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4.2 out of 5 stars13
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VINE VOICEon 25 May 2007
Before you buy this book you should ask yourself just one question: do I have a personal background in economics and/or business studies? If the answer is yes, then this book is probably too pedestrian for you. However, for us laymen, this is an excellent introduction to the dynamics of capitalism and how it works.

The book starts with a look at the history of capitalism, and how Dutch traders successfully managed to create artificial shortages of goods in order to drive up prices, or conversely to flood the markets of rivals. The book explains that capitalism has always existed, but it was only the Dutch who made this gradually become a national phenomena. The book also examines the modern stock market, and how Nick Leeson abused its loopholes. The book also examines how globalisation and international organisations operate in relation to capitalism. Throughout the author manages to remain relatively politically neutral.

This book is an excellent companion to the Short Introduction to Socialism, as it enables a fascinating comparison. I strongly recommend both books.
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on 21 October 2007
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.
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on 25 August 2012
This book gives a detailed historic overview of capitalism. It begins with three examples..starting from 1600's - which tells us the beginning of trade and investment. We then go into modern day capitalism looking at Britain/Japan/USA and Sweeden. All highlighting each countries own type of capitalism. The book does achieve historic accuracy and gives you a great understanding of the history of capitalism.

Having said that, I have three issues with the book.

1. It does not tell you the definition of what capitalism is and what it represents, in terms of theory.

2. It is clearly an anti-capitalist book - the examples it gives are always negatives and always quotes prominent people who are against capitalism.

3. His general ability to argue a point is very weak. The writers conclusions are usually based on one example, what if that example is the exception?

All in all I wouldn't recommend this book if you wanted to know what capitalism, by definition, really is.
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on 30 January 2011
This is the first of these Very Short Introductions that I have read and I have to say I am more than impressed. I have read a lot of books about similar subjects and expected to find this particular title to be a very generalised, biased, patronising read lacking in depth and variety.

However, FULCHER is very thorough - reaching out to all aspects of capitalism. He looks at its origins, its many forms over time, how it differs between nations. He reaches out to every corner of capitalism past and present. FULCHER also writes brilliantly. His style allows this book to be educational without being over-complicated. Facts and details are used to support his themes without over-complicating matters. The author is also very unbiased in his approach. Capitalism is given praise where it is due, but FULCHER does not ignore its many flaws or social consequences.

I would recommend this to anybody who has an interest in the history and the manner of capitalism. Regardless of whether or not you have an understanding of economics or capitalism already, I think the majority of people would be able to read this very informative piece of work at ease.

I will be looking into some other work by FULCHER.
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on 18 November 2011
I have read this book twice now, and find it excellent throughout - not that I am an economist.

In the light of the Occupists take-overs of places such as the steps of St Paul's the last page of the book concerning anti-capitalist activists and their inability to formulate a viable alternative seems to be spot-on.
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on 16 August 2015
This book pinpoints the reasons for the cycle of boom and bust in the national and global economies. And therefore how to limit the oscillations so that economies do not crash.
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on 27 December 2012
I found this to be a clear explanation without all the political stuff that very often gets in the way. Recommended!
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on 27 December 2010
Being the first 'very short intro' book I have read I approached a little wry that it would be a quick gloss with no real substance, happily I was wrong. Instead it took me by the hand through the birth of capitalism in Britain, through its various twists and turns, it's supporters and it's critics.

As is rightly stated capitalism is by no means perfect, but very misunderstood, which is where this book can help. Unlike other forms of social policy capitalism is the only policy that has with stood the rigeurs of mans evolution and it has many aspects to it.

The author summarises with the question if not Capitalism then what? A question that has plagued many people, including myself. I do feel that at the moment Capitalism is the best of what we have and by looking at history perhaps a wrong turn, I feel possibly the employment/wage evolution, could be the culprit and we can work from there.

A good book I recommend to gain a historical contrast to our current version of capitalism and a clue as to how it may well evolve in the future.
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on 21 January 2007
I just bought this and I have read most of the book. As with all of the "Very Short Introduction..." books, it is a handy and informative little book, compared to the number of pages. That alone justifies the purchase for anyone interested in the subject it covers.

That being said, having read it, I get the feeling that the author is not a fan of capitalism. There are a lot of viewpoints in the book expressed in a distinctly socialist-leaning manner, such as references to "exploitation of workers" and the like.

Also, I'd say that there are deficiencies in the coverage of capitalist theory. While anti-capitalist thinkers such as Karl Marx are mentioned and his criticisms of capitalism are discussed, other important capitalist and free-market-capitalist thinkers such as Adam Smith, David Ricardo and Joseph Schumpeter are NOT mentioned at all!

Also, there are references to the inherent instability and volatility of capitalism, such as the Tulip-mania in Holland in the 1600's, the recurring economic crises in the 1800's and the Great Depression in the 1920's-1930's. The author does not analyse these events in great detail, and leaves the reader with the feeling that these problems are a general property of the capitalist economic system, but had he analysed the phenomena in depth, he would have found out - and mentioned for the readers sake - that these crises and depressions are not a problem of capitalism per se, but usually due to government intervention in the market, usually by means of bad monetary policy.

In any case, I'll award this booklet 4 stars, even though the more critical part of me says I should only give it 3. YMMV.
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on 9 January 2013
This book is perfect for me. I am a 15 year old doing G.C.S.E History and looking to do A Level History and Politics. This books gives me an extremely useful insight into capitilism which gives a wider understanding of our curret world.
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