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Capitalism, Alone: The Future of the System That Rules the World

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  408 ratings  ·  58 reviews
A provocative account of capitalism's rise to global dominance and, as different models of capitalism vie for world leadership, a look into what the future may hold.

We are all capitalists now. For the first time in human history, the globe is dominated by one economic system. In Capitalism, Alone, leading economist Branko Milanovic explains the reasons for this decisive h
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published September 24th 2019 by Belknap Press
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Graeme Newell
Jan 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I’m a firm believer that if you want to understand government and politics, study economics. This book really gave me a fresh perspective on both the political system and the money that’s its engine. Milanović comes from a background at the World Bank, so he knows a thing or two about the real world of money and power.

After hundreds of years of trial and error on different economics models, the world has finally picked a clear winner - capitalism. From China to Russia to the US, it’s the univers
Feb 08, 2020 rated it it was ok
I am a reader from China.

After reading this terribly self-congratulatory book which lacks of ideological imagination, I genuinely feel bad for American people who have to put up with and be educated by such biased and dichotomous standpoints.

First of all, the title is conspicuous but simply not true in reality. I understand the author tries to integrate China into capitalism to make a point. However, it makes no sense to categorize things you never truly understand into something that benefits
Review of Branko Milanovic, CAPITALISM, ALONE

When politicians, pundits, and academics speak of a rising competition, or even a New Cold War, between the U.S. and China, one thing that is rarely explicitly asked is what exactly is being competed for. Likewise, when we speak of an “American” or “Western” model, in contrast to a “Chinese” one, it is worth asking what or who exactly is being modeled, and to what end. One of the virtues of Branko Milanovic’s new book, Capitalism, Alone is that it add
Oct 17, 2019 marked it as to-read
Milanovic is one of the leading authorities when it comes to looking at inequality from a historical perspective. A must read if you are somewhat interested in the topic itself since digging deep and understanding historical roots of problems always proves to be very fruitful and eye-opening, forcing one to see things from a different angle.
Book contains a great discussion of the evolution of global inequality, the decline of the labour share in income, etc...
Very non-convential take on adverse
Jun 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
I am a long-time fan of Branko's* blog, where he talks about all things macro-economics, but with a keen eye on history, politics, philosophy, and human behavior. I would go as far as to say that his epistemic pragmatism, albeit from a socialist perspective, may be the exception to how a lot of policy conversation unfolds on Twitter or, I daresay, academia.

In his new book, which features some material he has previously blogged about, he starts with the assertion that we are all capitalists now a
Mar 21, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: junk
The mind of the conspiracy theorist: in a world where almost all governments are Socialist, the evil Capitalists (like the Jews in the imaginary of Europeans a century ago) are running the show.
Some strongly asserted, challenging, thought-provoking, provocative, even controversial, conclusions about capitalism from the previous lead economist of the World Bank. This book is quite thought-provoking and non-coddling, and make for necessary reading, but I feel like a problem with this book, some of whose conclusions may be not widely shared, is that it should amass strong back-up from mountains of data and study, instead of paragraphs of reasoning which may be faulty, and partial to bias ...more
Thomas Ray
Sep 16, 2019 marked it as to-read
Jan 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had heard about Milanovic for his work on global inequality, which I will now get back to and read. He is an economist who worked at the World Bank and has held academic positions at schools in Europe and the US. He is also clearly open to a variety of economic perspectives. While the book does present charts and data, it is straightforward and relatively easy to follow.

This is a book about political economy in the current world order - one in which alternative economic systems to capitalism h
Michael Luo
Feb 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Probably the best book I've read in the last year. For reference, my political beliefs at the time of reading were probably closest to that of Hillary Clinton - generally pro-market while favouring government intervention in the presence of market failures (notably healthcare). Similarly, I was a strong believer that liberal democracy was some hallowed form of government that every country should aspire to. If you achieved it, congrats, welcome to the 21st century and prosperity. If not, sucks t ...more
Dec 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Another great book from Branko Milanović! Well-written, well-documented and drawing from a wide variety of sources.

