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Alternatives to Capitalism: Proposals for a Democratic Economy

What would a viable free and democratic society look like? Poverty, exploitation, instability, hierarchy, subordination, environmental exhaustion, radical inequalities of wealth and power—it is not difficult to list capitalism’s myriad injustices. But is there a preferable and workable alternative?

Alternatives to Capitalism: Proposals for a Democratic Economy presents a debate between two such possibilities: Robin Hahnel’s “participatory economics” and Erik Olin Wright’s “real utopian” socialism. It is a detailed and rewarding discussion that illuminates a range of issues and dilemmas of crucial importance to any serious effort to build a better world.

Reviews

  • “Many recognize that the various forms of ‘really existing capitalism’ have deficiencies that range from harmful to lethal. Few have carefully thought through ‘really existing alternatives’ that offer hope for escape from problems and dilemmas that are profound, and imminent. Robin Hahnel and Erik Olin Wright are two of the most thoughtful and perceptive analysts to have pursued this critically important course. Their reasoned and informed interaction is a major contribution towards clarifying the paths forward.”
  • “This is an extraordinary book. At one level it is a profoundly informed discussion of critical issues of radical systemic structure. At another it is a model of how a thoughtful dialogue on challenging and highly contested issues should be carried on. A must read for anyone seriously interested in how to conceive the possible forms of fundamental systemic change.”
  • “If you’ve ever wondered what a democratic economy could really look like, treat yourself to this engaging (and wonderfully comradely) conversation about two leading schools of contemporary socialist thinking—participatory economics and real utopias—by their distinguished founders.”
  • “Although the failings of neoliberalism are increasingly clear—social, economic and environmental—the myth of ‘no alternative’ remains a powerful one. In this book, Robin Hahnel and Erik Olin Wright debate what an alternative might look like. Should it involve markets? Is a role for markets compatible with democratic values? To be so, what other institutions and policies must be in place? Their discussion is a superb introduction to these fundamental debates.”

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  • MAY DAY FLASH SALE: 50% OFF

    Click here to activate your discount.



    May 1st marks International Workers' Day, a festival of working-class self-organization stretching back over 130 years. It was originally inaugurated to commemorate the Haymarket Massacre of 1886 in Chicago, where a bomb thrown during a worker's strike kicked off a period of anti-labor hysteria.

    To mark this significant date, we have 50% off a selection of books looking at policing, riots, Rosa Luxemburg, neoliberalism, revolution and rebellion. Click here to activate your discount.

    Plus, see all our May Day Reading from the Verso Archive covering care work, sex work, black liberation & more; from Angela Davis, Gail Lewis, Melissa Gira Grant, Isabell Lorey, and Kristin Ross. Read all the essays here

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  • Keynes 2030

    In 1930, the economist John Maynard Keynes published a "letter to our grandchildren," in which he speculated about what kind of future industrial societies would have a hundred years later. Here Pascal Riché of L'obs interviews André Orléan, who has written a preface to this astonishing text. Translated by David Broder. 


    From an illustration by Edward McKnight Kauffer for
    The World in 2030 A.D. (1930) by the Earl of Birkenhead. 

    Les Liens qui libèrent have republished John Maynard Keynes’s odd little essay Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren, under the title Lettre à nos petits-enfants [Letter to Our Grandchildren]. Here Keynes journeyed a hundred years forward in order to imagine the society of the future. According to Keynes, by 2030 growth will have put an end to poverty. We will live in a society of abundance, in which we will work very little; an era in which "we prefer to devote our further energies to non-economic purposes." "The love of money … will be recognised for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity." For André Orléan, the interest of this text lies in the break with capitalism that Keynes foresees therein.

    Do you think this little text is a visionary one?

    It really is an astonishing text. Here we discover that even at the end of the 1920s Keynes foresaw that economic activity would be "between four and eight times as high as it is today" a century later. And already today, in constant currency, the Western countries’ GDP is over four times higher than it was in 1930. This prediction is all the more remarkable given that he made it during a very troubled period — the crisis of 1929 — at a time when few statistics were available. To get a measure of the boldness of Keynes’s text, imagine the difficulties an economist today would face if she set out out to predict the level of development in a hundred years’ time.

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  • Emerging Futures: A Bookshelf



    In this moment of wide-scale rejection of establishment politics and the global rise of a right wing populist movement, we need utopian and radical visions of society more than ever.

    This is not escapist wishful thinking but a reimagining of society as one that values people over profits, that rules democratically and collectively, that provides for the needs of all citizens. In this calamitous time, utopian thinking can inform our social movements and our strategies for building a better future.

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Other books by Robin Hahnel and Erik Olin Wright Introduction by Ed Lewis