Capitalism: The Story Behind the Word

Princeton Univ. Sept. 2022. 248p. ISBN 9780691237206. $24.95. POL SCI
Sonenscher’s (Before the Deluge) treatise on the philosophical roots of capitalism purports to explore alternatives to capitalism by examining how economic systems and concepts have developed in Western culture over the past few centuries. It offers an intense interrogation of capitalism’s many facets, including the division of labor, war, debt, social hierarchy, and more. Much attention is paid to defining what capitalism has meant historically and how that differs from its typical contemporary use. The author traces such concepts as commercial society, royalism, and the right to work and integrates a thorough summary of the Western thinkers who most influenced today’s understanding of capitalism. Readers can expect to see the names Louis Blanc, Karl Marx, Adam Smith, and David Ricardo. While not an entry-level introduction, it is well suited for readers with some grounding in economic theory.
VERDICT This work is something of an economics, history, and philosophy lecture all in one, reading more like an extended essay than a typical book. It is particularly recommended for libraries servicing economics, political science, and labor studies departments.
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