Reading List

Neoliberalism is Dead

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After years of ill health, capitalism is now in a critical condition. Neoliberal economics isn't working. What are the new economic ideas that will shape the direction of the left in the years to come? Here we present a list of books that challenge the mainstream neoliberal consensus and offer powerful alternative models in contemporary economics.

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Rowland Atkinson presents a history of the property boom economy, going back to the end of Empire. It tells the story of eager developers, sovereign wealth and grasping politicians, all paving the way for the wealthy colonisation of the cityscape. The consequences of this transformation of the capital for capital is the brutal expulsion of the urban poor, austerity, cuts, demolitions, and a catalogue of social injustices. This Faustian pact has resulted in the sale and destruction of public assets, while the rich turn a blind eye toward criminal money laundering to feather their own nests.

Since 1843, the Economist has been the single most devoted and influential champion of liberalism anywhere in the world. But what  exactly is liberalism, and how has the liberal message evolved? Liberalism at Large presents a history of liberalism on the move, confronting the challenges that classical doctrine left unresolved: the rise of democracy, the expansion of empire, the ascendancy of finance. Today, neither economic crisis at home, nor permanent warfare abroad, has dimmed the Economist’s belief in unfettered markets, limited government and a free hand for the West. Confidante to the powerful, emissary for the financial sector, portal onto international affairs, the bestselling news weekly shapes the world its readers—and the rest of us—inhabit. This is the first critical biography of one of the architects of a liberal world order now under increasing strain.  

“This superbly succinct and incisive book couldn’t be more timely or urgent.” —Michael Sorkin, author of All Over the Map

Capital City explains the role of planners in the real estate state, as well as the remarkable power of planning to reclaim urban life.

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From the acclaimed author of How Will Capitalism End? comes an omnibus of critical engagements with leading economists and thinkers. Critical Encounters draws on Wolfgang Streeck’s inimitable writing for the London Review of Books and New Left Review, among other outlets, and includes pieces originally published in the German press, translated into English for the first time. It opens with a survey of three of the world’s major economies – the US, France, Germany – and two contrasting historical eras, factory capitalism and financialisation. A middle section theorises about the Brexit vote and the future of Europe, and includes a review of Yanis Varoufakis’s memoirs of the Eurozone crisis. 

Economics for the Many, edited and with an introduction by Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer John McDonnell, features contributions from the participants in his New Economics conferences, including Barry Gardiner, Ann Pettifor, Prem Sikka, and Guy Standing. It covers topics from housing, public ownership, and fairer international trading systems to industrial policy for the twenty-first century and how to tackle tax avoidance and regional imbalances. Together, the essays in this volume lay out a vision for a new economics, one that works for the many, not the few.

It’s not capitalism, it’s not neoliberalism—what if it’s something worse?

In this radical and visionary new book, McKenzie Wark argues that information has empowered a new kind of ruling class. Through the ownership and control of information, this emergent class dominates not only labour but capital as traditionally understood as well. And it’s not just tech companies like Amazon and Google. Even Walmart and Nike can now dominate the entire production chain through the ownership of not much more than brands, patents, copyrights, and logistical systems.

Drawing on detailed archival research on the parallel histories of human rights and neoliberalism, Jessica Whyte uncovers the place of human rights in neoliberal attempts to develop a moral framework for a market society. In the wake of the Second World War, neoliberals saw demands for new rights to social welfare and self-determination as threats to “civilisation”. Yet, rather than rejecting rights, they developed a distinctive account of human rights as tools to depoliticise civil society, protect private investments and shape liberal subjects. 

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In Post-Growth Living, philosopher Kate Soper offers an urgent plea for a new vision of the good life, one that is capable of delinking prosperity from endless growth. Instead, Soper calls for renewed emphasis on the joys of being that are currently being denied, and shows the way to creating a future that allows not only for more free time, and less conventional and more creative ways of using it, but also for fairer and more fulfilling ways of working and existing. This is an urgent and necessary intervention into debates on climate change. 

Levers of Power documents the pervasive power of corporations and other institutions with decision-making control over large pools of capital, particularly the Pentagon. It also shows that the most successful reform movements in recent US history—for workers’ rights, for civil rights, and against imperialist wars—succeeded by directly targeting the corporations and other institutional adversaries that initiated and benefitted from oppressive policies. Though most of today’s social movements focus on elections and politicians, movements of the 99% are most effective when they inflict direct costs on corporations and their allied institutions. This strategy is also more conducive to building a revolutionary mass movement that can replace current institutions with democratic alternatives.

