Capitalism and Its Uncertain Future  book cover
1st Edition

Capitalism and Its Uncertain Future

ISBN 9781032056043
Published October 27, 2021 by Routledge
398 Pages

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Book Description

For decades, Charles Lemert has been the leading voice in social theory. In Capitalism and its Uncertain Future he teams up with one of the most creative emerging social theorists, Kristin Plys, to examine how social theory imagines capitalism. This engaging and innovative book provides new perspectives on well known theorists from Adam Smith, and Frantz Fanon, to Gilles Deleuze, while also introducing readers to lesser known theorists such as Lucia Sanchez Saornil, Mohammad Ali El Hammi, and many more. The book examines theories of capitalism from four perspectives: macro-historical theories of the origins of capitalism; postcolonial theories of capitalism that situate capitalism as seen from the Global South; theories of capitalism from the perspective of labor; and prospective theories of capitalism’s uncertain future. This provocative and ambitious, yet accessible, perspective on theories of capitalism will be of interest to anyone who wants to explore where we’ve been and where we’re headed.

Table of Contents


Introduction: The Confusion of Capitalist Structures
1. Capital 1867/ Kristin Plys - Foundations of a Critique of Capitalist Theories                           
2. 1844 Manuscripts/ Charles Lemert - Capitalism’s Deadly Labor Process                                

I. Macro-Historical Theories of Capitalism
3. Frantz Fanon/ Immanuel Wallerstein - The Modern World and Capitalism, 1500-1991            
4. Fernand Braudel/ Andre Gunder Frank - The Modern World System: Europe or Asia?          
5. David Ricardo/ Janet Abu Lughod - Long Distance Trade and the Transition to Capitalism   
6. Friedrich Engels/ Silvia Federici - Women’s Unpaid Labor and Primitive Accumulation       
7. Robert Brenner/ Ellen Meiskins Wood - The Agrarian Origins of Capitalism                            
8. Antonio Gramsci/ Giovanni Arrighi - Finance and Capitalism                                                 
9. Henri Pirenne/ Oliver C. Cox - The City and the Foundations of Capitalism                           
10. Nikolai Kondratieff/ Ibn Khaldun - A Cyclical Theory of Empire                                              

II. Postcolonial Theories of Capitalism
11. Barrington Moore/ Claudia Jones - Postcolonial Class Analysis                                              
12. CLR James/ Walter Rodney - Capitalism’s Soft Imperialism and Global Racism                   
13. Mahatma Gandhi/ Bhagat Singh - The Role of Working Class Violence in National
14. Vladimir Lenin/ Nestor Makhno - Workers, Peasants, Anti-colonialism                                  
15. Albert Camus/ Mustapha Khayati - A Situationist Theory of Underdevelopment   
16. Kwame Ture/ WEB Du Bois/ Amílcar Cabral - Against the Colonization of Consciousness of Political Economy          
17. Mao Zedong/ Charu Mazumdar - Existential Unfolding as Revolutionary Praxis         
18. Muhammad Ali/ Ulrike Meinhoff - A Critique of Western Imperialism from Within         
19. Martin Luther King Jr./ Ho Chi Minh - Rethinking the World Revolution of 1968         
20. Dipesh Chakrabarty/ Eric Wolf - Capitalism as seen from its Peripheries           
21. Edward Said/ Frederick Jameson/ Aijaz Ahmad - Orientalism, Postmodernity and the Problem with Capitalist Culture

III. Theories of Labor and Capitalism
22. Frederick Winslow Taylor/ Harry Braverman - The Labor Process and Work Under          
23. Edna Bonacich/ Lucia Sanchez Saornil - A Trade Unionist Theory of Patriarchy          
24. Mikhail Bakunin/ Joseph Edwards - Worker Self-Management and Black Working Class Consciousness
25. Adam Smith/ Volker Froebel, Otto Kreye, and Juergen Heinrichs - Theorizing the Global Division of Labor
26. Jacques Rancière/ Mohammad Ali El Hammi - Radicalization Through Difference             
27. Karl Polanyi/ Beverly Silver - Resistance Against the Market and Struggles of Newly
Emerging Working Classes                 
28. EP Thompson/ Rajnarayan Chandavarkar - Culture, Labor, and the Global South         

