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Jim Stanford, 'Economics for Everyone: A Short Guide to the Economics of Capitalism'

Pluto, 2008; ISBN 978 0745327501; 360pp; £12.99

Last year, an intelligent and committed activist confessed to me that they did not really understand what “capitalism” meant. More recently, another friend bemoaned to me the high level of coverage given over to the current financial crisis in the papers – not for lack of appreciation of the subject’s importance, but because most of the coverage was either unintelligible or uninformative.

Fortunately, help is now on hand for both of them. Well-structured, straightforwardly written, and leavened with apposite quotes, shocking statistics and useful summaries, Economics for Everyone provides a critical analysis of capitalism (the economic system dominated by wage labour and production for profit) and its institutions that will help activists – and anyone else who’s interested – to get a grip on economic issues.

Stanford - an economist with the Canadian Autoworkers Union - sees “developing a more democratic, grass-roots approach to economics” as part of the ongoing “battle of ideas” to challenge the power of pro-business thinking, and his book – which, as its title suggests, is not for those who crave Marxist high theory or post-modern obfuscation - is a significant contribution towards these goals. While explaining such mysteries as globalisation and the financial markets, and debunking the reigning “neoliberal” orthodoxy (whose bizarre assumptions imply that all firms should be tiny and that profit should not exist!), he also gradually builds an “economic road map” for the reader, helping him or her to place these pieces into the bigger picture. Consequently, this reader not only learnt a great deal, but also found a number of things that he’d only half understood before start to fall into place.

An accompanying web-site (www.economicsforeveryone.ca) contains a glossary and resources for further study. Highly recommended.

Topics: Economics