about 1 month left

Reading List

Finance and Economics: Verso Student Reading

16-

The power of money and finance dominates our world, but mainstream economics' only offer is defenses of capitalism. What about an economics that shows how the market lets capitalists exploit the working class? Here we present a list of books that challenge the mainstream neoliberal consensus and offer powerful alternative models in contemporary economics.

All our student reading is 40% off as part of our Back to University/School sale. Ends September 30, 23:59 EST. See all our student reading lists here.

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. 

What if our financial system were organized to the benefit of the many rather than simply empowering the few? Robert Hockett and Fred Block argue that an entirely different financial system is both desirable and possible. They outline concrete steps that could get us there. Financial systems move the worlds savings from investment to investment, chasing the highest rates of return. They run on profit. But what if investment went to the enterprises or institutions that provided things that the majority of people would prioritize?

Reading Capital is a landmark of French thought and radical theory, reconstructing Western Marxism from its foundations. Louis Althusser, the French Marxist philosopher, maintained that Marx’s project could only be revived if its scientific and revolutionary novelty was thoroughly divested of all traces of humanism, idealism, Hegelianism and historicism. In order to complete this critical rereading, Althusser and his students at the École normale supérieure ran a seminar on Capital, re-examining its arguments, strengths and weaknesses in detail, and it was out of those discussions that this book was born. 

Contemporary capitalism produces more and more money, debt, and inequality. These three trends have a common cause: the privilege of private banks to create money by means of accounting—with the stroke of a key. Why was this privilege unaddressed politically for so long—and who benefited from that negligence? 

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.

We need systemic change we need hinges on a new era of democratic ownership: a reinvention of the firm as a vehicle for collective endeavour and meeting social needs; against the oligarchy of the platform giants, a digital commons that uses our data for collective good, not private profit; in place of environmental devastation, a new agenda of decommodification—of both nature and needs—with a Green New Deal and collective stewardship of the planet’s natural wealth. Together, these proposals offer a road map to owning the future and building a better world. 

 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. 


The Imperial Mode of Living implies that people’s everyday practices, including individual and societal orientations, as well as identities, rely heavily on the unlimited appropriation of resources; a disproportionate claim on global and local ecosystems and sinks; and cheap labour from elsewhere. This availability of commodities is largely organised through the world market, backed by military force and/or the asymmetric relations of forces as they have been inscribed in international institutions. Moreover, the Imperial Mode of Living implies asymmetrical social relations along class, gender and race within the respective countries. Here too, it is driven by the capitalist accumulation imperative, growth-oriented state policies and status consumption. The concrete production conditions of commodities are rendered invisible in the places where the commodities are consumed. The imperialist world order is normalised through the mode of production and living. 

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. 

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. 

Why do patriarchal systems survive? In this groundbreaking work of feminist theory, Nancy Folbre examines the contradictory effects of capitalist development. She explains why the work of caring for others is under-valued and under-rewarded in today's global economy, calling attention to the organisation of childrearing, the care of other dependants, and the inheritance of assets. Upending conventional definitions of the economy based only on the market, Folbre emphasizes the production of human capabilities in families and communities and the social reproduction of group solidarities. Highlighting the complexity of hierarchical systems and their implications for political coalitions, The Rise and Decline of Patriarchal Systems sets a new feminist agenda for the twenty-first century.

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.

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. 

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.

"Nice idea, but it doesn't work in practice." How often have socialists had this claim thrown back at them? And now, after the events of 1989, many of the Left are openly wondering what a defensible idea of socialism would be. This work addresses this question, taking as its point of departure John Roemer's model of "coupon socialism". Roemer's model aims to combine the market with a commitment to equality through a simple, yet starkly radical, proposal: all citizens would receive an equal number of coupons with which to buy ownership rights (voting, dividends) in companies. These coupons would constitute a second, separate form of currency, but could not be exchanged for ordinary money, nor transferred to other people. Not all the contributors to this collection endorse Roemer's working model of market socialism, but they are all stimulated by his foray into a "real utopia".

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. 

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? 

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.

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. 

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.

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 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.

All our student reading is 40% off as part of our Back to University/School sale. Ends September 30, 23:59 EST. See all our student reading lists here.