For September, the bookstore features three books, all with the same title, Capital, all getting a grade of A+ (at least for effort!). Stop in to pick up your copies today!

 

 

 

Capital, by Karl Marx, volumes 1 through 3.

One of the most notorious works of modern times, as well as one of the most influential, Capital is an incisive critique of private property and the social relations it generates. Living in exile in England, where this work was largely written, Marx drew on a wide-ranging knowledge of its society to support his analysis and create fresh insights. Arguing that capitalism would cause an ever-increasing division in wealth and welfare, he predicted its abolition and replacement by a system with common ownership of the means of production. Capital rapidly acquired readership among the leaders of social democratic parties, particularly in Russia in Germany, and ultimately throughout the world, to become a work described by Marx friend and collaborator Friedrich Engels as “the Bible of the working class.”

Karl Marx was born in 1818 in Trier, Germany and studied in Bonn and Berlin. Influenced by Hegel, he later reacted against idealist philosophy and began to develop his own theory of historical materialism. He related the state of society to its economic foundations and mode of production, and recommended armed revolution on the part of the proletariat. Together with Engels, who he met in Paris, he wrote the Manifesto of the Communist Party. He lived in England as a refugee until his death in 1888, after participating in an unsuccessful revolution in Germany. Ernst Mandel was a member of the Belgian TUV from 1954 to 1963 and was chosen for the annual Alfred Marshall Lectures by Cambridge University in 1978. He died in 1995 and the Guardian described him as ‘one of the most creative and independent-minded revolutionary Marxist thinkers of the post-war world.’

Capital in the Twenty-First Century, by Thomas Piketty

“Thomas Piketty’s book is revolutionary. It rewrites the mission of economics, discarding claims that the discipline is a super-science of human behavior or public policy. Piketty wants to return his field to what the 19th century called ‘political economy’: a discipline about power, justice, and–also, but not first–wealth…[Piketty spoils] the longstanding conventional wisdom, supported by economics Nobel winners like Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, plus lots of less controversial characters, that capitalism is democracy’s best friend…It shows a world getting radically more unequal, the return of hereditary wealth, and–at least in the U.S.–an economy so distorted that much of what happens at the very top can be fairly described as class-based looting. And he gives some fairly strong reasons to suspect that this, not the relatively open and egalitarian economies of the mid-20th century, is what capitalism looks like… Reading it is like talking to a smart person who knows you’re smart and knows, too, that you’re not an economist…We’ve been spun a story: mainstream economics for the last 60-odd years has succored a complacent folk tale, albeit with lots of mathematical sophistication tacked on. Except for some discernible ‘market failures,’ it told us that all was for the best in this best of worlds. What you earn must be what you are contributing; otherwise, the market would step in to restore efficiency…Piketty reveals that these just-so stories have veiled urgent and inflammatory problems: capitalism produces self-accelerating inequality that corrupts both politics and culture and splits society into privileged rent collectors and everyone else, who must choose either to get halfway rich ministering to capital or to stay on the low end of the pole doing the humanly necessary work of teaching, nursing, keeping the utility wires humming, and so forth. Piketty’s multi-century portrait of wealth and income obliterates economists’ complacent narratives…Yet the period of shared growth in the mid-20th century was not just the aftermath of war and depression. It was also the apex of organized labor’s power in Europe and North America, the fruit of many decades of organizing, not a little of it bloody, not a little under the flag of democratic socialism. Various crises cleared the ground, but the demands of labor, and an organized left more generally, were integral to building the comparatively egalitarian, high-wage world that came after the wars, with its strong public sector, self-assertive workers, and halfway tamed capital. There’s a lesson we can learn here about what we might do to combat inequality, and how…Piketty shows that capitalism’s attractive moral claims–that it can make everyone better off while respecting their freedom–deserve much less respect under our increasingly “pure” markets than in the mixed economies that dominated the North Atlantic countries in the mid-20th century…We are still seeking an economy that is both vibrant and humane, where mutual advantage is real and mutual aid possible. The one we have isn’t it.” (Jedediah Purdy Los Angeles Review of Books 2014-04-24)

Thomas Piketty is Professor at the Paris School of Economics.

Capital: New York, Capital of the 20th Century, by Kenneth Goldsmith

Here is a kaleidoscopic assemblage and poetic history of New York: an unparalleled and original homage to the city, composed entirely of quotations. Drawn from a huge array of sources—histories, memoirs, newspaper articles, novels, government documents, emails—and organized into interpretive categories that reveal the philosophical architecture of the city, Capital is the ne plus ultra of books on the ultimate megalopolis. It is also a book of experimental literature that transposes Walter Benjamin’s unfinished magnum opus of literary montage on the modern city, The Arcades Project, from nineteenth-century Paris to twentieth-century New York, bringing the streets and its inhabitants to life in categories such as “Sex,” “Central Park,” “Commodity,” “Loneliness,” “Gentrification,” “Advertising,” and “Mapplethorpe.” Capital is a book designed to fascinate and to fail—for can a megalopolis truly ever be captured in words? Can a history, no matter how extensive, ever be comprehensive? Each reading of this book, and of New York, is a unique and impossible project.

Kenneth Goldsmith is the founding editor of UbuWeb, teaches Poetics and Poetic Practice at the University of Pennsylvania and is Senior Editor of PennSound. He was an artist and sculptor for many years before taking up conceptual poetry. He has since published ten books of poetry and is the author of a book of essays, Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in a Digital Age.

 
 

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