'Capitalism, Alone' describes how capitalism became the only system of organising society that matters in the world. Two main types of capitalism are currently competing: liberal and political, where USA and China respectively represent these varieties. Development of each of them is described using historical examples and statistical data.
The author describes how capitalism
Dec 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a fantastic book reflecting on various facets of capitalism in our current decade (and a little history with the trajectory of communism in Eastern Europe and China). He discusses pertinent issues like work, migration, UBI with such straightforward simplicity. For example, one interesting point he brought up was the fact that skilled expats gravitate towards countries precisely because they are unequal in nature— less taxes, more material benefits. Hence, welfare states are conversely at ...more
Sep 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic in scope and in its depth, has some factual errors that do not merit a lower ranking
Feb 16, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: capitalism
Author of “Capitalism Alone” Branko Milanovic interviewed by Pablo Pryuka

“We Can’t Go Back to a Golden Age of Capitalism”

The dynamics of income distribution and inequality are changing — and only for the worse. Economist Branko Milanovíc speaks about our malaise, and why going back to the “golden age” of capitalism is not an option.

Over the last forty years there has been a rise in inequality in the West while at the same time, global inequality has been i
Feb 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Four chapters of very insightful analysis on the features, flaws and prospects of the two main variants of capitalism in existence today - the Western liberal model and the Chinese authoritarian (or 'political') model; one rather bizarre chapter in which Milanovic rushes through a series of leftover thoughts on the present and the future of capitalism, including a strange quasi-defence of the commodification and Uberisation of wider society, which he presents as a positive development that enjoy ...more
Jonathan Mckay
Mar 25, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: economics
18th book of 2020.

This book has a great start, giving a framework to think about modern economies, nearly declaring an economic 'end of history' in that capitalism has proven to be the state that all developed countries have converged upon. I most appreciated the taxonomy for flavors of capitalism in the world today:

Classical Capitalism - Think belle epoch France or England.
Meritocratic Liberal Capitalism - USA today. Increasing inequality, divergent interests between classes.
Political Capit
Richard Marney
Dec 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: economics
The call for greater equality eloquently voiced in the author’s seminal book, “Global Inequality”, spills the beans on where he comes out on a core question of the book, “where should global capitalism go in the future?”. His opinion is a form of “people’s capitalism” (equality of opportunity and limits on societal divergence of income and wealth) should replace today’s “liberal meritocratic capitalism” (think of your favorite investment banker living in New Canaan, and their 16 year old driving ...more
Rajiv Sondhi
Jan 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
I have not yet read Branko's other books on the subject of economic inequality, so am unable to relate this book to his views presented in other published works. But I have found this book very interesting. He has presented a good historical perspective on how national economic systems ("isms") have evolved over the years and then argued how they may continue that evolution. There is a nuanced description of different forms of capitalist systems around the world, how all of this relates to econo ...more
Eugene Kernes
There may be different types of capitalisms, but capitalism alone survives as the mode of production. Nothing natural or self-evident about it. It is a system that required socialization into it. Different societies constructed different versions of the same idea regarding the system. This book showcases two types of capitalism, that of liberal meritocratic capitalism and political capitalism. Milanovic explains that liberal meritocratic capitalism is based on privately owned means of production ...more
John Ihor Campagna
Aug 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: econ, economics
Very good. Wide ranging taking a global view of the present form of capitalism, its consequences, potential remedies to flaws and potential future. Despite the breadth the book is relatively short, but consistently though provoking.

Milanovic divides contemporary capitalism into two variants liberal meritocratic capitalism, which is mainly represented by the US, and political capitalism mainly represented by China. For both he analyzes there emergence over the last few decades and the unique type
May 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Capitalism is the only game in town now. Communism has been defeated. This book describes the 2 kinds of capitalism: Liberal vs political.

Liberal Capitalism: The Global North
1. Classical pre-WWI: capitalists are rich and do not work, workers are poor and work. No redistribution so inequality is high.
2. Social democratic post WWII: like classical but with redistribution so inequality is Low.
3. Liberal meritocratic current: capitalists are rich and work and earn a lot and marry each other, work
Tomas Daubner
Dec 16, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: economics
Better than useless black & white discussions about capitalism vs socialism without defining what the terms mean. He adds third color to the discussion, it is not enough, the world is more nuanced/complex and so should be a discussion about it.
The part about the migration is provocative, incentives matter.
He is too uncritically towards ''Chinese political capitalism'' as an alternative to a liberal one. The future will not look like the past, China will not grow on average 6% in the next 20 year
Yavuz Milar
Feb 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Branko, at least for me, was always a tough economist to rate. I love his stuff, his blog and follow his writings almost religiously but never really engaged in a book of his. I always thought he was a thinker above his work. Now this book was exactly what i needed but there are questions in my head unanswered. One reason for this is that he is too machiavellian in his analysis, it is hard to pinpoint his thought and engage with his opinions.

