The Guardian • Issue #2078


Political economy

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2078

Imperialism: the Highest Stage of Capitalism

by Vladimir Lenin

This classic remains the best framework to understand capitalism’s international political economy. It outlines the characteristics and development of free market capitalism into monopoly capitalism. Subsequent capitalist development has shown the key aspects of Lenin’s theory to be correct more than 100 years since it was written, just as the basic ideas of Marx’s Capital have been proven correct by developments in contemporary capitalism. An essential starting point for understanding the principal international developments today.

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Super Profits and Crises: Modern US Capitalism

by Victor Perlo

This is a great book for beginners as well as those with a greater knowledge and understanding of Marxist political economy. It not only presents the theory but also its application today, unlike many theoretical texts. It covers such topics as exploitation of labour, labour and value, real wages, productivity, the rate of profit, corruption and decay of capitalism, monopoly, state monopoly capitalism, racism, the militarisation of the economy, US imperialism, economic crises and the business cycle, the structural crisis of world capitalism, socialism versus capitalism, and much more in simple everyday language.

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Engels – On Capital

by Frederick Engels

Compiled in 1940, the works collected here are but a small part of what Engels wrote in connection with Marx’s Capital. Great for someone looking for an introduction to Marxist political economy, especially if they don’t have the time to read the three lengthy volumes of Marx’s Capital. Engels who collaborated with Marx in the writing of Capital provides a clear summary of the theory. It makes essential reading.

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Political Economy: A Marxist Textbook

by John Eaton

The thought of reading Capital can be daunting. John Eaton’s book breaks open Marx’s great work on political economy and invites us back to Marx’s superb work. Eaton’s is more than a ‘primer.’ It stands alone, but also vividly and accessibly describes and explains capitalist development, surplus value, capitalist accumulation, the circulation of capital, crisis, and imperialism. First published in 1966, this book remains relevant, because the crisis of capitalism remains tragically relevant. Eaton guides the reader through Marx’s critique of political economy and invites us to return with confidence to that magnum opus. Marx helps us to understand the world so that we can change it.

Production, Power, and World Order: Social Forces in the Making of History

by Robert Cox

Robert Cox’s book looks at the world and how it turns. Cox set himself the task of bringing an understanding of historical change in international relations through an appreciation of the relationship between power and social relations. He approached his work as an historical materialist. The book argues that hegemony requires dominance in economic, political, social and ideological spheres. This, of course, is achieved when class interests are airbrushed away and class collaboration becomes complete. Cox famously remarked that theory is always for someone and for some purpose. So too it is for communists. Published in 1987.

The Enigma of Capital: And the Crisis of Capitalism

by David Harvey

Bourgeois political economists regard economic life as essentially a harmony of interests within society. Marxist political economists describe economic life in terms of conflicts of interests between classes. David Harvey’s book examines the crisis that is tearing capitalism and the world apart. He focuses on just how devastating economic crisis is for the working class and how these crises act to create a path to challenge capitalism’s claim to legitimacy. He argues that the battle ahead will be between those that wish to lurch forward to the next crisis and those that value social justice and economic equality. Published in 2010.

The Hollow Colossus

by Charles Andrews

One common definition of political economy is that it is a study of the relationship between a population and its government. It’s a bit trite, although we can see the tragic relationship between capitalism and the working class. Charles Andrews lays bare the tragedy that is late capitalism. He uses the USA, the capitalist colossus of the title, to describe how things effectively peaked for capitalism in 1973. The ‘good times’ for capitalism that came after WW2 were short-lived. Since the economic upheavals of 1973, the oil crisis and recession, there has been an almost continuous downward economic spiral of crisis. Andrews outlines how social reform in the US has stalled, how working conditions have deteriorated and how the intensification of technology has exacerbated the problems facing the working class. Published in 2015.

The Long Depression: Marxism and the Global Crisis of Capitalism

by Michael Roberts

Michael Roberts argues forcefully that the global capitalist economy is experiencing a long depression. Marx’s theory of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall is being proven. The only way out for capital is an intensely severe economic depression, and the wholesale devaluation of capital, as a precursor for a return to profit and a return to happier days for the masters of the universe. There has been a tragic history of this in action. Roberts puts forward a different, infinitely better option. Get rid of capitalism and build a better, fairer and more just economic system. Yes, capitalism is a depressing thing, at least for those who suffer at its hands. All the more reason to be rid of it. Published in 2016.

China’s Economic Dialectic: The Original Aspiration of Reform

by Cheng Enfu

Cheng Enfu is Professor of the Center for Innovation of Marxism at Northwestern Polytechnical University, and a chair professor at Shandong University.

This book is a highly recommended Marxist analysis of the economic history of China under the CPC. It captures the inner logic of China’s political economy, showing the full significance of ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics.’ China retains its 5 year plans and the large role of the state. The state’s dominance over the private sector guides China’s economic development. A fascinating read. Published in 2021.


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