Suggested reading on Politics Economics Environment and Society. If you have a book you particularly like and think fits in with the ethos of the site please use the contact form (choosing the suggested reading option) to contact us. With a brief review of the book.
Jump to section:
In The Joy of Tax, tax campaigner Richard Murphy challenges almost every idea you have about tax. For him, tax is fundamentally about the ideas that shape the sort of society we want to live in, not technicalities. His intention is to demonstrate that there is indeed a joy in tax, and by embracing it we can create a fairer society and change the world for the better.
Where Does Money Come From? reveals how, contrary to public perception, the bulk of today’s money supply is created and allocated by commercial banks in their role as providers of credit. The authors argue that this system is inherently unstable, with little effective regulation of how much credit is provided or whether it is used for productive or speculative purposes. Based on detailed research and consultation with experts, including from the Bank of England, Where Does Money Come From? reviews theoretical and historical debates on the nature of money and banking and explains the role of the central bank, the Government and the European Union.
Money makes the world go round: but what is it really? And how is it produced? Above all, who controls its production, and in whose interests? Money is never a neutral medium of exchange. Nor are bankers simply go-betweens for savers and borrowers. In this accessible, brilliantly argued book, leading political economist Ann Pettifor explains in straightforward terms history’s most misunderstood invention: the money system. Pettifor argues that democracies can reclaim control over money production and subordinate the out-of-control finance sector to the interests of society, and also the ecosystem.
David Graeber, an anthropologist at the London School of Economics, and one of the organisers of Occupy Wall Street, presents a stunning reversal of conventional wisdom: he shows that long before there was money, there was debt. In this sweeping study, Graeber argues that our current ideas about money are limited, if not completely wrong. Society has always been divided into debtors and creditors, and debt and forgiveness have been at the centre of political debate long before money existed. Graeber shows how we are still fighting these battles today, and the financial crisis is an urgent and global example of that.
Debt or Democracy explodes the myths behind modern money. It challenges the neoliberal obsession with public debt and deficit, arguing that a much more serious problem is the privatised creation of money through bank debt that leads to boom and bust. Far from being a burden on the taxpayer, Mary Mellor argues that public money and public expenditure is necessary for economic well-being. Arguing that money is a public resource that should be under democratic control, Debt or Democracy directly challenges conventional economic thinking and presents a radical alternative for socially just and ecologically sustainable provisioning.
J IS FOR JUNK ECONOMICS is an A-to-Z guide that explains how the world economy really works – and who the winners and losers are. The book includes more than 400 concise and acerbic entries, several essays, and a full topic index. Expanding on KILLING THE HOST: HOW FINANCIAL PARASITES AND DEBT DESTROY THE GLOBAL ECONOMY, Prof. Hudson’s new book covers contemporary terms that are misleading or poorly understood as well as many important concepts that have been abandoned – many on purpose – from the long history of political economy. (Recommended by John Taft.)
How financial parasites and debt destroy the global economy. Professor Hudson continues the discussion on the financialisation of capital and its global effects. KILLING THE HOST exposes how finance, insurance, and real estate (the FIRE sector) have gained control of the global economy at the expense of industrial capitalism and governments. The FIRE sector is responsible for today’s economic polarization (the 1% vs. the 99%) via favoured tax status that inflates real estate prices while deflating the “real” economy of labor and production. The Great 2008 Bailout saved the banks but not the economy, and plunged the U.S., Irish, Latvian and Greek economies into debt deflation and austerity. This book describes how the phenomenon of debt deflation imposes austerity on the U.S. and European economies, siphoning wealth and income upward to the financial sector while impoverishing the middle class. (Recommended by John Taft.)
In the graveyard of economic ideology, dead ideas still stalk the land.
