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The Long Twentieth Century

4.19  ·  Rating Details ·  332 Ratings  ·  30 Reviews
Winner of the American Sociological Association PEWS Award (1995) for Distinguished Scholarship

The Long Twentieth Century traces the epochal shifts in the relationship between capital accumulation and state formation over a 700-year period. Giovanni Arrighi masterfully synthesizes social theory, comparative history and historical narrative in this account of the structures
Paperback, 416 pages
Published December 17th 1994 by Verso (first published 1994)
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Sep 22, 2012 Hadrian rated it really liked it
This is an expansive economic history of the modern world - it draws ideas from Adam Smith, Polanyi's conceptions of the free market, Marx's histories of capitalist societies, Braudel's theory of civilizations, Wallenstein's 'world-systems theory', and Schumpeter's 'creative destruction'.

Arrighi's thesis encompasses several broad themes.

First - capitalism is not necessarily only the history of wage-labour, but also the spread of 'finance-capital', involving liquidity and ease of exchange.

I mean, its pretty much a Marxist-Braudelian theory of successive imperial ovverreaches that have led to the present day system, but I really liked it. Considered seminal by a certain group of people and I can certainly see why. I probably didn't need to read 350 pages about it to get the point, though.
Reviewed 7/7/2010

The History of Capitalism

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
Jose Palafox
Oct 15, 2009 Jose Palafox rated it really liked it

"Giovanni Arrighi obituary, Political economist and historian of global capitalism"
David Harvey,
8 October 2009

Giovanni Arrighi

The Italian scholar of political economy and sociology Giovanni Arrighi, who has died of cancer aged 71, was an outstanding teacher and mentor. He will be best remembered for his trilogy of works analysing global capitalism, The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power and the Origins of Our Times (1994); Chaos and Govern
May 23, 2009 David rated it it was amazing
Complex history of capital accumulation. If you want to find out how we got in the mess we're in, from the long view, then this is the book for you. Some economic history background required!
Ferhat Culfaz
Feb 04, 2016 Ferhat Culfaz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scanned
Excellent overview with lots of reference to Fernand Braudel. Interesting comparison of cycles of accumulation between the Genoese, Dutch, British and American Empires.
Mehmet Akif  Koc
May 04, 2017 Mehmet Akif Koc rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Prof.Arrighi'nin kitabı (1997) son altıyüzyılda kapitalist sistemin oluşumunu Marksist/Braudelci yaklaşımla ele alıyor. Bunu yaparken, İtalyan şehir devletlerinden (Floransa, Venedik ve bilhassa Ceneviz) başlayarak Hollanda, İngiltere ve nihayet ABD sermaye birikim süreçlerinin ekonomi-politiğine odaklanıyor.

Kitap, her ne kadar tarihsel anlatım açısından zengin (bir o kadar da dili bakımından ağır-ağdalı) ise de, Kapitalizmin geleceğine dair öngörüler bağlamında zayıf ve başarısız. Özellikle AB
May 22, 2017 M J rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting evaluation that ends now (2017), with nearly 25 years of dramatic world economic events after it was written (Japan's long recession/deflation, the rise of China and its debt financing of the US, the US housing debt collapse and the worldwide consequences) begging the question: where to now?
Aug 16, 2010 Don rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, politics
Notes on what I learnt from this...

Arrighi views historical capitalism as the development of distinct ‘systems of accumulation’ over time. There are four such systems, each of which rose and fell over the period of ‘long centuries.’ These are:

The Genovese: Beginning in the second half of the 14th century, this emerged as the public debt of the Italian city states was alienated into the hands of the rising capitalist class. The Genovese had produced an institution capable of managing these accoun
Stephen Thompson
Nov 16, 2014 Stephen Thompson rated it really liked it
The Long Twentieth Century is about the idea of a “systemic cycle of accumulation,” which is a process in which the world economy goes through a period of “material expansion” followed by a period of “financial expansion.” The basic idea is that each material expansion leads eventually to an overaccumulation of capital, which causes a crisis and a fall in government revenues. To make up for the revenue shortfall, there is increased inter-state competition for financial capital, which drives up f ...more
Nov 24, 2015 Leonardo marked it as to-read
Giovanni Arrighi adoptó la metodología de los ciclos largos para escribir un análisis rico y fascinante del “largo siglo veinte”.2 El libro se aboca principalmente a entender cómo la crisis de la hegemonía y acumulación de los Estados Unidos en la década de 1970 (indicada, por ejemplo, por el desenganche del dólar del patrón oro en 1971 y por la derrota militar norteamericana en Vietnam) es un punto de inflexión fundamental en la historia del capitalismo mundial. A fin de aprehender este pasaje ...more
Mar 24, 2016 Andrew rated it really liked it
Shelves: current-affairs
I am no history buff, know very little history, and next to nothing about economic history (or economics).