IV. Capitalism’s Uncertain Future
29. Michel Foucault/ Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri - The Disciplinary Empire and the Resisting Multitude
30. CLR James/ Herbert Marcuse - Mass Media and Colonizing Violence            
31. Abhijit V. Banerjee & Esther Duflo/ Samir Amin - The Poverty of Development
32. Nancy Fraser/David Harvey – Neo-liberalism and the Madness of Economic Reason         
33. Joseph Stiglitz/ Juergen Osterhammel - The Great Economic Divide and Globalization       
34. Joseph Schumpeter/ Thomas Piketty - The Structural Failures of Capitalism           
35. Henry David Thoreau/ William Nordhaus - Capitalism and the Environmental Crisis          
36. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak/ Zygmunt Bauman - Wasted and Silenced Lives in the Capitalist Order
37. Slavoj Žižek/ Noam Chomsky - Left Extremes: Authoritarians v. Libertines           
38. Félix Guattari and Gilles Deleuze/ Manuel Delanda – Assemblage Theory: The New Necessary Analytics of Global Capitalism                  

V. Exploitation and Exclusion: Capitalism’s Terminal Crisis
39. The Dar Es Salaam School/ Kristin Plys - Exploitative Capitalism in the Global South        
40. Giorgio Agamben and Achille Mbembe /Charles Lemert - Capitalism’s Zones of Exclusion and Necropolitics                             


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Kristin Plys’s research sits at the intersection of political economy, postcolonial theory, labor and labor movements, historical sociology, and global area studies. The greater part of her intellectual work analyzes the historical trajectory of global capitalism as seen from working class and anti-colonial movements in the Global South. This research program has led her to take a particular interest in Marxist political economy, social protest against authoritarianism in the 1970s Global South, avant-garde visual art as left politics in the Global South, labor history and histories of café culture, and historical method. She works in multiple languages including Hindi, Urdu, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Punjabi.

Kristin’s first book, Brewing Resistance: Indian Coffee House and the Emergency in Postcolonial India (2020) uncovered histories of the resistance movement that was launched from New Delhi’s café culture during India’s brief period of dictatorship (1975–1977). Her current research in-progress investigates how visual artists, writers, poets, Communists, and Maoists fomented opposition against Pakistan’s 1977 military coup through a "cultural front" that innovated new forms of anti-authoritarian writing, painting, and poetry rooted in Lahore’s vibrant café culture.

Kristin is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Toronto, Mississauga and an affiliate of the Centre for South Asian Civilizations and Culinaria. She completed her PhD in sociology at Yale University and has held visiting positions at the Lahore University of Management Sciences in Lahore, Pakistan, the Georg-August-Universität-Göttingen in Göttingen, Germany, the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India, and at the Centre for Development Studies in Thiruvanathapuram, India. Before beginning her PhD, she was a researcher in Development Economics at Princeton University. Her undergraduate degree is in Cross-national Sociology and International Development from the Johns Hopkins University.

Charles Lemert is University Professor and Andrus Professor of Social Theory Emeritus at Wesleyan University. Among his books are The Structural Lie: Small Clues to Global Things (2011), Why Niebuhr Matters (2011), Uncertain Worlds: World-Systems Analysis in Changing Times (2013, with Immanuel Wallerstein and Carlos Aguirre Rojas), and Globalization: Introduction to the End of the Known World (2015), and the seventh edition of Social Theory: The Classical, Global, and Multicultural Readings (2021). He is at work on, among other books, Uncertainties of Time: The Past and Future TimeSpace (with Immanuel Wallerstein, posthumously).


"I know of no similar theory project in the past, and the realization of it in this new book by Plys and Lemert is very impressive. Suddenly it seems like this book was exactly what we needed. Original, timely, supremely useful."

Etienne Balibar, Co-author of Race, Nation, Class.

"Plys and Lemert draw upon Marxist, postmodern and postcolonial perspectives to offer new ways of thinking about capitalism and its future. For anyone interested in decolonizing theories of historical capitalism, this book is essential."

Julian Go, University of Chicago, author of Postcolonial Thought and Social Theory