The recent financial crisis laid bare many of the assumptions behind market liberalism–the theory that market-based solutions are always best, regardless of the problem. For decades, their advocates dominated mainstream economics, and their influence created a system where an unthinking faith in markets led many to view speculative investments as fundamentally safe. The crisis seemed to have killed off these ideas, but they still live on in the minds of many–members of the public, commentators, politicians, economists, and even those charged with cleaning up the mess. In “Zombie Economics,” John Quiggin explains how these dead ideas still walk among us–and why we must find a way to kill them once and for all if we are to avoid an even bigger financial crisis in the future.
The ongoing assault on climate science in the United States has never been more aggressive, more blatant, or more widely publicized than in the case of the Hockey Stick graph-a clear and compelling visual presentation of scientific data, put together by Michael E. Mann and his colleagues, demonstrating that global temperatures have risen in conjunction with the increase in industrialization and the use of fossil fuels. Here was an easy-to-understand graph that, in a glance, posed a threat to major corporate energy interests and those who do their political bidding. The stakes were simply too high to ignore the Hockey Stick-and so began a relentless attack on a body of science and on the investigators whose work formed its scientific basis. The Hockey Stick achieved prominence in a 2001 UN report on climate change and quickly became a central icon in the “climate wars.” The real issue has never been the graph’s data but rather its implied threat to those who oppose governmental regulation and other restraints to protect the environment and planet.
The U.S. scientific community has long led the world in research on such areas as public health, environmental science, and issues affecting quality of life. Our scientists have produced landmark studies on the dangers of DDT, tobacco smoke, acid rain, and global warming. But at the same time, a small yet potent subset of this community leads the world in vehement denial of these dangers. Merchants of Doubt tells the story of how a loose-knit group of high-level scientists and scientific advisers, with deep connections in politics and industry, ran effective campaigns to mislead the public and deny well-established scientific knowledge over four decades. Remarkably, the same individuals surface repeatedly – some of the same figures who have claimed that the science of global warming is “not settled” denied the truth of studies linking smoking to lung cancer, coal smoke to acid rain, and CFCs to the ozone hole. “Doubt is our product,” wrote one tobacco executive. These ‘experts’ supplied it.
Forget everything you think you know about global warming. It’s not about carbon – it’s about capitalism. The good news is that we can seize this crisis to transform our failed economic system and build something radically better. Once a decade, Naomi Klein writes a book that redefines its era. No Logo did so for globalization. The Shock Doctrine changed the way we think about austerity. In This Changes Everything, her most provocative and optimistic book yet, Naomi Klein has upended the debate about the stormy era already upon us, exposing the myths that are clouding the climate debate. You have been told the market will save us, when in fact the addiction to profit and growth is digging us in deeper every day. You have been told it’s impossible to get off fossil fuels when in fact we know exactly how to do it – it just requires breaking every rule in the “free-market” playbook. You have also been told that humanity is too greedy and selfish to rise to this challenge. In fact, all around the world, the fight back is already succeeding in ways both surprising and inspiring.
Why is there more chance we’ll believe something if it’s in a bold type face? Why are judges more likely to deny parole before lunch? Why do we assume a good-looking person will be more competent? The answer lies in the two ways we make choices: fast, intuitive thinking, and slow, rational thinking. This book reveals how our minds are tripped up by error and prejudice (even when we think we are being logical), and gives you practical techniques for slower, smarter thinking. It will enable to you make better decisions at work, at home, and in everything you do.
Why do some people achieve so much more than others? Can they lie so far out of the ordinary? In this provocative and inspiring book, Malcolm Gladwell looks at everyone from rock stars to professional athletes, software billionaires to scientific geniuses, to show that the story of success is far more surprising, and far more fascinating, than we could ever have imagined. He reveals that it’s as much about where we’re from and what we do, as who we are – and that no one, not even a genius, ever makes it alone. Outliers will change the way you think about your own life story, and about what makes us all unique.
