The most recommended Marxian economics books

Who picked these books? Meet our 10 experts.

10 authors created a book list connected to Marxian economics, and here are their favorite Marxian economics books.
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Book cover of Reading Capital: The Complete Edition

John Milios Author Of The Origins of Capitalism as a Social System: The Prevalence of an Aleatory Encounter

From my list on Marxian economic theory.

Why am I passionate about this?

Being a Leftist, I started reading Capital as a student, back in the 1970s. I was impressed by Marx's analysis, emphasizing that capitalist relations of power appear as money generating more money, as a “thing” that functions as capital; furthermore, that credit functions as the most drastic form of money, so that the financial sphere is not a “parasitic”  appendage of the “real economy”, but a mechanism for enforcing the “rules” of the system. As Professor of Political Economy since the late 1980s, I enjoy revealing to my students the structural contradictions of the system we live in. E.g., that the standard of living of the social majority (of the wage-earners) is (labour-)‘‘cost” of capital.

John's book list on Marxian economic theory

John Milios Why did John love this book?

This book has given an important impetus to the critical discussion of Marx's work, by criticizing the mechanistic, historicist, and economistic legacy that still weighs on Marxism.

It marks a radical new beginning of the debate on Marxism and the thereof points of contention: What, in fact, is the scientific breakthrough that Marx made with his Critique of Political Economy in the field of the sciences of history and society?

In what sense does this scientific breakthrough provide indispensable foundations for a politics of overcoming the domination of capitalist mode of production in contemporary societies?

And finally: What contribution can critical philosophizing make to the development of genuinely scientific research and revolutionary politics as such, and to their assertion against all disruptions by dominant ideologies? 

By Louis Althusser, Etienne Balibar, Roger Establet , Pierre Macherey , Jacques Ranciere , David Fernbach (translator) , Ben Brewster (translator)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Originally published in 1965, Reading Capital is a landmark of French thought and radical theory, reconstructing Western Marxism from its foundations. Louis Althusser, the French Marxist philosopher, maintained that Marx's project could only be revived if its scientific and revolutionary novelty was thoroughly divested of all traces of humanism, idealism, Hegelianism and historicism. In order to complete this critical rereading, Althusser and his students at the Ecole normale superieure ran a seminar on Capital, re-examining its arguments, strengths and weaknesses in detail, and it was out of those discussions that this book was born.

Previously only available in English in…


Book cover of Intellectual and Manual Labour: A Critique of Epistemology

James Steinhoff Author Of Automation and Autonomy: Labour, Capital and Machines in the Artificial Intelligence Industry

From my list on what automation is.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an assistant professor in the School of Information and Communication Studies at University College Dublin. I’m interested in automation because discussions about it often tend towards ridiculous hyperbole or acritical boosterism. Whether it’s killer robots that terminate humanity or “ethical” AI which raises all boats, discussions about the social implications of contemporary machines often neglect to include the critical analysis of the capitalist mode of production. I don’t think the two can be studied in isolation from one another. 

James' book list on what automation is

James Steinhoff Why did James love this book?

This book provides an essential analysis of how value functions under capital—and of what value is, from a lucid historical materialist point of view now called “value-form Marxism”. It shows how “real abstractions” arise, and how abstract entities can have material force. This theoretical perspective explains how and why capital is necessarily compelled to seek increasing automaticity—and to minimize its human component.

By Alfred Sohn-Rethel, Martin Sohn-Rethel (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Intellectual and Manual Labour as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Alfred Sohn-Rethel's Intellectual and Manual Labour is one of the major texts of post-war Marxist theory. A tremendous influence on the central figures of the Frankfurt School, with ongoing relevance to current debates about value, abstraction, and domination, Sohn-Rethel's ideas are here presented at their fullest scope and with their greatest theoretical clarity.

Out of print for many years, this Historical Materialism edition contains a new introduction by Chris O'Kane, an afterword by Chris Arthur, and a compilation of the responses to Intellectual and Manual Labour published in the Italian journal Lotta Continua, including a substantial article by Antonio Negri.


Book cover of Henryk Grossman and the Recovery of Marxism

Michael Roberts Author Of The Long Depression: Marxism and the Global Crisis of Capitalism

From my list on love and capitalism.

Why am I passionate about this?