Neoliberalism is dead. Again. Yet the philosophy of the free market and the strong state has an uncanny capacity to survive, and even thrive, in times of crisis. Understanding neoliberalism’s longevity and its latest permutation requires a more detailed understanding of its origins and development.

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In this landmark book, the author of The New Enclosure provides a forensic examination and sweeping critique of early-twenty-first-century capitalism. Brett Christophers styles this as ‘rentier capitalism’, in which ownership of key types of scarce assets - such as land, intellectual property, natural resources, or digital platforms - is all-important and dominated by a few unfathomably wealthy companies and individuals: rentiers. If a small elite owns today’s economy, everybody else foots the bill. 

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In this special Verso Report, developed in conjunction with Autonomy, some of the most important left-wing economists and policy makers at work today outline the new economic ideas that will shape the direction of the left in the years to come. From Labour’s “ownership agenda”, moving beyond neoliberalism’s fixation on private ownership towards collective ownership of society’s productive assets, and the position of unions in society, to plans to reduce the time we all spend at work, and new ecological imperatives for the entire economy, The New Economy Starter Pack is a vital resource for those who want a wide-ranging introduction to the new and transformative economic agenda of the left. 

The biography of Carlos Slim, one of the richest people of all time, is a case study in the ethical and psychological effects of extraordinary wealth. Not just the tale of the first man from a developing country ever to reach the top of the Forbes list of billionaires, it presents a living embodiment of the financial mentality of our time, a man who mistrusts politicians and believes the market to be the answer to everything—even corruption. In short, Slim’s story is that of Latin America’s last half century and indeed the wider world. 

For nearly forty years, David Harvey has written and lectured on Capital, becoming one of the world’s foremost Marx scholars. Based on his recent lectures, this current volume—finally bringing together his guides to volumes I, II and much of III—presents this depth of learning to a broader audience, guiding first-time readers through a fascinating and deeply rewarding text. A Companion to Marx’s Capital offers fresh, original, and sometimes critical interpretations of a book that changed the course of history and, as Harvey intimates, may do so again.

This is a must-read for anyone wanting a fuller understanding of Marx's political economy. 

Now a classic of Marxian economics, The Limits to Capital provides one of the best theoretical guides to the history and geography of capitalist development. In this edition, Harvey updates his seminal text with a substantial discussion of the turmoil in world markets today. Delving into concepts such as “fictitious capital” and “uneven geographical development,” Harvey takes the reader step by step through layers of crisis formation, beginning with Marx’s controversial argument concerning the falling rate of profit and closing with a timely foray into the geopolitical and geographical implications of Marx’s work.

David Harvey, the single most important geographer writing today and a leading social theorist of our age, offers a comprehensive critique of contemporary capitalism. In this fascinating book, he enlarges upon the key themes in his recent work: the development of neoliberalism, the spread of inequalities across the globe, and “space” as a key theoretical concept. This book will be essential reading for scholars and students across the humanities and social sciences.

Fully updated new edition: Why we cannot afford the rich in post Brexit Britain

Since the Great Recession hit in 2008, the 1% has only grown richer while the rest find life increasingly tough. The gap between the haves and the have-nots has turned into a chasm. While the rich have found new ways of protecting their wealth, everyone else has suffered the penalties of austerity.

Socialism was pronounced dead when the Soviet Union collapsed. But with the success of Jeremy Corbyn’s left-led Labour Party and increasing economic inequality, the politics of class struggle and wealth redistribution is back on the agenda. In The Socialist Manifesto, Bhaskar Sunkara offers a primer on socialism for the twenty-first century, outlining where it came from, what it is, and what a socialist political system might look like. 

In The Origin of Capitalism, a now-classic work of history, Ellen Meiksins Wood offers readers a clear and accessible introduction to the theories and debates concerning the birth of capitalism, imperialism, and the modern nation state. 

Over five decades since it was first published, Workers and Capital is a key text in the history of the international workers’ movement, yet only now appears in English translation for the first time. Far from simply an artefact of the intense political conflicts of the 1960s, Tronti’s work offers extraordinary tools for understanding the powerful shifts in the nature of work and class composition in recent decades.

