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Post-crash economics: a reading list

Huw Lemmey, James Mackey24 October 2014

Post-crash economics: a reading list

Neoliberal economics isn't working and students are demanding more from their course reading than the 8th edition of Macroeconomics can provide. Following the news that Economics students in Manchester have formed the Post-Crash Economics Society and Aditya Chakrabortty's excoriating and controversial commentary on the state of contemporary economics, published in the Guardian, Verso presents a reading list of economics titles which challenge the mainstream neoliberal consensus and offer powerful alternative models in contemporary economics.

First up, Wolfgang Streeck's analysis of the 2008 financial crisis, Buying Time: The Delayed Crisis of Democratic Capitalism.
Placing the crisis in the context of the neoliberal transformation of society that began in the 1970s, Streeck's focus is on the tensions that this has produced between states, voters and capitalist enterprises. Buying Time asks fundamental questions about the compatibility between democracy and contemporary forms of capitalism. 
Read Streeck's excellent article on the end of capitalism at the New Left Review website.

Inequality and the 1% by Danny Dorling
In Inequality and the 1% leading social thinker Danny Dorling lays bare the extent and true cost of the increasing divergence of the top 1% of earners and the rest of society and asks what have the superrich ever done for us. He shows that inequality is the greatest threat we face and why we must urgently redress the balance.

Providing a major reference point for Chakrabortty is Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown by Philip Mirowski
Following the financial crisis, how have banks and the financial services industry manage to stay on top in the political stakes; indeed, how has their recovering led to an upturn in their fortunes? Philip Mirowski explores how financial capitalism has turned the crisis to their advantage, leveraging state power to prop up free market capitalism.

Another new release from Verso is Costas Lapavitsas' book on financialisation, Profiting Without Producing: How Finance Exploits Us All. Described as "a masterpiece on the financialized capitalism of our age", the book looks at the rise of financial profit as a key aspect of the economy, and the role of financialized capitalism in the current economic crisis.

Crisis in the Eurozone by Costas Lapavitsas
Following the banking crisis and the credit crunch, Lapavitsas charts the roots of the European crisis and offers a daring and controversial call to break up the Eurozone. 

Meltdown: An End to the Age of Greed by Paul Mason
The current crisis is explored in gripping journalistic detail by Paul Mason in his first hand account of the collapse of the banks and the financial chaos that ensued.

The Making of Global Capitalism: The Political Economy of the American Empire by Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin
The construction of that system is the focus on Panitch and Gindin's groundbreaking comprehensive study of the link between the spread of capitalism and the growth of the United States' empire in the twentieth century.

Making Money: The Philosophy of Crisis Capitalism by Ole Bjerg
Ole Bjerg tackles often overlooked questions of the very substance driving the crisis of capitalism: what exactly is money anyway? Where does it come from? Who makes it? And how can we understand the current state of our economy as a crisis of money itself? Bjerg's compelling work turns these questions into a matter of philosophical rather than economic analysis.

The New Way of the World: On Neoliberal Society by Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval
What is new about neoliberalism? Cutting through contemporary misunderstandings about its genesis and prevalence, Dardot and Laval distill neoliberalism to its core meaning and examine how it might be challenged on new political and intellectual terms.

Utopia or Bust: A Guide to the Present Crisis by Benjamin Kunkel
After the financial crash and the Great Recession, the media rediscovered Karl Marx, socialist theory, and the very idea that capitalism can be questioned.

Utopia or Bust offers an introduction to heterodox economics and contemporary Leftist thinkers, ranging from the revolutionary philosophy of Slavoj Žižek through to the economic analyses of David Graeber and David Harvey. Discussing the ongoing crisis of capitalism in light of ideas of full employment, debt forgiveness, and “fictitious capital,” Utopia or Bust is a tour through the world of economics Marxist thought.

