The best books on capitalism and the crisis of life on earth

The Books I Picked & Why

Technics and Human Development: The Myth of the Machine, Vol. I

By Lewis Mumford

Technics and Human Development: The Myth of the Machine, Vol. I

Why this book?

Mumford’s classic describes the emergence of hierarchical power systems that subjugate both humans and the more-than-human nature, from ancient Egypt to modern capitalism and the “Pentagon of Power”. The book takes on the technocratic worldview, inherent in modern capitalism, with a huge scope of knowledge and remarkable detail, combined with Mumford’s deep humanism. Mumford also coined the term “Megamachine” to which I refer in my own book.


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The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

By Naomi Klein

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

Why this book?

In this breathtaking and extremely well-researched bestseller, Naomi Klein shows how political and economic elites utilized and manufactured crises in dozens of countries around the globe since the 1950s in order to push through an extreme capitalist agenda, ranging from regime change operations of the CIA and the US military to pretended “disaster relief” programs in the wake of natural catastrophes. An indispensable insight into the dirty reality of global capitalism and the collusion of states and big corporations.


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Debt: The First 5,000 Years

By David Graeber

Debt: The First 5,000 Years

Why this book?

David Graeber brings to light the close interconnection between the money economy, slavery, and militarism, from antiquity to the modern era. Contrary to the widely held belief that money is just a useful and neutral means of exchange, Graeber shows that it came into use in order to pay mercenaries, loot other countries, and capture slaves who in turn worked in the silver mines to produce more money – a circle of debt and violence that was also at the heart of early capitalism and the colonial machine. With money and debt still ruling the world today and driving it into ecological collapse, Graeber – who died much too early in 2020 – left us an essential key to the understanding of our era and possible ways out.


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The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time

By Karl Polanyi

The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time

Why this book?

In this classical work, the economic historian Karl Polanyi explores the dialectics between the commodification of nature and the human workforce on the one hand and the reactions of society on the other, dynamics which eventually led into the abyss of nationalism, fascism, and the two world wars. Polanyi points out that labor markets have not emerged in a quasi-natural manner, but were manufactured by state violence, as in the case of the British New Poor Law in the 19th century, a law that threatened workers with starvation in order to force them to accept wage labor even under horrible conditions. Turning humans in such a way into disposable commodities for production and profit destroys, according to Polanyi, the fabric of society. Nationalism and fascism can be understood as ideologies that capitalize on the traumatization and atomization of society and promise the re-creation of a community. A truly topical work for our world today.


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Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation

By Silvia Federici

Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation

Why this book?

Federici’s seminal book tells the story of the enclosure of the commons, starting in England in the 16th century, which laid the ground for the commodification of nature and the formation of capitalism, and links it to the demonization of women in the witch-hunts of the same period. It is a story of domination, colonialism, and resistance that helps us to understand and exit a destructive historical system.


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