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Capitalism: A Very Short Introduction Paperback – July 29, 2004

12 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0192802187 ISBN-10: 0192802186 Edition: 1st

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author


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

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (July 29, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192802186
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192802187
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 0.4 x 4.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #180,144 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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48 of 58 people found the following review helpful By J. Brian Watkins VINE VOICE on 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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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Robert Moore HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 23, 2008
Format: Paperback
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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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Vibhav Agarwal on June 7, 2009
Format: Paperback
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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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By TM on February 20, 2012
Format: Paperback
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. This volume succeeds in serving as a primer for understanding current economic woes (and similar future crises), and is particularly impressive for the breadth of material discussed in a little over 100 pages.

Starting with the English East India Company's spice trade around the mid-millennium, Fulcher artfully depicts the progression of capitalism over the last five centuries. What began as a handful of merchants pooling money to share risk on large business ventures developed into the dominant world economic model today, functioning on cross-state trade to seek the cheapest workers and materials in an effort to maximize profits. Fulcher covers everything from feudalism to maquiladoras to the recent housing bubble to show how past events have spawned a system where investment bankers--totally removed from the tangible goods that companies produce--make and break fortunes based on minute-to-minute market fluctuations. The author visits a long list of appropriate periods to demonstrate how various forms of taxation, banking, and investment inform our regulation of the increasingly globalized market we now see.

A Very Short Introduction to Capitalism explains the cycles of the globalized capitalist economy, and how crisis is as normal as growth. The impact of figures like FDR, Keynes, Thatcher, and Reagan on policy helps a new generation contextualize popular economic thought.
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