Marxian Economics and its relevance to a better world and socialism has been my passion since I became an adult. My expertise in this subject, such as it is, has been sharpened by the study of Marx and Engels’ great works, but also by the efforts of so many others since; some of whom are included in my five best books. But above all, it is the knowledge that in this world of nearly 8 billion people, most do not have a happy and fulfilling life but face daily toil and struggle to live (and die). Humanity has the power and technology to do better; we just need to organise our social and governmental structures to achieve it.

Michael's book list on love and capitalism

Michael Roberts Why did Michael love this book?

Rick Kuhn’s book brings to our attention the ideas of the most important Marxist economist of the 20th century, previously forgotten and ignored. A Polish Jew and Communist, Grossman revives Marx’s economic theory in a clear fashion after the misunderstandings and distortions of Marx’s epigones. Grossman’s ideas, written in the 1920s and 1930s, are still relevant 100 years later.

By Rick Kuhn,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Henryk Grossman and the Recovery of Marxism as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Rick Kuhn's Henryk Grossman and the Recovery of Marxism is the definitive study of the life and work of this renowned economist, activist, and intellectual. As a young man, Grossman joined the socialist movement and participated in Jewish workers' strikes and demonstrations, as well as in boycotts against employers and the Austro-Hungarian state. He moved to Vienna, but was driven back to Poland by the Austrian state's racist citizenship policies. A member of the illegal Polish Communist Party, Grossman was frequently arrested and jailed, finally leaving Poland for a post at the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt am Main,…


Book cover of On the Reproduction of Capitalism: Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses

J. Moufawad-Paul Author Of Austerity Apparatus

From my list on the state and state repression.

Why am I passionate about this?

One of my long-standing interests, as a political philosopher, has been to examine the deployment of state power and the state forms (what I call states of affairs) the capitalist mode of production takes in order to preserve its economic order. Since I completed my doctorate, which was on the articulation of settler-colonial power in relationship to remaining settler states, I have largely been invested in thinking politics: how dominant politics maintain the current order, how counter-hegemonic politics disrupt this order. 

J.'s book list on the state and state repression

J. Moufawad-Paul Why did J. love this book?

Althusser’s (in)famous article “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses” was the result of copy and paste edits from this much longer manuscript. An extended philosophical investigation on how the capitalist mode of production’s duration over time requires a state formation, Althusser eventually ends up elaborating on Gramsci’s conception of hegemony so as to theorize the state machine according to “repressive” and “ideological” apparatuses. The former apparatuses concern the state’s coercive aspect; the latter apparatus concerns its aspect of “consent,” i.e. the promulgation of ideological norms. Although I go back and forth on my assessment of Althusser’s philosophical project as a whole, his work continues to challenge me and has marked the way I understand philosophy as, to quote Althusser from elsewhere, “class struggle in the terrain of theory.”

By Louis Althusser,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Louis Althusser's renowned short text 'Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses' radically transformed the concept of the subject, the understanding of the state and even the very frameworks of cultural, political and literary theory. The text has influenced thinkers such as Judith Butler, Ernesto Laclau and Slavoj i ek.

The piece is, in fact, an extract from a much longer book, On the Reproduction of Capitalism, until now unavailable in English. Its publication makes possible a reappraisal of seminal Althusserian texts already available in English, their place in Althusser's oeuvre and the relevance of his ideas for contemporary theory. On the…


Book cover of A People's Guide to Capitalism: An Introduction to Marxist Economics

Michael Roberts Author Of The Long Depression: Marxism and the Global Crisis of Capitalism

From my list on love and capitalism.

Why am I passionate about this?

Marxian Economics and its relevance to a better world and socialism has been my passion since I became an adult. My expertise in this subject, such as it is, has been sharpened by the study of Marx and Engels’ great works, but also by the efforts of so many others since; some of whom are included in my five best books. But above all, it is the knowledge that in this world of nearly 8 billion people, most do not have a happy and fulfilling life but face daily toil and struggle to live (and die). Humanity has the power and technology to do better; we just need to organise our social and governmental structures to achieve it.

Michael's book list on love and capitalism

Michael Roberts Why did Michael love this book?

A People’s Guide is just a lively, accessible, and up-to-date guide to the basics of capitalism. Hadas Thier explains complex ideas in a simple and engaging way with excellent day-to-day examples. It’s economics for those who want to understand and dismantle the world of the 1%. And it’s written not from an academic but from an activist viewpoint.

