Capitalism Under the Spotlight: Six Must-Read Books

by Tess Riley/The Guardian

Capitalism took a bashing in 2015: Corbynomics, the rise of anti-austerity partiesPodemos and Syriza, Hillary Clinton slamming our culture of short-termism, COP21 protests and more. Capitalism – and more specifically its failings – is likely to be as brashly and uncompromisingly in the headlines this year as it has been over the past 12 months.

To prepare you, we’ve put together a reading list of books we’ve loved and learned from. It’s not easy to narrow down a list of must-reads to just six, but we’ve done our best. Please add your own recommendations in the comments below.

1. The Extreme Centre: A Warning by Tariq Ali (2015)
It’s not the extreme left or extreme right we should be concerned about, argues Ali, but the inertia at the extreme centre. Read this critique of the “indistinguishable political elite” that thrives at the heart of the British political system and you – like Ali – will be seeking out alternatives to neoliberal politics.

2. The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis (2010)
Lewis’s tale of three small hedge fund managers and a bond salesman who bet against the banking system just before the biggest credit bubble in history burst – and made a killing – is a fascinating insight into the dark side of Wall Street and the deception that led to the financial crash of 2008.

The book has been turned into a film directed and co-written by Adam McKay, which comes out in the UK on 22 January 2016.

3. The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin (1974)
Revolutionaries have fled the planet Urras, which is mired in poverty and ruled by an exploitative wealthy class, and have built themselves a new world on the planet Anarres. At the heart of Anarres’ anarchist society is the principle of sharing. But progress on the planet is stalling and all is not well. It might have been written more than 40 years ago, but that doesn’t stop this science fiction classic from exploring issues acutely relevant to us today.

4. Postcapitalism by Paul Mason (2015)
Capitalism may have undergone significant changes over the past two centuries, but with every cycle of boom and bust it has emerged stronger. Not any more, argues Paul Mason, who believes information technology is heralding a post-capitalist era. Read this excellent insight into the coming wave of automation and why it will revolutionise the way we live and work today.

5. Refusal of Work: The Theory and Practice of Resistance to Work by David Frayne (2015)
A perfect partner to Paul Mason’s Postcapitalism, David Frayne scrutinises the emergence of a working culture that sees some condemned to work harder than ever while others must cope with unemployment or underemployment. By exploring the motivations of those who resist the nine-to-five, Frayne explores the world of work that props up present-day capitalism.

6. Capitalism: A Ghost Story by Arundhati Roy (2014)
Man Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy makes the case that India answers to a handful of megacorporations that run the country . In the era of what Roy calls “the privatization of everything”, these companies have made the Indian economy one of the fastest growing in the world. There’s only one problem – they exploit everything and everyone in its wake. “It’s a dream come true for businessmen – to be able to sell what they don’t have to buy,” writes Roy.


This article has been re-published on Love and Rage in accordance with The Guardian’s Open License terms and conditions.

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