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Capitalism and Its Economics: A Critical History Paperback – 20 Jul 2004

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Product details

  • Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Pluto Press; New edition edition (20 July 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0745322794
  • ISBN-13: 978-0745322797
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.5 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,242,105 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


‘Addresses some of the most crucial questions of the current era. ... Dowd brings formidable qualities to this challenging task. An impressive achievement.’ --Noam Chomsky  ‘This is a work of enlightenment that will be intelligible to students and non-economists.’ --Edward S. Herman

About the Author

Douglas Dowd is a widely respected academic and political activist. He has taught at Cornell University, Johns Hopkins University, University of California, Berkeley, and San Jose State University and is currently teaching at the University of Modena in Italy. He is the author of Capitalism and its Economics (Pluto, 2004).

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 29 Nov 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I drifted into choosing this book as a means of adding some technical understanding to the anti-capitalist comments of Chomsky and the anti-globalisation comments of John Ralston Saul. What I did not want to do was to become an economist, philosopher, intellectual or historian in order to grasp the basics.
If you look at the cover of this book you are likely to assume that it is some kind of boring history book about capitalism and economics. The first couple of chapters are not really about capitalism and economics... it's about its effect on people. The anti-capitalist comments are scathing.
Until I read this book I never really understood the true causes of WW1 and WW2. I knew it was something to do with capitalistic greed, but this is the first time I have seen a plausible explanation of why these events happened.
In my opinion, history is boring because the historians leave out the bits that allow you to understand what happened and why.
The bulk of the book is a kind of economics philosophy history book, but the author is constantly pointing out the social impact of each stage of the historical events. This is the bit that is missing from traditional history books.
Although this book is essentially about America, I found that it allowed me to superficially understand the enormous benefits of capitalism and also its destructive capabilities. There was a lot of information I had never come across before.
You will find that you do not need to have a background-knowledge of economics to understand most of this book. Unfortunately it is written in the university academic language which makes it heavy going for the general public. This is an excellent book for anyone who is trying to understand how the world works and why some bits of it don't work.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 3 Feb 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very Well wrote. easy to understand and very, very engrossing.
Highly recommened along with the other books in Pluto Books range.
Buy this book. worth it!!! A+++
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Amazon.com: 2 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Best Book I've Ever Read on the Subject 27 Feb 2013
By Jeff - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'll second Joshua's review. Dowd pulls no punches and it is most refreshing to read a book by an author who is quite clearly an anti-capitalist and an anti-academic who taught the subject for more than 50 years. The book is very readable and, as Joshua writes, the footnotes are a wonderful source of more information if you are so inclined. If you've ever approached the subject of economics in a state of ignorance and are totally confused by what you've read so far, having been indoctrinated by your micro- and macro-economics courses in college, this is the book for you. Dowd writes a very clear over-view of the field - he does not delve into a whole lot of detail, but he does provide references to many books to delve into the points he makes more deeply. I appreciated Dowd's humorous pokes at stuffy academics and I particularly liked his dig at John Maynard Keynes, when he wrote that Keynes was quite the speculator, both for Cambridge University (as its' Bursar) and also for himself. There are no sacred cows in this book, that is for sure. He goes after everyone, including Marx, at times. It is a thoroughly enjoyable read and I highly recommend it. You won't find a better book to help you understand why we are in such a horrible mess - Dowd covers the whole universe of capitalism and makes it so easy to draw the connections between subjects that you never had an idea were connected. Who knew, for instance, that Thomas Malthus was a parson who depended on the landed gentry for his income via taxes that supported the Church? Or that Malthus had no respect for the common laborer, instead wishing that a plague would come along and wipe them out? Or that the House UnAmerican Activities Committee went after anti-fascists? If you've ever thought of tackling Capital, by Marx, read this book first - Dowd gives you an outline of how to approach the book that avoids reading the book in chapter order. Instead, he recommends other chapters to read first, to give you an idea of what Marx was writing about, before tackling the first three chapters, which are exceedingly dense and difficult. If you are a rabid free-marketer/Libertarian, you probably won't like this book, because it will definitely get in your face and challenge you to read other authors besides Hayek and Rothbard. If you are a Liberal, you'll be disturbed to learn that the State and Capitalism are inextricably intertwined - that one could not exist without the other. What do you do now?? If you are a Conservative, you'll be irritated at Dowd's pokes at you. And, if you're a socialist/anarchist/anti-capitalist, you'll be rolling on the ground and cheering Dowd on, as you fill in the gaps in your knowledge. A most excellent book!

Update, October 19, 2013: When I wrote the original review, I had not read the entire book. Now, I have. And my opinion of Douglas Dowd is even higher now than when I wrote the review. In his concluding chapters, he presciently forsees the crash of 2008. Most of the book was written in 1999-2000, though the Epilogue appears to have been written in 2003. It was originally published in 2000 and a new edition was published in 2004. He also looks back to the 1970s and charts precisely how we got into our current predicament. If you buy this book, be sure and have two bookmarks handy. One for the text and one for the notes. The text is 228 pages long, followed by 72 pages of notes and 16 pages of bibliography. Read the notes. They are every bit as important as the text. In them, you will find humorous gems of insight, additional books to read, and much more.

It is unfortunate that Joshua and I are the only ones who have reviewed the book. Does that mean the book has a low readership? Most likely. I'll say it again: if you want to begin to understand how we got into our present predicament, I don't think there is another book on the market that provides a better starting point. Because the subject that Dowd covers is so enormously complex, he has necessarily written a broad overview. If you want to fill in the gaps in your knowledge, read the notes and jot down books that you need to read. This is a masterful work by an enormously erudite author. There are a few annoying typographical errors that make you read some passages several times, but not enough to interrupt your thought processes.

Buy it, borrow it from your library, or steal it. Read it. Now.
He is not a big fan of capitalism and can easily produce a ream of stories how capitalism is great 12 July 2014
By fiasco fortuna - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I actually was one of his students at SJSU. He was superb at explaining economics by allegorical examples - he didn't really care for statistics or other scientific methods applied to economics. He is not a big fan of capitalism and can easily produce a ream of stories how capitalism is great, for capitalist that is; not so great for the rest of us. If you want to learn about the deleterious effects of capitalism, I highly recommend this book, or any of his other books.
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