Jeffrey Sachs: The Strange Case of Dr Shock and Mr Aid by Japhy Wilson
Jeffrey Sachs is a walking mass of contradictions. He is a celebrated economist, notorious as the progenitor of a brutal form of free market engineering called 'shock therapy'; special advisor to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; companion of Bono, Madonna and Angelina Jolie on high-profile trips to Africa. Now he positions himself as a voice of progressivism, condemning the '1 per cent' and promoting his solution to extreme poverty through the Millennium Villages Project.

Japhy Wilson tells the electrifying story of an evangelical development expert who poses as saviour of the Third World while opening vulnerable nations to economic exploitation.

Why It's Still Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions by Paul Mason
"History is over," we were reliably informed after the fall of the USSR, "and capitalism has won". Talk of the end of ideologies was perhaps premature, as Paul Mason discusses in his examination of how networks, technological developments and economic crash combined to kick start a wave of global rebellions, from the Arab Spring to Occupy. 

A Companion to Marx's Capital and A Companion to Marx's Capital, Volume 2 by David Harvey
David Harvey has spent 40 years lecturing on Karl Marx's masterwork of political economy, Capital. In this series he presents a thorough and accessible companion to the great work, offering analysis and insight in his clear and engaigng style.

The Complete Works of Rosa Luxemburg, Volume 1: Economic Writings I
The first volume of Luxemburg's Complete Works, a major series from Verso, dedicated to her economic writings, examining the functionings of the capitalist system.

A History of Gold and Money: 1450-1920 by Pierre Vilar
Vilar's classic text, re-presented as part of Verso's World History Series, looks at the long game: the development of money and the growth of the economic system of capitalism, with relation to the exploration of the New World, colonialization, the collapse of feudalism and the birth of capitalism.  

The Economics of Global Turbulence: The Advanced Capitalist Economies from Long Boom to Long Downturn, 1945-2005 by Robert Brenner
A long view of capitalism's booms and bust in the second half of the twentieth century, The Economics of Global Turbulence received critical acclaim for its careful analysis of post-war development.

The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power and the Origins of Our Times by Giovanni Arrighi
A masterpiece of modern sociology which offers an overview of the development of capitalism and how it has unfolded over a series of "long centuries", producing new global political powers in the process.

Adam Smith in Beijing: Lineages of the 21st Century by Giovanni Arrighi
In a radical rereading of the work of 18th century market theorist Adam Smith, Arrighi looks at how China has constructed an economic counterpower to challenge the dominance of the West.

Historical Capitalism with Capitalist Civilization by Immanuel Wallerstein

A short and highly-readable anatomy of the capitalist system by the renowned theorist of "world systems", which looks at how development in the West has required the emiseration and subjegation of the developing world.

The Origin of Capitalism: A Longer View by Ellen Meiksins Wood
Exploding the truism the capitalism is just a result of human nature, The Origin of Capitalism places the economic system within context, analysing its emergence as the result of very specific and localised historical conditions.

Land Grabbing: Journeys in the New Colonialism by Stefano Liberti
How is agrarian capitalism affecting the developing world? In his rigorous study Liberti examines the growth of a new colonialism through exploitative new property regimes. 

Further reading:

The Great Credit Crash Edited by Martijn Konings and Jeffrey Sommers

Critique of Economic Reason by André Gorz

Age Shock: How Finance is Failing Us by Robin Blackburn

Contours of Descent: US Economic Fractures and the Landscape of Global Austerity by Robert Pollin

The Food Wars by Walden Bello

Planet of Slums by Mike Davis

Late Capitalism by Ernest Mandel

Power and Money: A Marxist Theory of Bureaucracy by Ernest Mandel

Long Waves of Capitalist Development: A Marxist Interpretation by Ernest Mandel

The Bonds of Debt: Borrowing Against the Common Good by Richard Dienst

The Limits to Capital by David Harvey

Against the Market: Political Economy, Market Socialism and the Marxist Critique by David McNally

Money & Abstract Labour: On the Analytical Foundations of Political Economy by Ulrich Krause

The Enchanted World: Inflation, Credit and the World Crisis by Alain Lipietz

A Theory of Capitalist Regulation: The US Experience by Michel Aglietta

Filed under: economics, financialization