The Italian Enlightenment, no less than the Scottish, was central to the emergence of political economy and creation of market societies. Sophus Reinert turns to Milan in the late 1700s to recover early socialists’ preoccupations with the often lethal tension among states, markets, and human welfare, and the policies these ideas informed.
The clerk attended his desk and counter at the intersection of two great themes of modern historical experience: the development of a market economy and of a society governed from below. Who better illustrates the daily practice and production of this modernity than someone of no particular account assigned with overseeing all the new buying and selling? In Accounting for Capitalism, Michael Zakim has written their story, a social history of capital that seeks to explain how the “bottom line” became a synonym for truth in an age shorn of absolutes, grafted onto our very sense of reason and trust.
This is a big story, told through an ostensibly marginal event: the birth of a class of “merchant clerks” in the United States in the middle of the nineteenth century. The personal trajectory of these young men from farm to metropolis, homestead to boarding house, and, most significantly, from growing things to selling them exemplified the enormous social effort required to domesticate the profit motive and turn it into the practical foundation of civic life. As Zakim reveals in his highly original study, there was nothing natural or preordained about the stunning ascendance of this capitalism and its radical transformation of the relationship between “Man and Mammon.”
Caitlin Rosenthal explores quantitative management practices on West Indian and Southern plantations, showing how planter-capitalists built sophisticated organizations and used complex accounting tools. By demonstrating that business innovation can be a byproduct of bondage Rosenthal further erodes the false boundary between capitalism and slavery.
From Thomas Piketty to David Harvey, scholars are increasingly questioning whether we are entering into a post-capitalist era. If so, does this new epoch signal the failure of capitalism and emergence of alternative systems? Or does it mark the ultimate triumph of capitalism as it evolves into an unstoppable entity that takes new forms as it engulfs its opposition?
After Capitalism brings together leading scholars from across the academy to offer competing perspectives on capitalism’s past incarnations, present conditions, and possible futures. Some contributors reassess classic theorizations of capitalism in light of recent trends, including real estate bubbles, debt relief protests, and the rise of a global creditocracy. Others examine Marx’s writings, unemployment, hoarding, “capitalist realism,” and coyote (trickster) capitalism, among many other topics. Media and design trends locate the key ideologies of the current economic moment, with authors considering everything from the austerity aesthetics of reality TV to the seductive smoothness of liquid crystal.
Even as it draws momentous conclusions about global economic phenomena, After Capitalism also pays close attention to locales as varied as Cuba, India, and Latvia, examining the very different ways that economic conditions have affected the relationship between the state and its citizens. Collectively, these essays raise provocative questions about how we should imagine capitalism in the twenty-first century. Will capitalism, like all economic systems, come to an end, or does there exist in history or elsewhere a hidden world that is already post-capitalist, offering alternative possibilities for thought and action?
The problems of capitalism have been studied from Karl Marx to Thomas Piketty. The latter has recently confirmed that the system of capital is deeply bound up in ever-growing inequality without challenging the continuance of that system. Against Capital in the Twenty-First Century presents a diversity of analyses and visions opposed to the idea that capital should have yet another century to govern human and non-human resources in the interest of profit and accumulation. The editors and contributors to this timely volume present alternatives to the whole liberal litany of administered economies, tax policy recommendations, and half-measures. They undermine and reject the logic of capital, and the foregone conclusion that the twenty-first century should be given over to capital just as the previous two centuries were.
Providing a deep critique of capitalism, based on assessment from a wide range of cultural, social, political, and ecological thinking, Against Capital in the Twenty-First Century insists that transformative, revolutionary, and abolitionist responses to capital are even more necessary in the twenty-first century than they ever were.
We live in an age of addiction, from compulsive gaming and shopping to binge eating and opioid abuse. What can we do to resist temptations that insidiously and deliberately rewire our brains? Nothing, David Courtwright says, unless we understand the global enterprises whose “limbic capitalism” creates and caters to our bad habits.
