued that monopoly capitalism produces increasing surplus value but cannot use it efficiently. Therefore, they claimed that surplus value is wasted in capitalism, military spending increases, social problems multiply, and imperialist interventions become more widespread.
Paul Sweezy’s other works include “The Transition to Socialism,” “Four Lectures on Marxism,” “Post-Revolutionary Societies,” and “Transition from Capitalism to Socialism.” The economist also interpreted the works of Marxist thinkers such as Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Kautsky, and Nikolay Bukharin.