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Capital as Power: A Study of Order and Creorder [Paperback]

Jonathan Nitzan , Shimshon Bichler

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Book Description

June 15 2009 0415496802 978-0415496803 1

Conventional theories of capitalism are mired in a deep crisis: after centuries of debate, they are still unable to tell us what capital is. Liberals and Marxists both think of capital as an ‘economic’ entity that they count in universal units of ‘utils’ or ‘abstract labour’, respectively. But these units are totally fictitious. Nobody has ever been able to observe or measure them, and for a good reason: they don’t exist. Since liberalism and Marxism depend on these non-existing units, their theories hang in suspension. They cannot explain the process that matters most – the accumulation of capital.

This book offers a radical alternative. According to the authors, capital is not a narrow economic entity, but a symbolic quantification of power. It has little to do with utility or abstract labour, and it extends far beyond machines and production lines. Capital, the authors claim, represents the organized power of dominant capital groups to reshape – or creorder – their society.

Written in simple language, accessible to lay readers and experts alike, the book develops a novel political economy. It takes the reader through the history, assumptions and limitations of mainstream economics and its associated theories of politics. It examines the evolution of Marxist thinking on accumulation and the state. And it articulates an innovative theory of ‘capital as power’ and a new history of the ‘capitalist mode of power’.

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"In Capital as Power Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler address one of the oldest theoretical conundrums in the discipline of political economy -- the theory of capital -- with a view to supplying a more satisfactory answer to the question 'what is capital?' While the work clearly fits into the tradition of radical political economy it is not easy to place it in any one school, and this for very good reason: Nitzan and Bichler are trying to create a new approach to political economy." - Brennan, Jordan. 2009. Review of "Capital as Power: A Study of Order and Creorder." Canadian Journal of Political Science 42 (4, December): 1057-1058

"Capitalism is the 'natural reality' of the day: we live in and with its beauty and perplexities. As of now, we seem to be helpless before its gigantic leap forward and submit ourselves to its power. The rules by which we abide, the morals we keep and the very life we love to cherish all sprout up, engage, adjust, fight in and with the different manifestations of capitalism, and owe much debt to its intricate legacies. But do we know what capitalism really is? And how do we know that what we know of capitalism is accurate? This book brilliantly examines and rigorously analyses these very old questions of political economy and the theoretical attempts to define capitalism in its political, social and philosophical sense, situating them in the classical political economy of the 18th and 19th centuries." - Vineeth Mathoor, Review of Nitzan and Bichler's "Capital as Power" By Capital & Class, 2011, Vol. 35, No. 2 (June), pp. 337-340.

About the Author

Jonathan Nitzan teaches political economy at York University in Toronto.

Shimshon Bichler teaches political economy at colleges and universities in Israel.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for those wishing to "see" our point in the flow of history as if for the first time Feb. 1 2010
By D. Rawlence - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
My review title may be a bit over the top, but I truly believe that this work by Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler is a step completely "out of the box" - a total sidestep of the academic impasse of "mainstream" vs Marxist economics and a genuinely new view on the economic and political nature of our world. I don't suggest that this is the only thing one needs to read to start to put present times into perspective, but for me it has been one of the most valuable reads in a long time.

Although I'm not an economist or political scientist by profession (I'm an engineer) I was able to understand well enough from this work that neither school of economics can account correctly for how the capitalist economy actually works. However, the ability of the authors to put the current political and social state of the world into a long historical context was what made me consider this well worth the price. This they do with reference to the somewhat neglected work of Thorstein Veblen and Lewis Mumford as well as other writers not normally found in modern economics texts. On top of its solid academic and intellectual merits, this book was surprisingly entertaining to read. A funny book about economics - who would've guessed it?

For those looking to understand the world and not necessarily focused strictly on changing currents in political economy and economics, I'd personally recommend David Korten's "The Great Turning - from Empire to Earth Community" and Thomas Greco's "The End of Money and the Future of Civilization" in addition to this impressive book.

I apologise for only being able to review "Capital As Power" from the perspective of an "enthusiast" - now perhaps a specialist can provide a professional view. Such a major work deserves to be widely discussed and read and it was criminal for it not to be reviewed here. Out of respect for and appreciation of the authors I have done my best. Two thumbs up.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Provides Answers To Why The Powerful Dislike Deflation July 10 2010
By Matt Holbert - Published on
...when most of us -- whether we know it or not -- would benefit from the reset that the bailout kicked down the road. Unless you want to remain indoctrinated by a system that is completely inept at providing a quality environment for just about anything or anyone who is alive, you should read this book. Unfortunately, most of us think that the system provides freedom when in reality "[t]he Freidmanite individual may feel 'free to choose' his location in the distribution, but the distribution itself is shaped by the power institutions and organizations of capitalism." [p.160] The sooner we all recognize that most of us are "part of a collectively managed mob," the sooner we can start to make a shift to a more sane and free system.

A basic understanding of the faults of the dominant system is necessary in order to shape a world that is fair, just, and sane. This book provides that basic understanding and is highly recommended. If you can't afford the price, please search WorldCat for a nearby copy or alternatively search for the pdf of the book that the authors have made available online.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A choice passage Dec 26 2011
By kaminsky - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The analysis of inflation is a well worn
topic. You can look it up in various encyclopedias.
They usually offer a monetarist

The passage about inflation
in Bichler Nitzan looks more interesting.
page 370:
"Who are the winners and losers
in the struggle ...".

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