In this accessible, brilliantly argued book, leading political economist Ann Pettifor explains in straightforward terms history’s most misunderstood invention: the money system. 

New edition of this major work examining the development of neoliberalism.

The global political, ecological, economic, and social breakdown—symbolized by Trump’s election—has destroyed faith that neoliberal capitalism is beneficial to the majority. Nancy Fraser explores how this faith was built through the late twentieth century by balancing two central tenets: recognition (who deserves rights) and distribution (who deserves income). When these begin to fray, new forms of outsider populist politics emerge on the left and the right.

Prisoners of the American Dream is Mike Davis’s brilliant exegesis of a persistent and major analytical problem for Marxist historians and political economists: Why has the world’s most industrially advanced nation never spawned a mass party of the working class? 

Peter Frase argues that increasing automation and a growing scarcity of resources, thanks to climate change, will bring it all tumbling down. In Four Futures, Frase imagines how this post-capitalist world might look, deploying the tools of both social science and speculative fiction to explore what communism, rentism, socialism and exterminism might actually entail. 

Historical Capitalism, published here with its companion essay Capitalist Civilization, is a concise, compelling beginners’ guide to one of the most challenging and influential assessments of capitalism as a world-historic mode of production.

The regulatory institutions that once restrained the financial sector’s excesses have collapsed and, after the final victory of capitalism at the end of the Cold War, there is no political agency capable of rolling back the liberalization of the markets. In this book, acclaimed analyst of contemporary politics and economics Wolfgang Streeck looks at what the end of capitalism might look like.

The authoritarian face of neoliberalism.

The major French economist offers a new theory of money.

In this sharp, witty and deeply informed account, Mirowski—taking no prisoners in his pursuit of “zombie” economists—surveys the wreckage of what passes for economic thought, finally providing the basis for an anti-neoliberal assessment of the current crisis and our future prospects.

In this groundbreaking work, Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin demonstrate the intimate relationship between modern capitalism and the American state.

This first volume in Rosa Luxemburg’s Complete Works, entitled Economic Writings 1, contains some of Luxemburg’s most important statements on the globalization of capital, wage labor, imperialism, and pre-capitalist economic formations.

The second volume in Rosa Luxemburg’s Complete Works contains a new English translation of Luxemburg’s The Accumulation of Capital: A Contribution to the Economic Theory of Imperialism, one of the most important works ever composed on capitalism’s incessant drive for self-expansion and the integral connection between capitalism and imperialism.

This is the first of three volumes of the Complete Works devoted to the central theme of Rosa Luxemburg’s life and work—revolution. Spanning the years 1897 to the end of 1905, they contain speeches, articles, and essays on the strikes, protests, and political debates that culminated in the 1905 Russian Revolution, one of the most important social upheavals of modern times. 

A groundbreaking debunking of moderate attempts to resolve financial crises.

A beginner’s guide to The General Theory, useful for anyone interested in what the book actually says and does not say. It is straightforward and accessible, but it doesn’t skimp on the detail - explaining Keynes’s ideas, the reasons he thought they were new, and the older theories he hoped to supplant. 

Given the sensational reception of Piketty’s not-so-easily digested 800-page study, the question as to where the hype around the book comes from deserves to be asked. What does it get right? And what should we make of it—both of the book itself and of the criticism it has received? This introduction lays out the argument of Piketty’s monumental work in a compact and understandable format, while also investigating the controversies Piketty has stirred up. 

In this lucid and compelling book, economist Cédric Durand offers a concise and critical introduction to the world of finance, unveiling the truth behind the credit crunch.

In this new edition of a highly acclaimed book, Wolfgang Streeck revisits his recent arguments in the light of Brexit and the continued crisis of the EU.

Financialized capitalism is prone to crises, none greater than the gigantic turmoil that began in 2007. Using abundant empirical data, the book establishes the causes of the crisis and discusses the options broadly available for controlling finance.

Revolutionary account of transformative potential in the knowledge economy

A clear and compact guide to Marx’s road to Das Kapital.

Marx on Money is an elegant analysis of how money, credit, debt and value fit into the “logic of capital” that characterizes commodity society.

Michel Aglietta’s path-breaking book is the first attempt at a rigorous historical theory of the whole development of US capitalism, from the Civil War to the Carter presidency.

These incisive and erudite texts provide a crucial introduction to Marxist political economy, as well as advancing critical arguments for those already well versed in the field.

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Edited by Diane Elson