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Capitalism: A Very Short Introduction

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  877 ratings  ·  96 reviews
This Introduction explores the origins of capitalism and questions whether it did indeed originate in Europe. It examines a distinctive stage in the development of capitalism that began in the 1980s, in order to understand where we are now and how capitalism has evolved since. The book discusses the crisis tendencies of capitalism--including the S.E. Asian banking crisis, ...more
Paperback, 139 pages
Published 2004 by Oxford University Press (first published 2001)
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Ahmad Sharabiani
Capitalism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions #108), James Fulcher
This Introduction explores the origins of capitalism and questions whether it did indeed originate in Europe. It examines a distinctive stage in the development of capitalism that began in the 1980s, in order to understand where we are now and how capitalism has evolved since. The book discusses the crisis tendencies of capitalism--including the S.E. Asian banking crisis, the collapse of the Russian economy, and
Billie Pritchett
Feb 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics, capitalism
This is one of the best of the Very Short Introductions I've read, maybe the best, because it explains the topic so well. James Fulcher writes that "[c:]apitalism is essentially the investment of money in the expectation of making a profit," and as an economic system, it is that idea adopted as part of a social or political philosophy. Fulcher explores the different types of capitalism, from 'anarchic capitalism,' instances when people invested in money for profit in enclaves that were not direct ...more
Apr 18, 2018 rated it liked it
It isn't hard to define capitalism, it is an economic system based on increasing wealth by investing wealth. This can be done by investing in businesses that produce something tangible (steamships, railroads, cars, services, smartphones), or as we well know these days, it can be done by investing in financial "products", derivatives, that produces nothing at all but profits for the very wealthy whose need for money is solely to allow them to make more money.

This little book does a terrific job o
Oct 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Covers origins of capitalism and reviews how capitalism operates differently in various parts of the world. Global Capitalism is explored, and crisis as part of capitalism is explained. the future of capitalism is considered too- a worthwhile and interesting read.
This book is like listening to a conversation about fun facts about the history of capitalism. You will learn a lot of useless facts about capitalism. But if you are hoping to get a grasp on what capitalism is, what it means, how it works and what its history actually means, you are better off reading the wikipedia page.
Fluency: 3/5
Style: 3/5
Content: 1/5
Ibrahim Niftiyev
Nov 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics
If you don't have much time but would like to learn something or get a quick intuition about the capitalist based world economy, this book might be a great choice. It is brief, clear and coherent, so a reader doesn't spend much energy to digest the knowledge. However, sure enough, this is not an option if you wish to investigate the topic in its details.
Apr 09, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: junk
The Very Short Introduction series is an intellectually dishonest series that twists the data because somehow "very short" means "my take".

So what is Capitalism? The book opens with a clear description:

> In April 1601 the English East India Company sent its first expedition to the East Indies.

So that is Capitalism. Now things are a lot more clear. Why is that even relevant? Because, the author needed to make the point that

> On the return journey Hector and Susan set off first, but Susan was lost
Sean Goh
Feb 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
Rather dry. But hey I learnt some stuff.
Capitalism is essentially the investment of money in the expectation of making a profit. In the days of merchanting profit arose as a result of scarcity and distance.

As E.P. Thompson has emphasised, disciplined work was regular, timed work. It meant turning up every day, starting on time, and taking breaks of a specified length at specified times. Time became a battleground, with some unscrupulous employers putting clocks forward in the morning and bac
Kelsey Sampson
May 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book provides a thorough--albeit succinct--description of capitalism and its history. Capitalism, as described by the author, is “the investment of money in the expectation of making a profit” (p. 2). The book describes capitalism first emerging in the form of merchant capitalism through expeditions of the early 15th century, and then evolving into capitalist production of the 1800s and financial capitalism of the 1900s. The book also dives into what had to happen to create capitalism and h ...more
Valerie Brett
Apr 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Seemed more history than theory. The author’s view is that alternatives to capitalism aren’t as viable as reforms within capitalism.
Jan 29, 2020 rated it it was ok
Never read a book about economics by sociologists, historians, or philosophers. They simply do not understand economics, they mix emotions with factual truths, they do not realize that efficiency and fairness are canonically conjugate, and finally, they are driven far more by sentiments and wide-reaching acceptance than a pursuit of the truth with no compromise.

This introduction barely functions as an introduction to anything. The differentiation between capitalism, as in the money and assets us
Titus Hjelm
Jul 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Fulcher takes the historical approach, which makes the short book very readable. Like with many other topics in the series, being published in 2004 makes it feel very out of date already. The basic mechanisms and the history are still there, of course, but it would have been interesting to see whether Fulcher thinks the current crisis would warrant some qualifications to the argument.
Jun 03, 2008 rated it liked it
Straightforward introduction to Capitalism, does what it says on the tin but no more.
Gareth Williams
Jul 11, 2014 rated it it was ok
An introduction doesn't immediately seem to me to be the place for the author to push an agenda? Bump up to 2 stars as does survey the past. Briefly, as promised.
Dec 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Short and sweet introduction to know the essential idea of capitalism.
Madhur Bhargava
This book provides a short introduction to capitalism which should by no means be mistaken as a light introduction(a mistake that I made). The Author introduces capitalism right from the point of its inception in its cradle in Europe and various factors which led to its rise and spread which I personally found to be very enlightening, however, later it gets a lot thicker and complex when the author moves on to describe managed capitalism and globalisation. The Author also assumes that the reader ...more
Jan 01, 2020 rated it liked it
A good introductory essay that focuses on the capitalism that developed in Great Britain in the 18th and 19th century (though Fulcher traces the origins back farther in time and in other European countries). The treatment is even, with presenting multiple sides to issues; concepts are also shown through interesting concrete examples. I did expect more technical and economic material, but the book mainly focuses on history and development-but it is done well, so I have no complaint. It does show ...more
Oct 09, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Informative and straightforward. It gives you the gist of capitalism's purpose, how they utilize the labor and manage the system to achieve that, and some precedent rise and fall of it, how it's an unstable system and whatnot.
Tbh idk what i want to know about capitalism at this point, but i feel like i've only touched the surface with this. Not to mention that i'm a total ignorant noob about social politic economic science (if that's even the right term?) so there are lots of things i don't unde
Alexa Deene
Nov 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was an excellent introduction to the creation and failings of capitilism and its dominance through control from colonist economy to the late capitalism we experience today. Im very interested in social theory and as an anarcho-socialist I wanted to learn more about what I oppose and this was very helpful for that aim.