I bought this book on an impulse (since the credit crunch I have attempted to gain some knowledge in the area) and read it during my holidays on the beach. And it was a bloody good read at that.

This is not a light weight book, but thanks to the author remains easy to read, to mull over, and to digest. What better for a beach. It gives a historic overview of economic world history. He approac
Jul 05, 2015 April rated it liked it
I had to read this for a university Community Studies class back in the early 2000's. I only read a couple chapters back then, but had some time on my hands and wanted to read it before I got rid of it. It was hard for me to get through (took almost two months) because of the very academic nature of the writing. I had to read and re-read many of the paragraphs to understand the gist of what was being said.

The most interesting thing I found in this book was this:
"...has come to be an extreme con
Nov 02, 2016 Steffi rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
700 or so years of capitalism as a world system. First: this book is so dense (and exciting) that I must read it again. At the end I felt like it made sense but that I have missed too many important details which didnt seem important at first. So these are initial thoughts only.
Basically he walks us through four (Italian City States 1400ish, Dutch, British, US) major systemic cycles of acccumulation. For Marxists: he breaks down the history of capitalism as a world system (MCM') into alternating
Aug 06, 2011 Richard marked it as to-read-3rd  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Richard by: Sanjoy Bannerjee?
Unread, and maybe too big to really want to tackle.

The crisis in the economically dominant western states seems to me to be a symptom of a long term decline of economic hegemony. Many in the Anglo-American "core" are concerned that this signals a shift towards rising power principally to China.

I suspect that the similarity between European and American cultures has made the shifts of the past few hundred years relatively easy, but this will eventually be seen as a provident aberration. Cross-cu
Apr 18, 2011 Lukáš rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very dense reading, which turned out to be far better than I actually thought. Of course, the limits of its macro-focus are visible throughout the whole piece, yet the attention given to the layers below the cyclical dynamics shows a sympathetic effort to avoid too much determinism while preserving an analytical rigor. As well, the 2009 postscript seems to underline the validity of the thoughts and analogies drawn in here. I still think there might have been more attention given to what makes ...more
Nov 27, 2015 Kristin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I would not have read this book but for the fact it was a selection of our book club. It took a lot of determination for me to get through the material; as it turned out, I was one of the few who did. Perhaps because I did not graduate in economics or because of the author's style, I found it difficult to understand and sometimes needed to re-read the run on sentences to understand the point being made. I did appreciate the history of the various capitalist systems but felt that the major points ...more
mis fit
Jan 16, 2013 mis fit rated it liked it
Read the first section of this for class. Obviously hard to get through, but pretty awesome. Globalization is not a new thing and cycles of hegemonic power comprise the history of the capitalist world-system. I especially appreciated his point that the development of the nation-state system and the development of capitalism have gone hand in hand in many ways. Was never so interested in the Italian city-states as I was when I was reading this. Need to look back in history a long way to make sens ...more
Nic Paget-Clarke
Oct 11, 2013 Nic Paget-Clarke rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent book, which along with "Adam Smith in Beijing" brilliantly explains the development of capitalism from the days of Genoa, Venice, the Iberian peninsula and the Spanish empire to today. The inter-connections of many wars, treaties, and other historical events are explained in great detail.
Ben Sweezy
Oct 14, 2008 Ben Sweezy rated it liked it
This book is a battle. It is a neo-marxist economic history of the world from 1500 onward. It leads up to the "long 20th century," from midway through the 19th century to the present. It's all about interstate competition for mobile capital! Yay!

See also: Immanuel Wallerstein.
Chelsea Szendi
May 03, 2010 Chelsea Szendi rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theory
The intense and intricate work of an intense and intricate mind marrying Braudel and Marx (two more intense and intricate minds). Not to be missed: the March-April 2009 New Left Review interview of Arrighi by David Harvey.
Dec 30, 2007 Peter rated it it was amazing
Shelves: already-read
In a way, Arrighi writes the 4th volume of Wallerstein's work on the modern world system. We are treated to an incredible discussion of the ebbs and flows of capitalism's long cycles, and it comes off sounding eminently possible that the world systems' theorists are right.
John Smith
May 29, 2016 John Smith rated it liked it
Fucking impenetrable. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a Marxist shill - and they too find it impenetrable and cannot admit it.
Machala Machala
Mar 24, 2010 Machala Machala rated it it was amazing
Surely one of the best books I've ever read. Arrighi has fascinating ideas about capitalism as a historical phenomenon and about its uncertain future.
May 12, 2008 Oğuz rated it it was amazing
over 5 star...
Jacques le fataliste et son maître
Di grande chiarezza. Nonostante che le mie conoscenze di economia siano elementari, ho seguito perfettamente l'argomentazione di Arrighi.
Maureen rated it it was amazing
Jan 24, 2017
Sonicsputnick rated it really liked it
Apr 28, 2015
Chaudhry Jutt
Chaudhry Jutt rated it really liked it
Dec 09, 2015
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