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Articles & blogs on book reviews

Category: book reviews

The Licit Life of Capitalism: US Oil in Equatorial Guinea

“In The Licit Life of Capitalism: US Oil in Equatorial Guinea, economic anthropologist Hannah Appel closely examines the operations of US oil companies in Equatorial Guinea, not only revealing the sheer extent and dimensions of corporate power in remaking the world, but also illuminating the ongoing project of capitalism itself. This is a revelatory study in its theoretical contributions to the anthropology of capitalism, with a critical recentring of attention on the role of industry in shaping the politics and economics of resource extraction, writes Wen Zhou.”

The Gig Economy: A Critical Introduction

“In The Gig Economy: A Critical Introduction, Jamie Woodcock and Mark Graham unpack the ‘how’ of the gig economy through quantative datasets and ethnographic vignettes from countries including the UK, Ghana, South Africa and India. As the study doubles up as a manifesto for the gig economy’s reconstruction, this is an important contribution to the existing literature that provides an excellent summary of existing research and builds on it using extensive fieldwork, writes Krishna Akhil Kumar Adavi.”

Can We Create All the Money We Need?

“Many mainstream economists have backed away from the view that deficit-financed public spending is necessarily risky or counterproductive. Space has also opened in public debate for non-mainstream thinkers who argue full-throatedly for a bigger, more active public sector, freed from imaginary financial constraints. The most visible of these today is the school called Modern Money Theory or Modern Monetary Theory (both terms are used), or MMT. […] Stephanie Kelton is among the most prominent of the dozen or so economists associated with MMT. Her new book The Deficit Myth is intended to bring MMT to a broader audience. […] The policy conclusions are mostly convincing; the route by which they’re arrived at is less so.”

After Growth; Is There Any Alternative to Planet-Destroying Growth?

“In the 1960s, President Julius Nyerere had a difficult message for citizens of the newly independent nation of Tanzania: accept less. […] Nyerere’s challenge—how to make a compelling argument for less—resonates anew in the context of global climate change. It is also one of the central challenges posed by Julie Livingston in her book Self-Devouring Growth. In giving this name to our collective planetary predicament, she is not invoking a metaphor, but describing an observable physical process.”

Searching for Socialism: The Project of the Labour New Left from Benn to Corbyn

“In Searching for Socialism, Leo Panitch and Colin Leys bring out the continuities in the policies and aspirations of Tony Benn and Jeremy Corbyn in seeking to transform the British Labour Party into an instrument of socialist change. While urging for greater efforts towards instilling socialist values and objectives within the Labour Party, the authors conclude that without a compelling socialist ideology capable of overcoming the contradictions of 21st-century capitalism, we remain searching for socialism, writes David Lane.”

The Case for a Job Guarantee

“In The Case for a Job Guarantee, Pavlina R. Tcherneva argues that a job guarantee that provides an employment opportunity to anyone looking for work, regardless of their personal circumstances or the state of the economy, not only makes good economic sense, but is vital for people’s wellbeing. As discussions of a universal job guarantee have never been timelier, The Case for a Job Guarantee is a deeply thought-provoking book and deserves serious consideration, writes Anupama Kumar.”

Enligthened Capitalism, Conscious Leadership and Virtue Ethics; Four Recent Books

The conviction that leaders and their companies can perform well by doing what is good or right has been on the rise again in the past decade, according to Martijn Hendriks in a recent overviewof scientific literature on this topic [in Dutch, unfortunately]. This increased attention has also resulted in the appearance of various books for a larger audience. In this article, four recent books are discussed and compared.

Ideas Alone Won’t Tame Capitalism

“Marx and Engels, the founders of one of the most enduring ideologies, would have hardly disagreed with Piketty’s faith in the importance of ideas. But they also offered a theory of social change—namely, class struggle. Piketty, for his part, argues that ideas drive societies in new directions, and that lacking new ideas is what keeps societies from taking advantage of critical junctures in history. ‘Change comes when the short-term logic of events intersects with the long-term evolution of ideas,’ he writes. Piketty blames a lack of ideas at decisive moments of political unrest and upheaval—or ‘switch points’—for the course of history taking a wrong turn, instead of arriving at the possibility for real change. Yet, the rich historical evidence he himself presents in this book suggests that institutions are often more enduring than ideas.”

The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People’s Economy

“In The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People’s Economy, Stephanie Kelton dispels six key myths that have shaped the conventional understanding of deficits as inherently bad, instead arguing that deficits can strengthen economies and lead to faster growth. This book is a triumph, writes Professor Hans G. Despain, shifting normative grounds of government spending away from the false and unproductive idea that deficits are irresponsible and ruinous towards the productive political activity of deciding which spending programmes should be prioritised.”

Book Review: Hustle and Gig: Struggling and Surviving in the Sharing Economy

In Hustle and Gig: Struggling and Surviving in the Sharing Economy, Alexandrea Ravenelle offers a new ethnographic study that examines working life for people in the gig economy that was so lauded as a way out of unemployment after the 2008 financial crisis, focusing on Uber, TaskRabbit, Kitchensurfing and AirBnB.

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