by Jim Stanford
Jim Stanford’s Economics for Everyone (2008) quickly became a standard reference for economics literacy and popular education. Now published in 6 languages, the book is used in higher education, trade unions, and community education initiatives around the world. This new second edition has been completely revised and updated, with new statistics, cartoons, and anecdotes. The book also includes several all-new chapters – on inequality, on racism and discrimination, and on the lasting consequences of the 2008-09 global financial crisis.
Economics for Everyone is an antidote to the confusing and ideological way that economics is normally taught and reported. Stanford argues that economics is usually presented in a needlessly abstract and technical manner, but in reality anyone who works and struggles to balance their cheque book is an expert on the “economics of everyday life.” It provides a comprehensive description (and critique) of free-market economics. Chapters explain the basic working of the capitalist economy, later adding more complete descriptions of the financial industry, the natural environment, government, and globalization. The book concludes with a thorough evaluation and critique of existing capitalism, and presents ideas for changing it.
This concise and readable book provides non-specialist readers with all the information they need to understand how capitalism works (and how it doesn’t). The book will appeal to those working for a fairer world, and students of social sciences who need to engage with economics. It is written by Jim Stanford, one of Canada’s best-known economists, and illustrated with humorous and educational cartoons by Tony Biddle.
Amit Basole on Review of Radical Political Economics wrote:
"In this book, Stanford breaks with convention to present a populist, worker centered perspective on economics that challenges the prevailing apolitical models of capitalist economic orthodoxy. Stanford accomplishes this task by structuring the book into short, readable chapters, free from excessive economic jargon or mathematics. The use of cartoons and easy-to-read flow charts throughout helps the reader connect their actual lived economic circumstances in the workplace, at home, and in their communities to the bigger economic picture and the capitalist system as a whole. [...] Although Stanford does a good job explaining the relationship between capitalism and the class power structure throughout the book, a sustained discussion or even a stand-alone chapter on the relationship between capitalism and the racial power structure would have helped to make the book even more relevant to a wider audience. Finally, while Stanford does hold out hope for an alternative to capitalism, he provides no real road map for activists interested in building a transformative political project. For segments of the activist Left who are forever asking, 'What is to be done?' Stanford’s discussion of alternatives to capitalism will likely disappoint. That said, understanding the system one seeks to replace is a good starting point for any activist with aspirations of changing the world. To that end, Stanford’s Economics for Everyone is an exceptionally valuable contribution to the field of union education and could easily be adopted as a course text in introductory labor studies courses at the postsecondary level."
"As Stanford explains in the acknowledgments, the book’s origins lie in an online course for union members developed by the Canadian Autoworkers and McMaster University. The result is a very approachable critique of capitalism from the perspective of the working class. The book has a contemporary feel to it and is written specially for those with little or no background in economics. The language is straightforward and key concepts such as class, capital, labor, surplus, and competition are explained in a manner that most people would find easy to relate to. [...] Stanford’s guiding principles are that '[t]he economy is too important to be left to the economists' and that '[o]rdinary people have valuable economic knowledge – knowledge that’s usually ignored by the experts.' [...] A problem that crops up several places is that brief mentions of a large topic or debate carry the risk of confusing rather than enlightening the reader. This is partly the result of trying to cover too much. Since overall book size is always a strong constraint, a possible solution might be to use the book’s website to develop some key controversies, such as the labor theory of value or Venezuela under Chavez, in more detail. However all said, Jim Stanford has produced an excellent book that fills a very important void in the popular economics literature. I am sure the book will only improve with subsequent editions. I recommend that everyone use the book in their teaching and contribute to its development as a tool for teaching introductory political economy."
Articles by Jim Stanford
- "Economics needs to get real if we want more young Australians to study it" - The Conversation, 23 February 2019
- "To tackle inequality, we must start in the labour market" - The Conversation, 1 November 2018
Resources with Economics for Everyone
On the book's website you can find the following resources:
- Lesson plans to support the use of Economics for Everyone in union and popular economics courses;
- 'How to' guides that will help you locate, understand, and analyze data on various aspects of the capitalist economy;
- List of additional readings, corresponding to the major parts (and subject areas) covered in the book;
- Downloadable glossary which includes all terms highlighted in Economics for Everyone in small capitals;
- List of progressive economics organizations that try to challenge the free-market pro-business assumptions of conventional economics;
- List of films and other AV resources that can be shown in conjunction with the economics courses
About Jim Stanford
Jim Stanford is an Economist with Unifor, the union formed in 2013 from the merger of the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) and the Communication Energy and Paperworkers (CEP). He received his Ph.D. in Economics from the New School for Social Research in New York. He also writes an economics column for the Globe and Mail, appears regularly on CBC TV’s ‘Bottom Line’ economics panel, and is the Vice-President of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
Table of Contents of Economics for Everyone
Part I: Preliminaries
Part II: The Basics of Capitalism: Work, Tools and Profit
- Work, Production and Value
- Working with Tools
- Companies, Owners and Profit
- Working for a Living
- Reproduction (for Economists!)
- Closing the Little Circle
Part III: Capitalism as a System
- Business Investment
- Employment and Unemployment
- Inequality and Its Consequences
- Divide and Conquer
- Capitalism and the Environment
Part IV: The Complexity of Capitalism
- Money and Banking
- Inflation, Central Banks and Monetary Policy
- Paper Chase: Stock Markets, Financialization and Pensions
- The Conflicting Personalities of Government
- Spending and Taxing
- Development (and Otherwise)
- Closing the Big Circle
- The Ups and Downs of Capitalism
- Meltdown and Aftermath
Part V: Challenging Capitalism
- Evaluating Capitalism
- Improving Capitalism
- Replacing Capitalism?
- Conclusion: A Baker's Dozen: Key Things to Remember