In this pathbreaking work, Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky show that, contrary to the usual image of the news media as cantankerous, obstinate, and ubiquitous in their search for truth and defense of justice, in their actual practice they defend the economic, social, and political agendas of the privileged groups that dominate domestic society, the state, and the global order. Based on a series of case studies—including the media’s dichotomous treatment of “worthy” versus “unworthy” victims, “legitimizing” and “meaningless” Third World elections, and devastating critiques of media coverage of the U.S. wars against Indochina—Herman and Chomsky draw on decades of criticism and research to propose a Propaganda Model to explain the media’s behaviour and performance.
Why do we mistrust people more in the UK than in Japan? Why do Americans have higher rates of teenage pregnancy than the French? What makes the Swedish thinner than the Australians? The answer: inequality. This ground-breaking book, based on years of research, provides hard evidence to show:
How almost everything – from life expectancy to mental illness, violence to illiteracy – is affected not by how wealthy a society is, but how equal it is
That societies with a bigger gap between rich and poor are bad for everyone in them – including the well-off
How we can find positive solutions and move towards a happier, fairer future
Urgent, provocative and genuinely uplifting, The Spirit Level has been heralded as providing a new way of thinking about ourselves and our communities, and could change the way you see the world.
Behind our democracy lurks a powerful but unaccountable network of people who wield massive power and reap huge profits in the process. In exposing this shadowy and complex system that dominates our lives, Owen Jones sets out on a journey into the heart of our Establishment, from the lobbies of Westminster to the newsrooms, boardrooms and trading rooms of Fleet Street and the City. Exposing the revolving doors that link these worlds, and the vested interests that bind them together, Jones shows how, in claiming to work on our behalf, the people at the top are doing precisely the opposite. In fact, they represent the biggest threat to our democracy today – and it is time they were challenged.
In The Courageous State, Richard Murphy argues that neoliberalism has bred weak governments led by weak politicians who believe implicitly in the supremacy of the market. It has created a cowardly state: a state that sees responsibility and then runs away from it. Worse, the weak politicians who run our cowardly state want power solely to ensure that as much tax revenue as possible is used to benefit the private sector that they idolise. But neoliberal theory is wrong – it has created the crises we’re suffering.
Book of the month Books
Our October Book of the Month is The Lure of Greatness by Anthony Barnett. In 2016 two surprising explosions of popular contempt for the existing order drove Britain into Brexit and paved the way for Trump’s presidency of the United States.
On both sides of the Atlantic, proud regimes with global pretensions were levelled by justifiable revolts. But in the name of self-government, Brexit and Trump will intensify the authoritarian traditions of their outdated political systems.
The Lure of Greatness is a blistering account of how and why this happened. The shadow of Iraq, the great financial crash, campaigns of poison and intrigue, the filleting of David Cameron with the cold fury of a Remain voter… these are just the start.
At the book’s heart is the story of the institutional and constitutional implosion of the United Kingdom, the farce of ‘the sovereignty of parliament’, a passionate account of English nationalism and the absurdity of the ever-increasing and insidious influence of the Daily Mail. What emerges is a compelling summary of an EU in crisis, the fateful absence of a viable left alternative, the normality of immigration – all of which frame the reasons for the triumph of Leave.
Anthony Barnett, co-founder of openDemocracy, applies a lifetime of observing, reporting and sedition in this searing analysis of the two great democratic disasters of our time.
Our September book of the month is Ann Pettifor’s production of money. Money makes the world go round: but what is it really? And how is it produced? Above all, who controls its production, and in whose interests? Money is never a neutral medium of exchange. Nor are bankers simply go-betweens for savers and borrowers. In this accessible, brilliantly argued book, leading political economist Ann Pettifor explains in straightforward terms history’s most misunderstood invention: the money system. Pettifor argues that democracies can reclaim control over money production and subordinate the out-of-control finance sector to the interests of society, and also the ecosystem. She also examines and assesses popular alternative debates on, and innovations in, money: positive money, helicopter money and the rise of goldbugs. She sets out the possibility of linking the money in our pockets (or on our smartphones) to the change we want to see in the world around us.
