The Monthly Review School is a tendency in U.S. Marxism centered on the monthly socialist magazine Monthly Review, which has been published since 1949.
The book “Monopoly Capital,” published in 1966 & co-authored by the Marxist economists Paul Sweezy (1910-2004) and Paul Baran (1910-1964), is considered by its members to be the leading work produced by the school.
Other leading members were Leo Huberman (1903-1968), Harry Braverman (1920-1976), Harry Magdoff (1913-2006).
The current editor of Monthly Review, is John Bellamy Foster (1953- ).
Paul Sweezy was the son of a vice president of the First National Bank, & majored in economics at Harvard during the Great Depression. As a non-tenured economics professor at Harvard, he became an associate of Joseph Schumpeter. Sweezy had been employed during the war in the U.S. Office of Strategic Services, or OSS, the main U.S. intelligence agency & forerunner of the CIA.
Baran and Sweezy did not use such basic Marxist categories as value &surplus value in this work explicitly. This they claim was to be able to reach a wider audience.
They believed that capitalism had changed far more fundamentally than Lenin believed it had, “Neither Lenin nor any of his followers, attempted to explore the consequences of the predominance of monopoly for the working principles & ‘laws of motion’ of the underlying capitalist economy. There Marx’s Capital continued to reign supreme.”
Monopoly Capital does not develop Marx’s law of value, surplus value, & money & price for the new conditions of the 20th century economy. Instead, such crucial economic categories as value and money are not dealt with at all.
When it comes to the economic surplus, they offer this definition: “The economic surplus is the difference between what a society produces & the costs of producing it.”
Marx explained that in all forms of class society the surplus product represents unpaid labour performed by the actual producers for the ruling class. The form that the surplus product takes, however, varies with the particular form of class society.
It was Marx’s greatest discovery that under capitalism, despite the appearance that all the labour performed by the “free wage workers” is fully paid for by the capitalists, the workers are in reality forced to perform under pain of starvation a considerable amount of unpaid labour for the capitalist class.
Baran and Sweezy apply the marginalist theory of price, “The appropriate general price theory for an economy dominated by such [monopoly] corporations is the traditional monopoly price theory of classical and neo-classical economics.”
(Note that the price theory of the classical and neo-classical economists are not the same)
By starting with the marginalists rather than Marx, they doomed themselves to a superficial & ultimately incorrect analysis of the entire question of monopoly prices.