By Hadas Thier,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A People's Guide to Capitalism as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Economists regularly promote Capitalism as the greatest system ever to grace the planet. With the same breath, they implore us to leave the job of understanding the magical powers of the market to the "experts."

Despite the efforts of these mainstream commentators to convince us otherwise, many of us have begun to question why this system has produced such vast inequality and wanton disregard for its own environmental destruction. This book offers answers to exactly these questions on their own terms: in the form of a radical economic theory.


Book cover of Rupturing The Dialectic: The Struggle Against Work, Money, and Financialization

Anitra Nelson Author Of Beyond Money: A Postcapitalist Strategy

From my list on anti-capitalist struggles for a postcapitalism.

Why am I passionate about this?

I don’t think of myself as a dreamer but, rather, a hard-headed activist scholar. Globally, most of us live under the domination of production for trade. We have ceded co-governance of production—collectively deciding what we produce, how we produce it, and for whom—to the abstract logic of markets operated via money. We face two great challenges reproduced by capitalism—growing socio-political inequities and ecological unsustainability. So, I argue that we must replace monetary values and operating systems with ‘real’, social and ecological, values and production for demand, for the basic needs of humans and the planet. Postcapitalism means moving beyond money to realize our self-value and emancipation. 

Anitra's book list on anti-capitalist struggles for a postcapitalism

Anitra Nelson Why did Anitra love this book?

Cleaver by name, cleaver by nature? Certainly, as an analyst following in Marx’s footsteps, Harry Cleaver resembles a nimble knife aspiring to a heavy-duty hatchet.

His ideas are impressive but make easy reading. So much so, he has attracted a great following since the publication of his now classic work Reading Capital Politically (1979). Rupturing the Dialectic (2017) is one of Cleaver’s most recent books. In three parts, he sings the praises of Marx’s work-oriented concept of ‘value’, delves into ‘decoding’ the financial sphere that currently mires us, and argues that "getting rid of money and markets entirely is not only a necessary condition for getting rid of capitalism but also desirable in its own right."

Observe the cleaver in action!

By Harry Cleaver,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Rupturing the Dialectic rejects the quietism inherent in all economistic approaches to the current crises within capitalism, and furnishes working people with a clear, concrete, sensible program for how to move forward. This is a fine book, and it is one from which activists will greatly benefit." —David Sherman, author of Sartre and Adorno

"Cleaver's theory of the value of labor to capital, explanation of money as a critical mediator of class conflicts, and discussion of strategies for resistance and transformation are remarkable. Rupturing the Dialectic offers emancipating ways to understand everyday life and financial crises in capitalism today." —Anitra…


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

Peter Hudis Author Of Marx's Concept of the Alternative to Capitalism

From my list on envisioning 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.

Peter's book list on envisioning alternatives to capitalism

Peter Hudis Why did Peter 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…


Book cover of Essays on Marx's Theory of Value

John Milios Author Of The Origins of Capitalism as a Social System: The Prevalence of an Aleatory Encounter

From my list on Marxian economic theory.

Why am I passionate about this?

Being a Leftist, I started reading Capital as a student, back in the 1970s. I was impressed by Marx's analysis, emphasizing that capitalist relations of power appear as money generating more money, as a “thing” that functions as capital; furthermore, that credit functions as the most drastic form of money, so that the financial sphere is not a “parasitic”  appendage of the “real economy”, but a mechanism for enforcing the “rules” of the system. As Professor of Political Economy since the late 1980s, I enjoy revealing to my students the structural contradictions of the system we live in. E.g., that the standard of living of the social majority (of the wage-earners) is (labour-)‘‘cost” of capital.

John's book list on Marxian economic theory

John Milios Why did John love this book?

The book emphasizes the importance of Marxs theory of value.

Rubin argues that Marx's mature economic writings provide an understanding of how labor is determined and limited by capitalist social relations, which appear as objective structures, that are being reified in the money existence of commodities.

The author further argues that the notion of simple commodity production does not characterize human societies since antiquity, as it is often argued by both Marxists and critics of Marx.

In Marxs analysis, it constitutes the outer husk of the capitalist economy. Value and money are concepts which cannot be defined independently of the notion of capital.

They contain (and are also contained in) the concept of capital.

