The best books that envision alternatives to capitalism

Why am I passionate about this?

Since before I was a teenager, I have been painfully aware of two things: the society I am living in is an extremely racist one, and capitalism fosters egotism, greed, selfishness, and a degradation of what is best in life. Ever since then I have been pursuing the goal of envisioning, and in some way advancing, an alternative to both (which in my view are related). I have suggested these five books because they have given me much inspiration for pursuing this goal, difficult as it surely is. I hope they will prove to be for you as well.

I wrote...

Book cover of Marx's Concept of the Alternative to Capitalism

What is my book about?

As against the widespread claim that Marx never directly addressed the alternative to capitalism, this book argues that he had a distinctive concept of a socialism or communism that is far more liberatory than his critics and followers have assumed. It explores the social and ethical values that grounded his critique of capitalism and how they informed his conception of a new society freed from alienated labor, value production, and class domination. In engaging Marx’s unpublished as well as published works, including his innumerable critiques of fellow socialists and communists, it shows that he projected a concept of the alternative to capitalism that transcends both statist domination and the market. It represents the first systematic, book-length study of Marx’s conception of a post-capitalist society.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Dialectics of the Concrete: A Study on Problems of Man and World

Peter Hudis Why did I love this book?

This remarkable study, first published in Czechoslovakia in 1964 and translated into English in the 1970s, is one of the most profound studies of the Hegelian and Phenomenological dimensions of Marx’s work ever written.

It argues that daily life in capitalist modernity takes the alienated form of a “world of the pseudo-concrete,” in which possibilities for self-development and purposeful creation that is integral to humanity become radically suppressed. If you want to understand why the world is not as you wish it to be, read this book.

By Karel Kosik,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dialectics of the Concrete as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Kosik writes that the history of a text is in a certain sense the history of its interpretations. In the fifteen years that have passed since the first (Czech) edition of his Dialectics of the Concrete, this book has been widely read and interpreted throughout Europe, in diverse centers of scholarship as well as in private studies. A faithful English language edition is long overdue. This publication of KosIk's work will surely provoke a range of new interpretations. For its theme is the characterization of science and of rationality in the context of the social roots of science and the…

Book cover of Black Skin, White Masks

Peter Hudis Why did I love this book?

This classic study, first published in French in 1952, is one of the most important philosophical discussions of the problem of race and racism ever written.

Drawing from an array of sources in economics, history, psychology, politics, philosophy, and literature, Fanon delineates how race is an arbitrary social construction that takes on a life of its own and distorts the very being of what it means to be human. It focuses on the battle for recognition by those subjected to racial discrimination and elucidates how such anti-racist struggles can help bring forth a “New Humanism” that transcends the dehumanization that defines European and American society.

By Frantz Fanon, Richard Philcox (translator),

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Black Skin, White Masks as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Few modern voices have had as profound an impact on the black identity and critical race theory as Frantz Fanon, and Black Skin, White Masks  represents some of his most important work. Fanon’s masterwork is now available in a new translation that updates its language for a new generation of readers.
A major influence on civil rights, anti-colonial, and black consciousness movements around the world, Black Skin, White Masks is the unsurpassed study of the black psyche in a white world. Hailed for its scientific analysis and poetic grace when it was first published in 1952, the book remains a…

Book cover of Rosa Luxemburg, Women's Liberation, and Marx's Philosophy of Revolution

Peter Hudis Why did I love this book?

This wide-ranging work, first published in 1981, has three outstanding features:

It consists of one of the most sensitive explorations of Rosa Luxemburg, showing that her work as a fervent advocate of socialism and democracy had a feminist dimension.

It connects Marx’s critique of alienation and dehumanized social relations to the perspectives and demands of modern feminism.

It also contained the first detailed discussion in English of Marx’s last decade (1872-83), when he turned to a study of Indigenous peoples in the Americas as well as communal formations in Russia, Asia, and Africa in searching for pathways to socialism that could by-pass the horrors of capitalist industrialization.

It argues that Marx’s critique of capital went further than economics in being part and parcel of the development of a philosophy of revolution.

