- Professor of Sociology at the University of Oregon – Eugene
- Editor of the Marxist magazine Monthly Review
- Advocates a “red-green” alliance to abolish capitalism
- Considers the collapse of the Soviet empire a setback for human progress
Born in Seattle on August 19, 1953, John Bellamy Foster earned a BA in Liberal Arts from Evergreen State College in 1975, followed by an MA (1977) and a PhD (1984) in Political Science, both from York University. Foster is a Marxist who has been a professor of sociology at the University of Oregon’s Eugene campus since 1985.
After serving as an editorial advisory committee member for the Marxist publication Monthly Review from 1989-99, Foster was co-editor of that magazine with Robert McChesney from 2001-05, and has been its sole editor since 2006.
Foster has also held positions as a board member (1988-present) and president (2002-present) of the Monthly Review Foundation; an editorial board member of Capitalism, Nature and Socialism (which describes itself as “an international red-green journal of theory and politics”) from 1989-98; an editorial advisory board member of Historical Materialism (2001-present); an editorial board member of World Review of Political Economy (2010-present); an editor of Organization and Environment (2002-12); and an international advisory board member of Environmental Sociology (2012-present).
Foster is affiliated with the Union for Radical Political Economics, which seeks to “construct a progressive social policy and a human-centered radical alternative to capitalism.” He is a member of the American Sociological Association‘s sections on: (a) Marxist Sociology; (b) Environment, Technology, & Society; and (c) Political Economy of the World System. He has been a speaker and panelist several times at Socialist Scholars Conference/Left Forum gatherings in New York City. And he was an invited speaker at the “Marxism 2002” conference in London.
In a November 2004 interview with one of his Monthly Review writers, Professor Foster lamented that “today’s global economy is increasingly turning everything in the natural world into a private commodity to be bought and sold on the market.” “This tendency toward the privatization of nature is enormously destructive,” he added, “and accelerates the kinds of environmental problems that I’ve argued are endemic to capitalism.” The only feasible solution to this problem, explained Foster, would be “the socialization of nature.” “The more that nature is placed under the protection of people in general through democratic processes that determine the rules of sustainability, the better things are going to be,” he stated. In short, Foster believes that natural resources should be the property of government.
On the premise that the carbon emissions associated with human industrial activity are a principal cause of potentially catastrophic global warming, Foster, in the March 2005 issue of Monthly Review, claimed that “it is now rational … to consider the possibility of the ecological collapse of global capitalist society, in ways analogous to earlier ecological collapses of civilizations.” “The problem is capitalism,” he wrote, and “the only solution … is socialism.” Moreover, Foster lamented that “the fall of the Soviet bloc made [environmental] matters worse, in the sense that there were now seemingly no obstacles to the universalization of capitalism, and thus no reason for the system to present itself any longer in sheep’s clothing.” “Beginning in the 1990s,” he continued, “the world witnessed an even more dramatic shift toward naked capitalism, heartless both in its treatment of workers and its domination of those countries at the bottom of the global hierarchy. Both class struggle from above and imperialism were intensified in the wake of capitalism’s triumph in the Cold War.”
On October 23, 2011 Foster delivered a talk titled “Capitalism and Environmental Catastrophe” during an Occupy Wall Street (OWS) teach-in at Zucotti Park in New York City. A few days later, he published an article bearing that same title in Monthly Review. Therein, Foster lauded the OWS movement for offering a powerful “response to the  economic crisis of capitalism, and the way in which the costs of this were imposed on the 99 percent rather than the 1 percent.” He blamed the “global production system” of capitalism for “climate change,” “species extinction,” “ocean acidification,” “ozone depletion,” and the “destruction” of “the planetary environment.” Calling for “a radical transformation” of the capitalist system as the only possible way to “turn things around,” Foster said that this would require movement “away from a system directed at profits, production, and accumulation, i.e., economic growth, and toward a sustainable steady-state economy.” In sum, “it would require democratic ecological and social planning” that “coincides with the classical objectives of socialism.”
Foster revisited this theme in a December 2015 piece titled “Marxism and Ecology,” where he wrote: “In this Great Transition, I believe socialists will play the leading role.”
In a February 2017 article titled “Trump and Climate Catastrophe,” Foster excoriates capitalism for waging a “war on the earth” by means of its allegedly perpetual, unrestrained pursuit of “accumulation” and “exponential growth.” “Behind the right’s climate denial is the economic reality that seriously combating capitalism’s war on the planet,” he writes, “requires the defeat of the system. Thus the only alternative for the right and its until-death-do-us-part defenders of capitalism is to invert reality and abandon science.” “The climate-change denialism of the Trump administration,” adds Foster, “coupled with its goal of maximizing fossil-fuel extraction and consumption at all costs, constitutes, in the words of Noam Chomsky, ‘almost a death knell for the human species.’”
Foster has authored 16 books, most of which were published by Monthly Review Press. For a list of these titles and their copyright dates, click here.
Further Reading: “John Bellamy Foster Curriculum Vitae“; “Ecology, Capitalism, and the Socialization of Nature: An Interview with John Bellamy Foster” (Monthly Review, November 2004); “The End of Rational Capitalism” (by John Bellamy Foster, Monthly Review, March 2005); “Capitalism and Environmental Catastrophe” (by John Bellamy Foster, Monthly Review, 10-29-2011); “Marxism and Ecology” (by John Bellamy Foster, Monthly Review, December 2015); “Trump and the Climate Catastrophe” (by John Bellamy Foster, Monthly Review, February 2017).