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The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power and the Origins of Our Times Paperback – February 16, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-1844673049 ISBN-10: 1844673049 Edition: New and Updated Edition

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Verso; New and Updated Edition edition (February 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844673049
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844673049
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #105,246 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“A vivid, fact-filled expose of the cyclical monetary forces that surge through human society.”—Observer Review

The Long Twentieth Century has the grandeur of a sprawling epic and the schematic grace of a Richard Neutra blueprint ... It is the single most useful text on offer for anyone who wants to narrate the story of world capitalism—from its nascent form on the rim of the Mediterranean to the current reach of the United States’ empire, and beyond.”—Los Angeles Review of Books

About the Author

Giovanni Arrighi (1937–2009) was Professor of Sociology at Johns Hopkins University. His books include The Long Twentieth Century, Adam Smith in Beijing, and, with Beverly Silver, Chaos and Governance in the Modern World System. His work has appeared in many publications, including New Left Review—who published<a href=";view=2771"> an interview on his life-long intellectual trajectory</a> in March–April 2009, and <a href="">an obituary</a> in Nov–Dec 2009—and there are more accounts on his <a href="">memorial website</a>.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

61 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Martin on September 7, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Why is this edition "new and updated"? Apparently, because of the 15 page Postscript at the end of the book (pp. 371-386). (I had read the first edition back when it first came out in the nineties but no longer seem to have a copy of it so I cannot compare the earlier edition with this one.) Here in the Postscript Arrighi attempts to sum up what he understands were the three main propositions of his book.
Firstly, according to Arrighi, a Capitalist Epoch (there are more than one!) comes to an end when the financial (intermediation and speculation) overwhelms trade and production. This happens because the "possibility of continuing to profit from the reinvestment of capital in the material expansion of the world economy has reached its limits." But this 'financialization' of the world economy is only a temporary respite for the current 'dominant regime of accumulation'; historically, according to our author, it is the harbinger of its end.
Next, these occurrences are not recurrences. That is, the transition from one 'regime of accumulation' to another is not merely cyclical. A new regime (I mean the historical examples of the specific regimes of accumulation that our author identifies and elucidates) is always a fundamental reorganization of the capitalist world. Each regime has been (thus far) stronger, militarily and financially, than its predecessor.
And lastly, and perhaps most ominously, "the financial expansion of the late twentieth century [is] anomalous in key aspects". Most worrying, for Arrighi, is the bifurcation of military and financial power. The three possible results he foresaw from this were: "the formation of a world empire; the formation of a non-capitalist world economy; or a situation of endless systemic chaos.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Amrit on September 21, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The origins of the twentieth century and in particular the economic system under which we live are described in this work by one of the foremost economic historians of recent times. Arrighi traces those origins to the Late Middle Ages beginning with the rise of Genoese merchant capitalism. He argues that the development of capitalism over the 700 years or so he covers represents cycles of growth and accumulation with the role of hegemon passing from Genoa to the Netherlands, from the Netherlands to Britain and finally from Britain to the United States. Each hegemon has not only been larger and more powerful than its predecessor but takes the process to a qualitatively different stage.

Medieval Genoa was a small Italian city state in competition with others such as Venice but is able to tie its economy to that of Imperial Spain of the sixteenth century. Though bankers and financiers to the Spanish Hapsburgs, it had little control over the political forces on which its mercantile success depended, relying on Spanish power to make its markets and ensure the flow of new world silver in huge quantities (which Joseph Schumpeter sees as the beginnings of modern capitalism). It thus externalised the cost of protection which was both a weakness and strength. Nor was Genoa a producer (unlike Venice which responded to the challenges to its trading networks by Portugal by becoming a manufacturer). The only assets that a Genoese merchant carried sometimes were just his skill and his networks. The French looked on in amazement at the Genoese merchant who turned up with nothing more than a ledger and a bench by knowing what to do and by buying and selling, made his money.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By R. Albin TOP 500 REVIEWER on August 11, 2012
Format: Paperback
An interesting effort at a comprehensive analysis of capitalism since the last Middle Ages. Arrighi presents a very ambitious scheme based on a foundation of ideas derived from Marx and the great historian of early modern Europe, Fernand Braudel. The basic idea is that history over the past few centuries is characterized by a series of cycles of accumulation and capitalist development. Starting with northern Italian city states, the major locus and some features of capitalist innovation switch from geographic locus to geographic locus with progressive expansion and differentiation of capitalist structures. Arrighi describes a late Medieval cycle based in Northern Italy and involving Venice and Florence then giving way to cycle dominated by Genoese financiers in collaboration with the Spanish Hapsburgs, followed by Dutch, British, and American cycles. While each cycle has distinctive features, Arrighi argues for important underlying structural features. One is that some basic structural features related to the relationship between capitalism and the state, while varying between cycles, are anticipated by the experience of early modern Italian city states, particularly Venice and Florence. A second is a relatively stereotyped rhythm of each cycle with each major cycle beginning with and sustained by a major expansion of trade and/or industry, followed by a period of increasing competition, falling profits and increasing challenges as technologies and management methods spread outside the key center. The response to reality of falling profitability is a switch of investment from trade and industry to financial services.Read more ›
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