By Chris Rogers
Capitalism and Its Alternatives is a concise and critical examination of capitalism, its alternatives, and how social and economic change might be achieved.
The global economic crisis has catalysed debates about the merits of capitalism as a system for organizing production, distribution and exchange. Political elites have argued that capitalism is not fundamentally pernicious or crisis-prone and can be successfully reformed with the right set of policies. Conversely, many have argued that a wholesale change of attitude towards the status and creation of wealth in contemporary society is required if crises of this kind are to be prevented in the future.
In Capitalism and Its Alternatives, Chris Rogers provides a critical introduction to theories of capitalism and to the forms of its crises in historical and contemporary contexts, as well as reflecting on the practice of anti-capitalism and the ways that economic and social relations are shaped, reshaped and resisted. Crucially, the book asks two key questions:
- What alternatives to capitalism exist?
- By what processes and through what institutions might they be achieved?
About Chris Rogers
Chris Rogers is Associate Professor of Political Economy and Public Policy at the University of Warwick. Chris’ research interests focus on the politics of economic policy-making, Marxist political economy and Marxist state theory, and the co-operative movement. More recently, Chris has been considering the transformative potential of established and emerging forms of mutual and cooperative organisation, and the various ways in which they have been subjected to the discipline of the capitalist market economy.
David Lane on Political Studies Review wrote:
"Capitalism and its Alternatives is a dense and detailed interpretation of differing theories of capitalism and possible alternatives. Rogers, drawing upon the Open Marxist tradition highlights varying understandings of capitalism and provides solid analysis, alongside biting critiques. The central argument of the book is that capitalism has an intrinsic tendency towards crisis that makes an alternative to the system both desirable and justifiable. [...] The approach in Chapter One is quite novel. Rather than a lengthy exposition of the whole edifice of capitalism, Rogers utilises four figures as a platform to display core ideas of capitalism. There are sections on Adam Smith, Karl Marx, John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich Von Hayek. [...] The focus in Chapter Two is to incorporate the ideas of capitalist functionality discussed in Chapter One with a specific focus on crisis. The three crises discussed are the Great Depression, the breakdown of the Bretton Woods system and the 2007-8 recession. [...] The formal focus on historical crisis is detailed and well made. However, it is when Rogers engages in critique that he comes into his own, providing details on the reasons behind each crisis which he does not over-complicate. His fundamental point is to reiterate the contradictory nature of the social relations upon which capitalist accumulation rests. [...] Moving on from capitalism per se, Rogers begins discussing alternative forms of capitalism in Chapter Three. This begins with an account of libertarianism drawing on the work of Hayek and Robert Nozick. He then presents analyses of cooperativsm, specifically the ideas of Robert Owen, and then socialist forms of society, mainly focusing on social democracy of the 20th century. In each case Rogers presents a for and against style of engagement, first of all noting the core tenets of each idea and then providing a critical interrogation of its ideals and how it has fared practically. [...] The final chapter discusses the various ways that capitalism can and has been resisted. [...] This chapter and the conclusion provide a good examination of the problems and issues of anti-capitalism. Rogers’s arguments are persuasive and it is refreshing to see a book that does not simply conflate all anti-capitalist struggles and movements under the umbrella of the official communist movements of the 20th century."
Martin Parker on Organization wrote:
"A merit of the book is that it addresses contemporary economic crises in a philosophical and historical context and it could serve as an introductory overview for students interested in the analysis of contemporary capitalism. The ideas are clearly developed and there is an especially well-written section on the four economic analyses of capitalism. This is a short book covering a wide compass and, while good as an introduction, it will need supplementing. with other texts and reading. I would question whether the book succeeds in providing a ‘robust empirical critique of different historical forms of capitalism’ (p. 154). The economic crises entailed by capitalism were experienced neither by national capitalism nor by socialist planned regimes. The ‘bottom-up’ forms of pluralistic anti-capitalism recommended by the author remain on the fringes of politics and are problematic as alternatives to capitalism in the advanced industrialised countries. Nevertheless, the book is a welcome addition to the literature and deserves to be read by students interested in current alternative approaches to politics."
"Chris Rogers’ splendid book is lucid, and held together by a cool sense that good arguments might bring about better worlds. This is a book which could easily be used as a ‘text’—and I mean that in the sense that such things might be topics for pulpits. Rogers comes from a background in political economy and wants to take his reader by the hand and show them what some theories of capitalism look like. The question of the role of the state is crucial here, as is an assessment as to whether capitalism is an intrinsically crisis prone system. He is clear that different understandings of what ‘alternative’ means depend on what you think capitalism is in the first place. So, for example, he draws some lines between ‘alternative capitalism’, ‘alternatives to capitalism’ and ‘anti-capitalism’ (p. 3). Finally, he insists all the way through the book that ‘alternative’ should be thought of as a way of doing things, a process, and not an utopian state of affairs which can be constructed and inhabited in a ‘happy ever after’ form of fairy-tale politics."
Table of Contents of Capitalism and Its Alternatives
- Introduction: Capitalism and Its Alternatives
- Four Faces of Capitalism
- Capitalism and Its Crises
- Alternatives to Capitalism
- Conclusions: From Here to There?