Explaining the origins of capitalism, this Introduction raises the issue of whether capitalism indeed originated in Europe. Next it examines a distinctive stage in the development of capitalism that began in the 1980s in order to understand where we are now and the various stages that have evolved since. Fulcher goes on to explore whether capital has escaped the nation-state by going global (while emphasizing that globalizing processes are not new and questioning whether capitalism is global in character.)
The book discusses the crisis tendencies of capitalism, such as the Southeast Asian banking crisis, the collapse of the Russian economy, and the 1997-98 global financial crisis, and asks whether capitalism is doomed. In the end, the author ruminates on a possible alternative to capitalism, discussing socialism, communal and cooperative experiments, and the alternatives proposed by environmentalists.
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This was the first book I read in the "Very Short Introduction" series. I was surprised by how substantial it is. It also seems quite balanced. References, suggestions for further reading and a 5 page index are included.
My overall impression is how strong capitalism is world-wide. That supports Fulcher's conclusion that reform must take place within capitalism rather than seeking a replacement for capitalism. However, when Fulcher writes that a "search for an alternative to capitalism is fruitless ... and no final crisis is in sight, or, short of some ecological catastrope, even really conceivable", how improbable is that ecological catastrophe?
As the globe warms and the oceans die, will the rich hold out expecting to be able to use their wealth to make their lives bearable as the rest of us suffer? Just how will capitalism respond to a growing pressure for sustainability? By not exploring the ecological challenges to capitalism, Fulcher has indeed introduced capitalism but not addressed its fate and ours later in this century. Although this is a "very short introduction", Michael Newman's "Socialism: A Very Short Introduction" and Colin Ward's "Anarchism: A Very Short Introduction" do address the ecological issue. Even if socialism and anarchism seem improbable and reform is possible within capitalism, it would have been useful to hear Fulcher's impression of whether and how capitalism might address the challenge of ecological sustainability.
The author's analysis is appropriate and balanced. In contrast to some other reviewers opinions, I found his presentation of class relations and economic philosophy to be relatively centrist. His use of the term "exploitation" to characterize captive labor markets (much maligned by others) is in keeping the classical economic philosophy as outlined by Adam Smith in his two most important works: The Theory of Moral Sentiments, and later An Inquiry into the Causes and Nature of the Wealth of Nations. I found the author's treatment of Socialism to be neither sympathetic, not sentimental.
I would describe myself as a capitalist. However, the author's definition of capitalism is not a textbook defintion. In the book, capitalism is described as a economic system whereby capital holders exploit workers. Just the use of "exploit" in a definiton was enough for me to realize the author is committed to being controversial. However, there is zero acknowledgment (that I could remember) of the author's philosophical assumptions.
So, I give the book credit for some good historical research (say 3-4 stars). But I would give the book low marks because the presentation/organization is difficult to understand (2 stars), and the presuppositions of the author range from subtle to unsupportable (1 star).
I'm glad I listened. Because of the author's research, I was challenged to reanalyze why I believe what I do. And, he advanced some of his non-capitalistic positions with excellent historical examples. However, for someone who was unfamiliar with economics and politics, I don't think this book would deliver enough objectivity to make it a reliable treatment.
This socialist author thinks that competitive trade and employment destroy wealth. He thinks that labor union strikes create wealth.
"A very good review of the subject"
A very satisfactory review of Capitalism. It's a shame for the English listener that the reader is American as this rather subtracts from the pleasure of listening. But that does not affect the content, which is excellent.
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