Its conclusion is a mixed bag though and despite saying that Capitalism is littered with crisis the author thinks we should aim to work within a capitalist system instead of a
Farhan Naushad
Dec 31, 2018 rated it did not like it
If you know what capitalism is and how free markets work, this book will make you cringe. The author not only lacks the basic knowledge of free market economy but is extremely mistaken about the concept of profit and what caused the 2007 financial crises. Author lacks a basic understanding of the study of economics and the role of prices. If zero stars could be given as a rating, I would have done so.

This book would be a classic source of information if you’re looking for a career as a social m
Mr. Banks
I appreciated the description of capitalism and a brief history of where it began. But, it then it turns into a subjective account on the failures of capitalism riddled with misunderstandings about economics. Came into the book expecting to learn about the origins and definitions of capitalism but it turns out it was a book on the necessity of pro-socialist policies. I’m sympathetic to critiques of capitalism, and how can be augmented, but that’s not the type of discussion I was looking for in a ...more
Aug 17, 2020 rated it it was ok
Through no fault of its own, I've spent two of the most underwhelming scatter-brained bleary-eyed hours on this book. My brain might've jump started into operation had there been more economics and less sociopolitics to explain history rather than report it, but I'm just accepting that some times there is a spacetime mismatch between content and reader that has nothing to do with either of them, offering no lessons, confessing no sins, so but me no buts sir, and pray be wiser with the gift of ch ...more
Aug 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent survey

For me, this was a good starting point, having never really thought too deeply about the concept of 'capitalism' but getting by, rather, on hearsay from friends and colleagues. Fulcher considers some major themes of capitalism and stresses that there is no one form of capitalism. (The goal of the fourth chapter is to establish just that.) I found the fifth chapter most thought-provoking of all.

This was a hard read that has opened many questions for me.
Toby Katz
Jan 07, 2020 rated it it was ok
Only reached page 49.

A very dull read on the history of capitalism. The author should define more terms throughout his book than he does. As such, I found myself re-reading chapters.

I would have enjoyed a more analytical approach to the history of capitalism, not a monotonous timeline.

See the short intro on socialism by Michael newman as a far more interesting read. (Not because I favour socialism over capitalism! But simply as it’s a more enjoyable read)
Charlie Dixon
Jul 14, 2017 rated it liked it
A good introduction to the origins of capitalism going from anarchic to managed to remarketized capitalism and the present day. Includes some cross-country comparisons too and covers the causes leading up to the 2007-8 financial crash as well as other crises. All in all a very informative read and packs a lot into the pages. A good primer on the subject!
Michael Arnold
May 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Capitalism cannot be destroyed from within, it has become too global and too dominant. Instead 'Reform does, however, require an engagement with capitalism and cannot be accomplished by movements that stand outside it and merely demonstrate against it'.
Turner Bitton
May 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Great primer on what has become the preeminent economic system internationally. I would use this book as a prerequisite to Thomas Piketty’s books or other books either in support of or critical of capitalism.

This is a neutral, yet illustrative introduction to capitalism in theory and practice.
Yue Du
Feb 05, 2018 rated it liked it
a little hard to read for me. but clear introduction. I need to learn more about capitalism.
Leo K
May 27, 2018 rated it liked it
A mildly interesting book that readers might find hard to focus on for more than 15 minutes at a time; the rich history of capitalism is introduced in a dull mannerism.
Jul 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
An easily understandable breaking down of key concepts and moments in capitalism's history illustrated with clear, concise and interesting examples.
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My main interest has been in the comparative study of the development of societies. I first carried out a comparative study of the changing relationships between employers, unions, and the state in Britain and Sweden, from the nineteenth century onwards. I then became particularly interested in the distinctive features of Japanese society and the intriguing question of how the Japanese were able t ...more

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“Leisure’ as a distinct non-work time, whether in the form of the holiday, weekend, or evening, was a result of the disciplined and bounded work time created by capitalist production.” 1 likes
“أصبحت بريطانيا فى القرن التاسع عشر أول مجتمع صناعى فى العالم، غير أن انطلاق الرأسمالية فى القرن الثامن عشر هو الذى جعل من الثورة الصناعية أمراً ممكناً فى القرن التاسع عشر. وكان لانتشار علاقات السوق واتساع النمو الاستهلاكى قوة دافعة هى قوة الطلب التى جعلت الاستثمار فى الإنتاج الصناعى يساوى ويستحق التحول إليه. وكان الاحتياج إلى كسب المال لإنفاقه على شراء البضائع والسلع يدفع الناس إلى البحث عن فرصة عمل فى المصانع، بالرغم من أن العمل فى المصانع كان رتيباً ومملاً، كما كانت المصانع فى حالة بائسة. وعن طريق سيطرة أصحاب العمل على العمال زاد الإنتاج، وزاد أكثر بعد إدخالآلات جديدة وتنظيم العمل بطرق مبتكرة.” 1 likes
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