Capitalism

Who is to blame for the rise in obesity?

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The government announced a new initiative to tackle obesity, but it is limited, poorly resourced and fails to
acknowledge that the stress of living under capitalism is a major cause of the condition, argues Rhoda Thomas.

The government’s role in supporting the food industry — evident throughout the pandemic — is to encourage us to eat and drink (witness the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme) and to return to work in city centres, thus giving a boost to pubs and coffee shops, regardless of health risks. Simultaneously, it lambasts us for ‘obesity’ — a kind of ‘gaslighting’ whereby we come to believe that obesity is of our own doing, thus deflecting from the reality of ‘profits before people’.

The Myth of Chinese Capitalism: the Worker, the Factory and the Future of the World Dexter Roberts St. Martin’s Press £18

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The “myth” of this book’s title is that Chinese capitalism offers a model for other developing countries. In a wide-ranging study, Dexter Roberts sets out to show that it is unsustainable. At the same time he is clearly sympathetic to the plight of China’s millions of migrant workers - the work is dedicated to them - who leave their country homes to seek jobs in the booming coastal cities. This means the book is a slightly uneasy mixture of first-hand reporting of these peoples’ lives and background from secondary sources, many business oriented.

Sinews of War, Shipping and Capitalism in the Arabian Peninsula Laleh Khalili Verso £20

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Laleh Khalili, professor of International Politics at Queen Mary University in London, has carried out a wide-ranging study of the networks of trade in the Arabian Peninsula. Her research included travelling on huge container ships following sometimes dangerous routes. Khalili’s fascination with all things maritime is palpable. In chapters on routemaking, harbour-making, landside and shipboard labour and the bounties of war she demonstrates the close links between maritime trade and the major oil companies.

The Robbery of Nature: Capitalism and the Ecological Rift John Bellamy Foster and Brett Clark Monthly Review Press £25

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The Robbery of Nature draws on and develops the theories of Marx and Engels to understand why capitalism has such a destructive influence on the natural world. Central to Fosters and Clark’s argument is that, under capitalism, human beings and the natural environment are the original sources of wealth, but it is only the labour of workers that generates value. Workers are exploited in that they sell their labour power to produce goods and services and receive wages that represent less than the value of what they produce.

Hyping up a vaccine

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The pharmaceutical industry is not only systematically hindering effective treatments for Covid-19, its drive for profits is distorting the whole process of drug treatment

Despite the intense hype throughout May, a Covid-19 vaccine is no silver bullet. Nor is it close at hand. At the very best, vaccines can play a part in integrated public health strategies to trace, contain and halt the spread of infectious diseases. However, in Britain, the US and most of the rest of the world the search for a vaccine has taken centre-stage to the exclusion of all other considerations.

What makes a disease go viral?

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Lee Humber finds the true origins of the Coronavirus epidemic in the innards of the food industry.

Viral epidemics are not uncommon. This year’s flu season is shaping up to be the worst in years, according to the US Centre for Disease Control. In the US alone there have been 19 million illnesses, 180,000 hospitalisations and 10,000 deaths.

More than 200 people in the UK had died from the 2018-19 winter strain of flu virus by February 2019, and there were more than 2,000 critical cases despite the relatively small numbers of people contracting it — meaning the virus had become more virulent. People who had been previously fit and well became critically ill.

Carillion lays systemic flaws bare

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The level of extortion made obvious to millions last month is a sharp illustration of the logic of capital.

Carillion was a creature of government cronyism and capitalist dysfunction. It was born in 1999 when parent company Tarmac sought to refocus on its core business of building supplies and span off Carillion, which inherited the facilities management and construction business.

The secret of Carillion’s early success was the manner in which the recently elected government of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown expanded the previous Conservative administration’s privatisation programme.

Why our rulers created racism

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Racism is regarded as “natural” or a result of ignorance but, writes Antony Hamilton, the notion of a hierarchy of races has material roots in the birth of capitalism.

Racism is one of the most favoured weapons in the arsenal of the ruling class. Whenever there is economic or political crisis, instead of pointing the finger at a banker, a scapegoat is created, a minority to blame. Donald Trump wants to build a wall to keep Mexicans out and ban Muslims from travelling to the US; Theresa May has blamed migrants for falling wages and “displacement of jobs”, and has prioritised the Tory promise to reduce immigration in her election campaign to the “tens of thousands”.

Fashion: capitalism's favourite child

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From Theresa May’s choice of trousers to the horror of sweatshop labour, fashion is intimately entwined with capitalist relations of production and always has been, writes Anthony Sullivan.

Controversy is never far away from fashion, as Tory prime minister Theresa May discovered just before Christmas when former education secretary Nicky Morgan attacked her choice of £995 Amanda Wakeley leather trousers. Predictably, despite Morgan’s claims to the contrary it transpired that she had spent a similar sum on a Mulberry designer bag.

Can robots usher in a socialist utopia or only a capitalist dystopia?

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Robots and artificial intelligence should improve and ease our working lives, but they always seem to mean job losses and deskilling instead. The age of artificial intelligence is often proclaimed, but is it really just around the corner?

Are robots and artificial intelligence (AI) set to take over the world of work and thus the economy in the next generation? And what does this mean for jobs and living standards for people? Will it mean socialist utopia in our time (the end of human toil and a superabundant harmonious society) or capitalist dystopia (more intense crises and class conflict)?

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