Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Kublai Khan

Kublai Khan: The Mongol King Who Conquered China
by John Man

The authoritative biography of the great Mongol ruler, by the author of Genghis Khan and Attila.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan A stately pleasure dome decree

Kublai Khan lives on in the popular imagination thanks to these two lines of poetry by Coleridge. But the true story behind this legend is even more fantastic than the poem would have us believe.

Kublai Khan inherited the second largest land empire in history from his grandfather, Genghis Khan, and which he extended further, creating the biggest empire the world has ever seen; from China to Iraq, from Siberia to Afghanistan. His personal domain covered sixty-percent of all Asia, and one-fifth of the world’s land area.

The West first learnt of this great Khan through the reports of Marco Polo. Kublai had not been born to rule, but had clawed his way to leadership, achieving power only in his 40s. He inherited Genghis Khan’s great dream of world domination but unlike his grandfather he saw China and not Mongolia as the key to controlling power, and turned Genghis’s unwieldy empire into a federation. Using China’s great wealth, coupled with his shrewd and subtle governance, he created an empire that was the greatest since the fall of Rome, and shaped the modern world as we know it today. He gave China its modern-day borders and his legacy is that country’s resurgence, and the superpower China of tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Rules for Radicals

Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals
by Saul Alinsky

The father of modern community organization, Saul Alinsky taught a generation of activists and politicians how to effectively construct social change. In Rules for Radicals, Alinsky writes with passion and intelligence, carefully outlining “the difference between being a realistic radical and being a rhetorical one.” Indispensable since its first publication in 1971, this book continues to inform and inspire all those who believe that political engagement is the key to maintaining America's democratic tradition.
This primers tells the "have-nots" how they can organize to achieve real political power for the practice of true democracy.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Theory of Capitalist Development

The Theory of Capitalist Development
by Paul M. Sweezy

Since its first publication in 1942, this book has become the classic analytical study of Marxist economics. Written by an economist who was a master of modern academic theory as well as Marxist literature, it has been recognized as the ideal textbook in its subject. Comprehensive, lucid, authoritative, it has not been challenged or even approached by any later study.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Capital: A Critique of Political Economy
by Karl Marx
edited by Frederick Engels

In Capital: Critique of Political Economy (1867), Karl Marx proposes that the motivating force of capitalism is in the exploitation of labour, whose unpaid work is the ultimate source of profit and surplus value. The employer can claim right to the profits (new output value), because he or she owns the productive capital assets (means of production), which are legally protected by the State through property rights. In producing capital (money) rather than commodities (goods and services), the workers continually reproduce the economic conditions by which they labour. Capital proposes an explanation of the “laws of motion” of the capitalist economic system, from its origins to its future, by describing the dynamics of the accumulation of capital, the growth of wage labour, the transformation of the workplace, the concentration of capital, commercial competition, the banking system, the decline of the profit rate, land-rents, et cetera.

The critique of the political economy of capitalism proposes that The commodity is the foundational “cell-form” (trade unit) of a capitalist society, which has commercial value for the owner of the means of production. Moreover, because commerce, as a human activity, implied no morality beyond that required to buy and sell goods and services, the growth of the market system made discrete entities of the economic, the moral, and the legal spheres of human activity in society; hence, subjective moral value is separate from objective economic value. Subsequently, political economy — the just distribution of wealth and “political arithmetick” about taxes — became three discrete fields of human activity: Economics, Law, and Ethics, politics and economics divorced.

“The economic formation of society [is] a process of natural history", thus it is possible for a political econmist to objectively study the scientific laws of capitalism, given that its expansion of the market system of commerce had objectified human economic relations; the use of money (cash nexus) voided religious and political illusions about its economic value, and replaced them with commodity fetishism, the belief that an object (commodity) has inherent economic value. Because societal economic formation is an historical process, no one person could control or direct it, thereby creating a global complex of social connections among capitalists; thus, the economic formation (individual commerce) of a society precedes the human administration of an economy (organised commerce).

The structural contradictions of a capitalist economy, the gegens√§tzliche Bewegung, describe the contradictory movement originating from the two-fold character of labour; not the class struggle between labour and capital, the wage labourer and the owner of the means of production. These capitalist economy contradictions operate “behind the backs” of the capitalists and the workers, as a result of their activities, and yet remain beyond their perceptions as men and women and as social classes.

The economic crises (recession, depression, etc.) that are rooted in the contradictory character of the economic value of the commodity (cell-unit) of a capitalist society, are the conditions that propitiate proletarian revolution; which the Communist Manifesto (1848) collectively identified as a weapon, forged by the capitalists, which the working class “turned against the bourgeoisie, itself”.

