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Capitalism: A Very Short Introduction [Paperback]

James Fulcher
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 29, 2004 0192802186 978-0192802187
This Introduction explores the origins of capitalism and questions whether it did indeed originate in Europe. It examines a distinctive stage in the development of capitalism that began in the 1980s, in order to understand where we are now and how capitalism has evolved since. The book discusses the crisis tendencies of capitalism--including the S.E. Asian banking crisis, the collapse of the Russian economy, and the 1997-1998 global financial crisis--asking whether capitalism is doomed to fail. In the end, the author ruminates on a possible alternative to capitalism, discussing socialism, communal and cooperative experiments, and alternatives proposed by environmentalists.

About the Series: Combining authority with wit, accessibility, and style, Very Short Introductions offer an introduction to some of life's most interesting topics. Written by experts for the newcomer, they demonstrate the finest contemporary thinking about the central problems and issues in hundreds of key topics, from philosophy to Freud, quantum theory to Islam.

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

James Fulcher is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Leicester.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (July 29, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192802186
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192802187
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 4.4 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #280,555 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
45 of 54 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought Provoking December 25, 2004
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Teaching capitalism in today's world is like describing water to a fish; we are surrounded by it, can't live without it and are unaware of the alternatives. Most have never experienced the depression, many have forgotten the days when communism was actually a threat. We are blind to the absolutely crucial nature of how our world works. Although we watched the stock market plummet in 1987 and have all learned valuable lessons from the internet boom & bust, I picked up this book because I wanted to know a bit more about how the scholars view capitalism.

The book takes the reader through a history of capitalism while briefly summarizing everything you forgot from college economics. While the discussion of the development of capitalism focused on some interesting questions of historical interpretation, the strength of this work is the description and analysis of how the capitalistic system works differently in different countries.

The power of capitalism is set forth as its ability to adapt. Where other systems--feudalism, communism, socialism, etc--failed was that they could not adapt to change. The book was an excellent overview; it was current, easy to read, and contains a fine list of resources for further study.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, quick read for a novice. June 7, 2009
The book traces the origins of capitalism right from the trading days of East India Company. It discusses the presence of feudalism, its slow transformation into socialism, and finally its metamorphosis into capitalism. Once there, James does a great job of dissecting the facets of capitalism and the various forces that defines its nature - politics, business, labor unions, markets, currency, and others. He does this by comparing three distinct forms of capitalism - Swedish, British, and Japanese. Slowly the pieces of the puzzle start falling together.

In the last chapter, he discusses the various crises that have fallen upon/by capitalism. Per him, crisis is a by-product of this system and cannot be avoided. Thanks to the ever volatile consumer demand, never ending profit increasing, and the human nature in general. Economics 101 - Every person will act in order to maximize his/her profit.

This book is very lucidly written and I would suggest all to give this book a try and keep it in your book shelf, if possible. I cannot say that I am a master of this subject, but it has nevertheless built a foundation for me to develop my knowledge and make informed opinions about the events happening around me.
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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
My own economic position could be described as a reluctant capitalist. I am definitely not a believer in an unregulated free market simply because I know such a beast to be a chimera that never has and never will exist. The only two choices for a society is to either let the economy run along unattended wrecking havoc (as it has recently in the world economy) or subject it to regulation and intense oversight. There are always advocates for the former, but reality keeps forcing governments to take the latter track. Those advocating an unregulated free market are ideologues and utopians with little or no connection to the real world (a situation pointed out in 1944 by Karl Polanyi in his classic THE GREAT TRANSFORMATION, in which he pointed out in great historical detail that there had never in human history been an example of a self-regulating free market -- in other words, the invisible hand has been absent in history). Its opponents have also often been utopian (as with Marxists when they move from a trenchant and probing critique of Capitalism to a recipe for future historical development). But those who have been most effective are those who accept the reality of capitalism yet reserve the right to discipline and mold it, like FDR and Churchill (though described as a conservative, American's have to remember the Churchill reformed the British prison system, was crucial in developing national health insurance in Britain, suggested the idea of the European Union, and always felt -- in contrast with, say Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher -- that government was a very good thing indeed).

Every few decades reality provides a sharp rebuke to the free market ideologues.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A bit complex for a begginer. September 19, 2010
By Antonis
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This VSI on Capitalism is the first book from this very popular series that I've ever read. It provides general and very important information on the the origins of capitalism, and the various forms that capitalism can take. The writer is critical of capitalism, however, he is not propagating against it, but rather tries to highlight to the reader the economic and social consequences of the capitalist economic system. Such criticism is always welcome.
As an introduction, I found the book to be very helpful and useful, but without a general knowledge of Economics, I believe that the casual reader would have problems understanding this particular book.
I suggest this book to anyone interested in capitalism, but be aware that it is not as introductory as one may expect. Also, this is a great book for anyone who wants to have a short and general summary on capitalism.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Delightful Book
If you want to have a better idea of capitalism, read this book.

You will learn definitions of:
1. Capital
2. Capitalist
3. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Matt
2.0 out of 5 stars a 'Tour Guide' through the land of Vanilla Trees
This "Guide" (back cover) is a pamphlet sized tour guide that presents CAPITALISM as if you were a sightseer on a museum tour bus through London or Wall Street viewing the... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Bruce E. Woych
2.0 out of 5 stars A Biased Introduction
I was expecting an (at least) relatively impartial introduction, but the author could not put his allegiances aside to produce such a book. Read more
Published 18 months ago by grhellen
5.0 out of 5 stars Quick, stimulating, and informative read
I have read a handful of works from the Very Short Introduction series. Most of the books have been great, although sometimes a little nuanced in their cover of material. Read more
Published on February 20, 2012 by TM
3.0 out of 5 stars The title has it right -- very, short, introduction
No book of such a short length could hope to give a full account of the history of capitalism, its defenders and its critics. Read more
Published on March 9, 2009 by W. Schultz
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
First off a disclaimer. I'm not an economist, college grad, or heavey weight intellectual. With that out of the way I want to say this is, like most of the Very Short Intro... Read more
Published on November 6, 2008 by Richard G. Darby
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent but omits ecological challenges
This was the first book I read in the "Very Short Introduction" series. I was surprised by how substantial it is. It also seems quite balanced. Read more
Published on March 12, 2006 by calmly
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