By Isaak Illich Rubin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Essays on Marx's Theory of Value as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Isaak Illich Rubin (12 June 1886, Dinaburg, now Latvia – 27 November 1937, Aktobe, now Kazakhstan) was a Soviet Marxian economist. His main work Essays on Marx's Theory of Value was published in 1924. He was executed in 1937 during the course of the Great Purge, but his ideas have since been rehabilitated.

Rubin's main work emphasised the importance of Marx's theory of commodity fetishism in the labor theory of value. Against those who counterposed Marx's early interest in alienation with his later economic theory, Rubin argued that Marx's mature economic work represented the culmination of his lifetime project to…


Book cover of An Introduction to the Three Volumes of Karl Marx's Capital

John Milios Author Of The Origins of Capitalism as a Social System: The Prevalence of an Aleatory Encounter

From my list on Marxian economic theory.

Why am I passionate about this?

Being a Leftist, I started reading Capital as a student, back in the 1970s. I was impressed by Marx's analysis, emphasizing that capitalist relations of power appear as money generating more money, as a “thing” that functions as capital; furthermore, that credit functions as the most drastic form of money, so that the financial sphere is not a “parasitic”  appendage of the “real economy”, but a mechanism for enforcing the “rules” of the system. As Professor of Political Economy since the late 1980s, I enjoy revealing to my students the structural contradictions of the system we live in. E.g., that the standard of living of the social majority (of the wage-earners) is (labour-)‘‘cost” of capital.

John's book list on Marxian economic theory

John Milios Why did John love this book?

In a vivid and comprehensible way, Heinrich outlines the historical, economic, and social conditions for the emergence of Marxs theory, the Critique of Political Economy.

He addresses its methodological foundations, and introduces the most important terms and concepts.

What actually is capitalism, and what is Marxs dialectic all about? How is surplus value created? What is fetishism, and how does it relate to politics and the state?

Beyond that, Heinrich also asks about the topicality of Marxs thought and the possibility of a society beyond the commodity form.

By Michael Heinrich, Alex Locascio (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked An Introduction to the Three Volumes of Karl Marx's Capital as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The global economic crisis and recession that began in 2008 had at least one unexpected outcome: a surge in sales of Karl Marx's Capital. Although mainstream economists and commentators once dismissed Marx's work as outmoded and flawed, some are begrudgingly acknowledging an analysis that sees capitalism as inherently unstable. And of course, there are those, like Michael Heinrich, who have seen the value of Marx all along, and are in a unique position to explain the intricacies of Marx's thought.

Heinrich's modern interpretation of Capital is now available to English-speaking readers for the first time. It has gone through nine…


Book cover of Mute Compulsion: A Marxist Theory of the Economic Power of Capital

Drew Pendergrass Author Of Half-Earth Socialism: A Plan to Save the Future from Extinction, Climate Change and Pandemics

From my list on environmental crisis and how to solve it.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a climate scientist at Harvard and an environmental activist. In my day job, I use satellite, aircraft, and surface observations of the environment to correct supercomputer models of the atmosphere. What I’ve learned has made me feel that I can’t just stay in the lab—I need to get out in the world and fight for a future that’s just and ecologically stable for everyone. My writing and activism imagines how humanity can democratically govern itself in an age of environmental crisis.

Drew's book list on environmental crisis and how to solve it

Drew Pendergrass Why did Drew love this book?

This is the book I wish I could have given my younger self when I first noticed that the ecological world around me was deteriorating. Species were going extinct as the world heated up. In my education as a scientist, I learned that the physical causes of the environmental crisis are simple (burning fossil fuels, converting land to pasture, and so on), but no one seemed to have the power to do anything to fix it.

In this book, Mau brilliantly shows why we feel so unable to change the world. Everyone, including CEOs, are constrained by capitalism. People might personally care about the environment, but if the money doesn’t work out, they are forced to act otherwise. This isn’t an exclusively environmental book, but it offers a powerful perspective on the forces behind the crisis.

By Soren Mau,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Despite insoluble contradictions, intense volatility and fierce resistance, the crisis-ridden capitalism of the 21st century lingers on. To understand capital's paradoxical expansion and entrenchment amidst crisis and unrest, Mute Compulsionoffers a novel theory of the historically unique forms of abstract and impersonal power set in motion by the subjection of social life to the profit imperative. Building on a critical reconstruction of Karl Marx's unfinished critique of political economy and a wide range of contemporary Marxist theory, philosopher Soren Mau sets out to explain how the logic of capital tightens its stranglehold on the life of society by constantly remoulding…