Book starts off « general » as most of us who read boo
can y
Jun 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
"capitalism, alone" is a set of essays that are not argumentatively linked but are thematically connected. the essays combined, have the ultimate goal that doesn't go shier than providing a comprehensive account of global capitalism.

compared to other econ books, i must say that this was an enjoyable read, with milanovic frequently referring back to the classics of political economy. milanovic truly shines as a synthesizer and authors cited in this book are truly eclectic, ranging from marxists
Alexander Mansilya-kruz
Out of his depth

Branko Milanović's new book is an entertaining read for anyone interested in the big global picture. As long as he sticks to his area of expertise - that us, inequality - it's a clear, concise and easily digestible summary of hugely important research; it also largely repeats what Mr. Milanović had written before. When he chooses to digress, his writing becomes, for the most part, much less convincing. His philosophy of history hobbles. His theory of communist regimes as historic
Dec 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This delves into some of the big themes that Milanović discusses on his blog and Twitter feed:
(1) Why has income inequality skyrocketed in recent decades in the U.S.? The U.S. has shifted into what he calls liberal meritocratic capitalism, where those with the most capital also obtain most of the labor income. Increasing inequality follows. The capital-rich can cement their advantages by marrying each other and transmitting privilege to their children through access to education.
(2) Why aren't p
Jun 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Milanović’s excellent Global Inequality blog ( was my first exposure to his writing and I’ve been impressed by the clarity of thought and erudition, he is an independent (an unclassifiable or maybe non-academic is the aptest word) thinker. His blog posts have served as a springboard for most of this book. The most lasting insight for me is Branko's argument about the world-historic role of communism as the Third World's transiton system between feudalism and capitalis ...more
Caleb Maresca
Apr 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Contains many eye-opening and insightful points, about capitalism and its future, China, globalization, and more. I wish the book was better structured. Milanobic manages to pull together most of the threads at the end, but very quickly in the last couple pages. I wish this had been done more systematically throughout the book to keep a consistent theme, and I wish that the possible alternative versions of capitalism that he envisions such as what he defines as "people's capitalism" and "egalita ...more
Jan 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I have read on the structure of modern globalist capitalism. The author believes it currently has no viable alternative and could not be rolled back, although he admits that such deviations as communism and fascism emerge as temporary stages due to unexpected turns of history. He posits two main competitive models, the liberal capitalism of the Western type and the state one, read China, and it is too early to say which one will be victorious. Not an optimistic book on the ...more
May 25, 2020 rated it liked it
A couple of interesting theses around the structure of the different forms of capitalism and the question which form will prevail in the long run. I think some arguments were not entirely well-founded (e.g. the argument that it is entirely impossible that certain people will prefer leisure to more pay), but the stuff on corruption is very relevant I think, and the way communism worked as a sort of springboard for capitalism in developing countries is also enlightening in a way. The chapters on m ...more
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Branko Milanović (Serbian Cyrillic: Бранко Милановић, IPA: [brǎːŋko mǐlanoʋitɕ; milǎːn-]) is a Serbian-American economist. He is most known for his work on income distribution and inequality. Since January 2014, he is a visiting presidential professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and an affiliated senior scholar at the Luxembourg Income Study (LIS). He also teaches at ...more

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72 likes · 20 comments
“The fact that the entire globe now operates according to the same economic princi­ples—­production or­ga­nized for profit using legally ­free wage labor and mostly privately owned capital, with decentralized coordination—is without historical pre­ce­dent.” 0 likes
“Fears of robotics and technology arise, I think, from two human frailties. One is cognitive: we simply do not know what ­future technological change ­will be and thus cannot tell what new jobs will be created, what our ­future needs ­will be, or how raw materials ­will be used. The second is psychological: we get a thrill from fear of the unknown—in this case, the
scary and yet alluring prospect of metallic robots replacing flesh-­and-­blood workers on the factory floor.”
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