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The Long Twentieth Century

4.22 of 5 stars 4.22  ·  rating details  ·  209 ratings  ·  21 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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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.
Jose Palafox

"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
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
Stephen Thompson
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
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!
Aug 06, 2011 Richard marked it as to-read  ·  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
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
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
mis fit
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
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
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.
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.
Chelsea Szendi
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.
Machala Machala
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.
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.
Henri Troppmann
this book will blow your god damned mind.
Jun 04, 2007 Amanullah rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people interested in understanding the current political and economic structures of the world
still reading it. heavy going.
over 5 star...
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