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A Different Study of Political Economy

by Saral Sarkar & translated by Graciela Calderón

Pub Date: Sept. 11th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-61902-006-1
Publisher: Counterpoint

A prominent eco-socialist explains why capitalism is doomed.

Sarkar (Eco-Socialism or Eco-Capitalism?, 1999, etc.) casts himself as not merely a reformer of capitalism, but rather a radical who believes no amount of tinkering will prop up a capitalist system that’s come up against the twin killers of global warming and the imminent depletion of vital, nonrenewable natural resources. Neither of these developments, he insists, could have been foreseen either by the defenders of capitalism or its fiercest critics. Focusing primarily on the 20th century, the author engages in a critique of the theories of prominent economic commentators, carefully distinguishing the historical crises in capitalism—the Great Depression, the mid-’70s stagflation, the disruptions caused by globalization, the Great Recession of 2008—from the crisis of capitalism, the system’s inevitable collision with the newly appreciated fact of finite resources. He intends this manifesto for general readers interested in political-economic issues, economists open to a new critique of political economy and, primarily, for well-meaning activists who require theoretical clarity and objective knowledge to abandon the illusions and false theories that have heretofore hobbled them. Sarkar refers to fellow activists as comrades, but there’s nothing friendly about the turgid, relentlessly donnish prose (to be fair, the text is translated from the German) that carries his argument. It’s difficult to imagine those already converted to Sarkar’s worldview casually picking up this tome for guidance. Still, for those who passionately believe that innovation can no longer prolong capitalism, that the end of the Oil Age is near, that dwindling resources and today’s dangerously unstable economic moment point to “ecological socialism as the only convincing alternative,” Sarkar’s text supplies the requisite theoretical scaffolding so dear to the academy.

Strictly for graduate school seminars.