Our Book of the Month for August is a classic and strongly recommended by the Equality Trust.
The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better was published in 2009. Written by Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson, the book highlights the “pernicious effects that inequality has on societies: eroding trust, increasing anxiety and illness, (and) encouraging excessive consumption”. It shows that for each of eleven different health and social problems: physical health, mental health, drug abuse, education, imprisonment, obesity, social mobility, trust and community life, violence, teenage pregnancies, and child well-being, outcomes are significantly worse in more unequal rich countries.
As of September 2012, the book had sold more than 150,000 copies in English. It is available in 23 foreign editions.
A collection of Powerpoint slides regarding The Spirit Level can be downloaded here.
For a small contribution, the data underpinning the findings in The Spirit Level can be obtained from here.
The actual book is available here.
Progressive Pulse’s Book of the month for July is “BREXIT: What the Hell Happens Now”by Ian Dunt. Britain’s departure from the European Union is filled with propaganda and myth but the risks are very real. Brexit could lower our global status, diminish our quality of life, and throw our legal system into turmoil.
With the help of constitutional and trade experts, Ian Dunt, editor of Politics.co.uk, explains why exiting the EU is likely to:
- make the UK poorer
- leave industries like pharmaceuticals and finance struggling to operate
- threatens to break up the United Kingdom
The book deals with the trade and legal cliff edge that Britain will face unless it can secure a transitional deal with the European Union, why the odds are stacked against the UK government in its negotiations with Brussels, and how the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is not the cure to leaving the EU that the Brexiters believe.
This is the first full public exploration of Brexit, stripped of the wishful thinking of its supporters in the media and Parliament. It is the real picture of a country about to undergo a sharp and self-inflicted isolation. This book is for people who still believe in evidence and in experts.
Note that as of 31st October a 2018 update has been released link here. Hat tip to Korhomme for alerting PP.
Our June Book of the month is Debunking Economics by Steve Keen. Debunking Economics exposes what many non-economists may have suspected and a minority of economists have long known: that economic theory is not only unpalatable, but also plain wrong. When the original Debunking was published back in 2001, the market economy seemed invincible, and conventional ‘neoclassical’ economic theory basked in the limelight. Steve Keen argued that economists deserved none of the credit for the economy’s performance, and that ‘the false confidence it has engendered in the stability of the market economy has encouraged policy-makers to dismantle some of the institutions which initially evolved to try to keep its instability within limits’. That instability exploded with the devastating financial crisis of 2007, and now haunts the global economy with the prospect of another Depression. In this radically updated and greatly expanded new edition, Keen builds on his scathing critique of conventional economic theory whilst explaining what mainstream economists cannot: why the crisis occurred, why it is proving to be intractable, and what needs to be done to end it. Essential for anyone who has ever doubted the advice or reasoning of economists, Debunking Economics provides a signpost to a better future.
Our May 2017 Book of the Month is Richard Murphy’s “Dirty Secrets”. What happens when the rich are allowed to hide their money in tax havens, and what we should do about it?
The revelations from the Panama Papers show unknown levels of secret money: how the super-rich hide their wealth from the rest of us.“Dirty Secrets” uncovers the extent of the corruption behind this crisis and exposes the failures of those in power to control this rampant greed.
Tax havens are part of the global architecture of capitalism. It is claimed that they provided the freedom from regulation that was necessary to really make markets work and so we all actually gained from them. In this sense they are the ultimate expression of neoliberalism. But this argument and that philosophy has now failed. Furthermore democracy itself is being threatened by the political fall-out from the mistrust this regime has created. The result is that tax havens are now a threat to the very system that supposedly spawned it. “Dirty Secrets” is the most revelatory examination of the crisis by a leading expert, but also offers solutions on how governments can regulate havens and what the world might look like without them.