The best books on money and capitalism from a critical political economist

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Canadian political economist working in Australia as an Associate Professor in International Relations and Political Economy at the University of Wollongong, just south of Sydney. I’ve been fascinated by the history of capitalism and money since post-graduate school. Eventually I had some time to do a deep dive into the existing scholarly literature on money and have so far written two books on the topic and multiple articles. I hope you enjoy my book recommendations as much as I enjoyed reading them.   

I wrote...

An Anthropology of Money: A Critical Introduction

By Tim Di Muzio, Richard H. Robbins,

Book cover of An Anthropology of Money: A Critical Introduction

What is my book about?

An Anthropology of Money is an excellent introductory book for those interested in money and capitalism.  The book opens by canvassing the major literature across the social sciences on money. In this way it offers a comprehensive overview of the scholarly literature on money’s history and creation. The book shows how our present monetary system was imposed by elites. In other words, the present monetary system is inherently historical and political. Moreover, we show how the modern money system requires perpetual growth, an increase in inequality, environmental devastation, and increasing commodification. These are not intrinsic features of money, but rather, of debt-money created by commercial banks when they make loans. Finally, we discuss insightful alternatives to credit creation by commercial banks. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Making Money: Coin, Currency, and the Coming of Capitalism

Tim Di Muzio Why did I love this book?

I really loved this book!

Desan’s work filled multiple gaps in my knowledge regarding the historical circumstances that contributed to modern money.

In my view, it is the best and most comprehensive book for anyone who wants to know how we arrived at current monetary arrangements. The research and writing are masterful, comprehensive, and there are many ‘oh my, I didn’t know that’ moments. 

A real eye-opener and an essential read for anyone interested in money, finance, and the emergence of capitalism.

Easily the best and most authoritative book since Dickson’s The Financial Revolution In England – a must-read!

By Christine Desan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Making Money as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Money travels the modern world in disguise. It looks like a convention of human exchange - a commodity like gold or a medium like language. But its history reveals that money is a very different matter. It is an institution engineered by political communities to mark and mobilize resources. As societies change the way they create money, they change the market itself - along with the rules that structure it, the politics and ideas that shape it, and the benefits that
flow from it.
One particularly dramatic transformation in money's design brought capitalism to England. For centuries, the English government…

Book cover of The Currency of Empire: Money and Power in Seventeenth-Century English America

Tim Di Muzio Why did I love this book?

I would argue that the history of capitalism is also the history of money.  You can’t understand one without the other. 

The Currency of Empire is masterfully written and researched.

Why I loved this book so much is not only because it filled many gaps in my knowledge of the history of money in the United States, but also that it has a keen focus on political power and the different interests among the colonists and England. 

If you want to understand how money and monetary systems are created within relations of power this book is essential for you. Another must-read that should not be missed.

By Jonathan Barth,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Currency of Empire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In The Currency of Empire, Jonathan Barth explores the intersection of money and power in the early years of North American history, and he shows how the control of money informed English imperial action overseas.

The export-oriented mercantile economy promoted by the English Crown, Barth argues, directed the plan for colonization, the regulation of colonial commerce, and the politics of empire. The imperial project required an orderly flow of gold and silver, and thus England's colonial regime required stringent monetary regulation. As Barth shows, money was also a flash point for resistance; many colonists acutely resented their subordinate economic station,…

Book cover of War and Gold: A Five-Hundred-Year History of Empires, Adventures, and Debt

Tim Di Muzio Why did I love this book?

Gold has fascinated humanity for a considerable swathe of history, and it continues to do so today.

I saw this book online and immediately had to get it. I already knew that the creation of modern money as debt was fundamentally rooted in war and geopolitics, but I did not know the extensive history of how gold and war were interconnected over 500 years. 

I think that this is a captivating study for anyone who is interested in the links between war, gold, and geopolitical capitalism. 

A fascinating and essential read for explaining how we arrived at where we are today. 

By Kwasi Kwarteng,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked War and Gold as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The world was wild for gold. After discovering the Americas, and under pressure to defend their vast dominion, the Habsburgs of Spain promoted gold and silver exploration in the New World with ruthless urgency. But, the great influx of wealth brought home by plundering conquistadors couldn't compensate for the Spanish government's extraordinary military spending, which would eventually bankrupt the country multiple times over and lead to the demise of the great empire. Gold became synonymous with financial dependability, and following the devastating chaos of World War I, the gold standard came to express the order of the free market system.…

Book cover of The Nature of Money

Tim Di Muzio Why did I love this book?

