Understanding This Political Moment

Book review


Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future (2015)

 This valuable book has already become one of a handful to mark my view of the world with a “before” and “after,” helping me connect some puzzling dots into a coherent cognitive map.

Paul Mason, whose writing has impressed me in the past with its insight, has done a terrific job pulling together various strands of information and ideas to make sense of our present historical moment. But I’ll warn you it is not a quick and breezy read. Some familiarity with history and economic philosophy (both classical and socialist) is almost a prerequisite.

I say “almost” because Mason is such a good writer that a lay reader should be able to follow the argument with a little effort. His real achievement is not in coming up with an original idea, but in putting lots of old ideas together in an original way.

A central question of the book is how to make sense of the economic crisis of 2008. Clearly the political world has been shaken off its axis by this question, in part by the unexpected rebirth of socialism as a live topic. Suddenly, a mere twenty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, people began re-reading Karl Marx in earnest.

The answer to the question implicates the main argument between old-line socialists and practically everyone else across the political spectrum: does capitalism tend toward crisis and eventual collapse, or does it tend toward equilibrium? Or to put it another way, is capitalism the end result of humanity’s economic development or is there a further stage? Continue Reading


Confronting Capitalism (Sort Of)

Book Reviews

confronting capitalism

Confronting Capitalism: Real Solutions for a Troubled Economic System (2015)

“Confronting Capitalism: Real Solutions for a Troubled Economic System” is a decent primer on contemporary problems which stem from our economic system—which is to say, most of them. The book also canvasses a lot of policy ideas to address these problems, but in neither case does it dig very deeply.

The author, Philip Kotler, was trained as an economist under both Milton Friedman and Paul Samuelson, well-known representatives of conservative and liberal positions respectively. Kotler himself falls on the liberal end of the spectrum in his acceptance of the idea that the government should enact policies to address economic problems.

What Kotler does not do is engage the proposition that perhaps capitalism itself is the problem, or at least that something in the fundamental principles of our capitalist system ought to be changed. Essentially he says capitalism is the best of all possible economic worlds, if only we could fix its many and extremely serious shortcomings.

So what are those shortcomings? He lists fourteen of them: Continue Reading