In Alien Capital Iyko Day retheorizes the history and logic of settler colonialism by examining its intersection with capitalism and the racialization of Asian immigrants to Canada and the United States. Day explores how the historical alignment of Asian bodies and labor with capital's abstract and negative dimensions became one of settler colonialism's foundational and defining features. This alignment allowed white settlers to gloss over and expunge their complicity with capitalist exploitation from their collective memory. Day reveals this process through an analysis of a diverse body of Asian North American literature and visual culture, including depictions of Chinese railroad labor in the 1880s, filmic and literary responses to Japanese internment in the 1940s, and more recent examinations of the relations between free trade, national borders, and migrant labor. In highlighting these artists' reworking and exposing of the economic modalities of Asian racialized labor, Day pushes beyond existing approaches to settler colonialism as a Native/settler binary to formulate it as a dynamic triangulation of Native, settler, and alien populations and positionalities.
In The Already Dead, Eric Cazdyn examines the ways that contemporary medicine, globalization, politics, and culture intersect to produce a condition and concept that he names "the new chronic." Cazdyn argues that just as contemporary medicine uses targeted drug therapies and biotechnology to manage rather than cure diseases, global capitalism aims not for resolution but rather for a continual state of crisis management that perpetuates the iniquities of the status quo. Engaging critical theory, philosophy, and psychoanalysis, he explores the ways that crisis affects perceptions of time and denies alternative ways of being and thinking.
To resist the exploitative crisis state, which Cazdyn terms "the global abyss," he posits the concept of "the already dead," a condition in which the subject (medical, political, psychological) has been killed but has yet to die. Embracing this condition, he argues, allows for a revolutionary consciousness open to a utopian future. Woven into Cazdyn's analysis are personal anecdotes about his battle with leukemia and his struggle to obtain Canadian citizenship during his illness. These narratives help to illustrate his systemic critique, one that reconfigures the relationship between politics, capitalism, revolution, and the body.
Populists on both sides of the political aisle routinely announce that the American Dream is dead. According to them, the game has been rigged by elites, workers can’t get ahead, wages have been stagnant for decades, and the middle class is dying.
Michael R. Strain, director of economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, disputes this rhetoric as both wrong and dangerous. In this succinctly argued volume, he shows that, on measures of economic opportunity and quality of life, there has never been a better time to be alive in America. He backs his argument with overwhelming—and underreported—data to show how the facts favor realistic optimism.
He warns, however, that the false prophets of populism pose a serious danger to our current and future prosperity. Their policies would leave workers worse off. And their erroneous claim that the American Dream is dead could discourage people from taking advantage of real opportunities to better their lives. If enough people start to believe the Dream is dead, they could, in effect, kill it. To prevent this self-fulfilling prophecy, Strain’s book is urgent reading for anyone feeling the pull of the populists.
E. J. Dionne and Henry Olsen provide spirited responses to Strain’s argument.
Antinomies of Modernity asserts that concepts of race, Orient, and nation have been crucial to efforts across the world to create a sense of place, belonging, and solidarity in the midst of the radical discontinuities wrought by global capitalism. Emphasizing the continued salience at the beginning of the twenty-first century of these supposedly nineteenth-century ideas, the essays in this volume stress the importance of tracking the dynamic ways that race, Orient, and nation have been reworked and used over time and in particular geographic locations.
Drawing on archival sources and fieldwork, the contributors explore aspects of modernity within societies of South Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Whether considering how European ideas of Orientalism became foundational myths of Indian nationalism; how racial caste systems between blacks, South Asians, and whites operate in post-apartheid South Africa; or how Indian immigrants to the United States negotiate their identities, these essays demonstrate that the contours of cultural and identity politics did not simply originate in metropolitan centers and get adopted wholesale in the colonies. Colonial and postcolonial modernisms have emerged via the active appropriation of, or resistance to, far-reaching European ideas. Over time, Orientalism and nationalist and racialized knowledges become indigenized and acquire, for all practical purposes, a completely "Third World" patina. Antinomies of Modernity shows that people do make history, constrained in part by political-economic realities and in part by the categories they marshal in doing so. Contributors. Neville Alexander, Andrew Barnes, Vasant Kaiwar, Sucheta Mazumdar, Minoo Moallem, Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi, A. R. Venkatachalapathy, Michael O. West