By Raya Dunayevskaya,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Rosa Luxemburg, Women's Liberation, and Marx's Philosophy of Revolution as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this important and wide-ranging critique of Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) Raya Dunayevskaya examines the life, political thought, and action of one of the most critical revolutionary figures of our time. Dunayevskaya sheds new light on the questions of socialist democracy after the revolution, disclosing both the unprobed feminist dimension of Rosa Luxemburg and the previously unrecognized new moments in Marx's last decade concerning the role of women and the peasantry. As the founder of Marxist-Humanism in the United States, Dunayevskaya (1910-87) was an internationally respected writer, philosopher, and revolutionary. This new and expanded edition includes two previously unpublished articles by…

Book cover of Marx at the Margins: On Nationalism, Ethnicity, and Non-Western Societies

Peter Hudis Why did I love this book?

This book, published in 2010, focuses on a much-neglected dimension of Marx’s work—his writings in defense of anti-colonial movements in Ireland, India, China, and elsewhere as well as his support for anti-racist movements in the U.S.

In contrast to claims that Marx was a class reductionist whose body of thought was incapable of accounting for issues of race and ethnicity, this work shows how he overcome many of the Eurocentric biases found in his earliest writings as he engaged in a systematic study of the non-Western world in the last decades of his life.

This a book that will change your view of what Marx was about from top to bottom.

By Kevin B. Anderson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Marx at the Margins as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Marx at the Margins, Kevin Anderson uncovers a variety of extensive but neglected texts by Marx that cast what we thought we knew about his work in a startlingly different light. Analyzing a variety of Marx's writings, including journalistic work written for the New York Tribune, Anderson presents us with a Marx quite at odds with conventional interpretations. Rather than providing us with an account of Marx as an exclusively class-based thinker, Anderson here offers a portrait of Marx for the twenty-first century: a global theorist whose social critique was sensitive to the varieties of human social and historical…

Book cover of Marx in the Anthropocene: Towards the Idea of Degrowth Communism

Peter Hudis Why did I love this book?

This new book (published in 2022) is one of the most important contributions to the ever-growing body of literature on the ecological crisis that has appeared to date.

It argues that the destruction of the natural environment is inseparable from the growth dynamic that defines capitalism’s hunger to increase economic value, money, and profit as end in itself. Breaking totally new ground, it argues that Marx’s writings on how capitalism degrades the metabolic interaction between labor and the environment illuminates the exact process we are living through today.

As against the standard narrative that Marx viewed the development of the productive forces as providing the material basis for freedom, it shows that Marx came to embrace the need to de-grow the economy in order to ensure social progress.

By Kohei Saito,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Marx in the Anthropocene as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Facing global climate crisis, Karl Marx's ecological critique of capitalism more clearly demonstrates its importance than ever. This book explains why Marx's ecology had to be marginalized and even suppressed by Marxists after his death throughout the twentieth century. Marx's ecological critique of capitalism, however, revives in the Anthropocene against dominant productivism and monism. Investigating new materials published in the complete works of Marx and Engels (Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe), Saito offers a wholly novel idea of Marx's alternative to capitalism that should be adequately characterized as degrowth communism. This provocative interpretation of the late Marx sheds new lights on the recent debates…

You might also like...

Evil Alice and the Borzoi

By DK Coutant,

Book cover of Evil Alice and the Borzoi

DK Coutant Author Of Evil Alice and the Borzoi

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Professor Cross Cultural Psychologist Dog Lover Traveler Reader

DK's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Cleo Cooper, a cross-cultural psychology professor, is living the dream on the Big Island of Hawaii. With ocean-dipping weekends, she enjoys her dog, her job, and her boyfriend Ben - until the day she’s on a research vessel and a dead body is caught in the dragline.

The police determine it is murder and set their sights on a gentle former student, Kai. It doesn’t take much urging from Kai’s auntie for Cleo to investigate. But Ben grows distant, and Cleo’s dog grows ill. A couple of accidental deaths later, and someone makes an attempt on her life.

What happened to Cleo’s life in paradise? Can she discover the true killer? Can she stop the killer before the killer stops her?

Evil Alice and the Borzoi

By DK Coutant,

What is this book about?

Paradise is shaken when the body of a young woman is dragged onto a university research vessel during a class outing in Hilo Bay. Cleo Cooper is shaken when she finds her favorite student is on the hook for the murder. Danger lurks on land and sea as Cleo and her friends are enticed to search for the true killer. In between paddling, swimming, and arguing with her boyfriend, Cleo discovers all is not what it seems on the Big Island of Hawaii. But will she figure out the truth before she becomes the next victim?

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Karl Marx, ethnicity, and philosophy?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Karl Marx, ethnicity, and philosophy.

Karl Marx Explore 28 books about Karl Marx
Ethnicity Explore 23 books about ethnicity
Philosophy Explore 1,579 books about philosophy