This book was a real eye-opener and can be considered seminal across the social sciences for its breadth and depth of analysis on money. 

I loved this book because it filled so many gaps in my knowledge. I was drawn to it because I once asked my professor how new money was generated and he said he knew but he forgot. 

This made me think that money might not be all that important to understanding capitalism. Alas, I was dead wrong of course and returned to my question years later.

That’s how I found Professor Ingham’s book. I still have comprehensive notes from his work and consult them regularly. 

This book is essential for anyone who wants to understand the past and present of money. 

By Geoffrey Ingham,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Nature of Money as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this important new book, Geoffrey Ingham draws on neglected traditions in the social sciences to develop a theory of the 'social relation' of money. * Genuinely multidisciplinary approach, based on a thorough knowledge of theories of money in the social sciences * An original development of the neglected heterodox theories of money * New histories of the origins and development of forms of money and their social relations of production in different monetary systems * A radical interpretation of capitalism as a particular type of monetary system and the first sociological outline of the institutional structure of the social…

Book cover of The Grip of Death: A Study of Modern Money, Debt Slavery and Destructive Economics

Tim Di Muzio Why did I love this book?

I love this book because it was a real eye-opener on par with Ingham’s work. 

I discovered the book when I was researching my book with Richard Robbins. In my view it is a foundational book that should be read by all those interested in money, debt, and capitalism. 

I really like Rowbotham’s analysis and cutting critique of the current monetary system. He begins the book by asking: if virtually every nation in the world is in debt, who is the money owed to? 

From there the adventure begins as he unravels how modern money is created. If you thought that when you borrowed from a bank you were borrowing the money of other depositors, think again! 

A wonderful read that will get you thinking about alternatives to a capitalism founded on debt money. 

By Michael Rowbotham,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Grip of Death as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A lucid and original account of where money comes from and why most people and businesses are so heavily in debt. It explodes more myths than any other book this century, yet it's all about subjects very close to home: mortgages, building societies and banks, agriculture, transport, global poverty, and what's on the supermarket shelf. The author proposes a new mechanism for the supply of money, creating a supportive financial environment and a decreasing reliance on debt.

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Traumatization and Its Aftermath: A Systemic Approach to Understanding and Treating Trauma Disorders

By Antonieta Contreras,

Book cover of Traumatization and Its Aftermath: A Systemic Approach to Understanding and Treating Trauma Disorders

Antonieta Contreras Author Of Traumatization and Its Aftermath: A Systemic Approach to Understanding and Treating Trauma Disorders

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

As a trauma therapist and dedicated researcher, I love uncovering valuable insights within lesser-known books. There are hidden gems, free from the pressure of commercial success, crafted by authors deeply committed to research, understanding, and the art of writing itself. Their dedication resonates with me, as I believe in the profound value of information and the power of critical thinking. Through my own book, Traumatization and Its Aftermath, I aim to emphasize that psychological concepts often lose their depth in translation and my mission is spreading awareness and fostering a deeper understanding of trauma and its intricate facets. With that idea in mind, I chose these five titles. 

Antonieta's book list on uncovering the human experience and exploring the depths of trauma

What is my book about?

A fresh take on the difference between trauma and hardship in order to help accurately spot the difference and avoid over-generalizations.

The book integrates the latest findings in brain science, child development, psycho-social context, theory, and clinical experiences to make the case that trauma is much more than a cluster of symptoms to be tamed, but instead best understood as development gone off course, away from growth and towards (only) survival.

This book prompts a profound shift in perception, inviting to view trauma as an intricate and diverse experience, a point of view that ultimately leads to sharper treatment and, hopefully, more healing. It encourages a transition from asking, "What happened to you?" to the deeper question, "What is your relationship with what happened to you?"

Traumatization and Its Aftermath: A Systemic Approach to Understanding and Treating Trauma Disorders

By Antonieta Contreras,

What is this book about?

The book is comprehensive, bold, and practical-a much-needed resource for the assessment and treatment of trauma. Instead of the traditional focus on the overall importance of healing, Traumatization and its Aftermath decodes why some people don't heal as easily as others, analyzes the various failures of diagnosis, and explains how to make therapeutic interventions truly effective.

This book offers a systemic deep dive into traumatization that clarifies myths and misinformation about the entire spectrum of trauma and provides both clinicians and non-clinicians with the right level of validation, preventive measures, conceptualization methodology, assessment tools, and healing facts that have not…

5 book lists we think you will like!

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