In a capitalist economy, technological improvement and its consequent increased production augment the amount of material wealth (use value) in society, whilst simultaneously diminishing the economic value of the same wealth, thereby diminishing the rate of profit — a paradox characteristic of economic crisis in a capitalist economy; “poverty in the midst of plenty” consequent to over-production and under-consumption.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Marxist Economics for Socialists

Marxist Economics for Socialists: A Critique of Reformism
by John Harrison

Marx's ideas on capitalism and its crisis are sometimes obscure. Here, John Harrison introduces the basic concepts of Marx's economics in simple language - as political ideas, part of a constant battle against reformism: fro Proudhon in France of the 1840s, through Bernstein in Germany of the 1890s, to Crosland and Holland in Britain of the 1950s and 70s.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

"The Agrarian Roots of European Capitalism"

"The Agrarian Roots of European Capitalism"
by Robert Brenner
from The Brenner Debate: Agrarian Class Structure and Economic Development in Preindustrial Europe

"In what follows, I will take up each of the foregoing objections in
the course of presenting a more fully developed interpretation of
the problems of European feudal evolution and of the transition to
capitalism. In Section I, I will attempt, once again, to lay bare what
I believe to be the faulty foundations upon which the demographic
interpretation has been constructed. In Section II, I will try to
sketch a general approach to long-term feudal socio-economic evolution,
and then to demonstrate that this approach can better grasp
the actual course of medieval economic development, income distribution
and feudal crisis in the different European regions than
can either the demographic interpretation or Bois's "falling rate of
feudal levy" approach. Finally, in Section III, I will, in direct
response to the criticisms that have been raised, lay out what I take
to be the origins of the different property systems which emerged in different regions of Europe during the early modern period, and
explain why these property systems were in fact central in determining
the subsequent paths of economic development."

from Introduction

Monday, July 4, 2011

"The Decline of Feudalism and the Growth of Towns"

"The Decline of Feudalism and the Growth of Towns"
by Maurice Dobb
from Studies in the Development of Capitalism

Maurice Herbert Dobb (July 24, 1900 - August 17, 1976), was a British Marxist economist, and a lecturer 1924-1959 and Reader 1959-1976 at Cambridge University and a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge 1948-1976.

Dobb was an economist who was primarily involved in the interpretation of neoclassical economic theory from a Marxist point of view. His involvement in the original economic calculation problem debate consisted of critiques of capitalist, centrally planned socialist, or market socialist models that were based upon the neoclassical framework of static equilibrium. Dobb charged the market socialist model of Oskar Lange and the contributions of "neo-classical" socialists of an illegitimate "narrowing of the focus of study to problems of exchange-relations." (Economists and the Economics of Socialism, 1939.)

Many of his works have been published into different languages. His short publication Introduction to Economics was translated to Spanish by Mexican intellectual Antonio Castro Leal for the leading Mexican publishing house Fondo de Cultura Economica, which has gone through more than ten editions since 1938.

For Dobb, the central economic challenges for socialism are related to production and investment in their dynamic aspects. He identified three major advantages of planned economies: antecedent coordination, external effects and variables in planning.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

"Agrarian Class Structure and Economic Development in Pre-industrial Europe"

"Agrarian Class Structure and Economic Development in Pre-industrial Europe"
by Robert Brenner
from The Brenner Debate: Agrarian Class Structure and Economic Development in Preindustrial Europe

Robert P. Brenner is a professor of history and director of the Center for Social Theory and Comparative History at UCLA, editor of the socialist journal Against the Current, and editorial committee member of New Left Review. His research interests are Early Modern European History; economic, social and religious history; agrarian history; social theory/Marxism; and Tudor-Stuart England.

He has been one of the contributors in a major Marxist debate, "Transition from Feudalism to Capitalism". In this debate he has sided on the importance of the transformation of agricultural production in Europe, especially in the English countryside, as opposed to the rise of international trade as the main cause of the transition. His influential 1976 article on "Agrarian Class Structure and Economic Development in Pre-industrial Europe" set forth the controversial "Brenner thesis." He argued that smallholding peasants had strong property rights and had little incentive to give up traditional technology or go beyond local markets, and thus no incentive toward capitalism

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Road to Serfdom

The Road to Serfdom
by F. A. Hayek

An unimpeachable classic work in political philosophy, intellectual and cultural history, and economics, The Road to Serfdom has inspired and infuriated politicians, scholars, and general readers for half a century. Originally published in 1944—when Eleanor Roosevelt supported the efforts of Stalin, and Albert Einstein subscribed lock, stock, and barrel to the socialist program—The Road to Serfdom was seen as heretical for its passionate warning against the dangers of state control over the means of production. For F. A. Hayek, the collectivist idea of empowering government with increasing economic control would lead not to a utopia but to the horrors of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.

First published by the University of Chicago Press on September 18, 1944, The Road to Serfdom garnered immediate, widespread attention. The first printing of 2,000 copies was exhausted instantly, and within six months more than 30,000 books were sold. In April 1945, Reader’s Digest published a condensed version of the book, and soon thereafter the Book-of-the-Month Club distributed this edition to more than 600,000 readers. A perennial best seller, the book has sold 400,000 copies in the United States alone and has been translated into more than twenty languages, along the way becoming one of the most important and influential books of the century.