Class Formation, Capital Accumulation, and the Downsizing of America


  • Andy Merrifield



Political Economy, Labor


A lot has been written, and doubtless will continue to get written, about how Marx's ideas of class polarization and worker immiseration are quaint relics of a bygone age, now irrelevant for comprehending the complexities of late twentieth century "postindustrial" America. At first glance, this skepticism isn't entirely surprising. Several years back, for example, the New York Times ran a series of seven special articles called "The Downsizing of America" (March 3-9, 1996). The first report catalogued the "casualties" on the "battlefields of business:" "More than 43 million jobs have been erased in the United States since 1979…. Nearly three-quarters of all households have had a close encounter with layoffs since 1980…. While permanent layoffs have been symptomatic of most recessions, now they are occurring in the same large numbers even during an economic recovery that has lasted five years and even at companies that are doing well.

This article can also be found at the Monthly Review website, where most recent articles are published in full.

Click here to purchase a PDF version of this article at the Monthly Review website.