Alternatives to Capitalism: Proposals for a Democratic Economy

by Robin Hahnel, Erik Olin Wright

Our new e-book is now out!

First published: 02 December, 2014 | Category: Vision/Strategy

New Left Project’s new e-book, Alternatives to Capitalism: Proposals for a Democratic Economy, is now available for download.

In it the leading radical thinkers Robin Hahnel and Erik Olin Wright take on the crucial but all-too neglected question: what kind of society should we be fighting for instead of capitalism?

Hahnel favours ‘participatory economics’. Wright advocates ‘real utopian socialism’. Alternatives to Capitalism puts these practical proposals through their paces in an in-depth, frank and extremely instructive debate about the central question of our time.

•   Download the book for kindle, free.

•   Buy the book on Amazon.

•   If you don’t have a kindle, you can read it by downloading a kindle previewer.

•   A pdf version will be available soon - watch this space.

We will be posting excerpts from the book on NLP over the coming weeks. First up, read the introduction.

And if you’re in or near London on Wednesday 3 December, come to our free launch event to discuss visions for a future beyond capitalism with both authors.


What they say about Alternatives to Capitalism:

Many recognize that the various forms of “really existing capitalism” have deficiencies that range from harmful to lethal.  Few have carefully thought through “really existing alternatives” that offer hope for escape from problems and dilemmas that are profound, and imminent.  Robin Hahnel and Erik Olin Wright are two of the most thoughtful and perceptive analysts to have pursued this critically important course.  Their reasoned and informed interaction is a major contribution towards clarifying the paths forward.

- Noam Chomsky

This is an extraordinary book. At one level it is a profoundly informed discussion of critical issues of radical systemic structure. At another it is a model of how a thoughtful dialogue on challenging and highly contested issues should be carried on. A must read for anyone seriously interested in how to conceive the possible forms of fundamental systemic change.

- Gar Alperovitz, author of What Then Must We Do: Straight Talk about the Next American Revolution, and Co-Founder of the Democracy Collaborative

If you’ve ever wondered what a democratic economy could really look like, treat yourself to this engaging (and wonderfully comradely) conversation about two leading schools of contemporary socialist thinking—participatory economics and real utopias—by their distinguished founders.

 - Juliet Schor, author of Plenitude: The New Economics of True Wealth and Professor of Sociology at Boston College

Although the failings of neoliberalism are increasingly clear - social, economic and environmental - the myth of "no alternative" remains a powerful one. In this e-book, Robin Hahnel and Erik Olin Wright debate what an alternative might look like. Should it involve markets? Is a role for markets compatible with democratic values? To be so, what other institutions and policies must be in place? Their discussion is a superb introduction to these fundamental debates.

-   Stuart White, author of Equality and Director of the Public Policy Unit at Oxford University 

About the authors

Robin Hahnel is Professor Emeritus from American University in Washington DC where he taught in the department of economics for thirty-three years. He has also taught as a visiting professor at the Catholic University in Lima, Peru, the University of Manchester in Manchester England, and most recently at Lewis and Clark College and Portland State University in Portland Oregon. He has been active in left politics for over forty-five years, beginning with New Left SDS chapters at Harvard and MIT in the 1960s, and most recently with Jobs with Justice and Rising Tide in Portland Oregon.

He is best known as co-creator, together with Michael Albert, of the alternative to capitalism known as “participatory economics,” (The Political Economy of Participatory Economics, Princeton University Press, 1991.) His most recent books are Economic Justice and Democracy: From Competition to Cooperation (Routledge, 2005), Green Economics: Confronting the Ecological Crisis (M.E. Sharpe, 2011), Of the People, By the People: The Case for a Participatory Economy (AK Press, 2012), and The ABCs of Political Economy: A Modern Approach, 2nd edition (Pluto Books, 2014).

Erik Olin Wright has taught sociology at the University of Wisconsin since 1976 where he is currently Vilas Distinguished Professor of Sociology. His academic work has been centrally concerned with reconstructing the Marxist tradition of social theory and research in ways that attempt to make it more relevant to contemporary concerns and more cogent as a scientific framework of analysis. His empirical research has focused especially on the changing character of class relations in developed capitalist societies. Since 1992 he has directed The Real Utopias Project which explores a wide range of proposals for new institutional designs that embody emancipatory ideals and yet are attentive to issues of pragmatic feasibility. He was president of the American Sociological Association in 2011-12.

His principal publications include: The Politics of Punishment (Harper Collins, 1973); Classes (London: Verso, 1985); The Debate on Classes (London: Verso, 1990); Interrogating Inequality (London: Verso, 1994); Class Counts: Comparative Studies in Class Analysis (Cambridge University Press, 1997); Deepening Democracy: institutional innovations in empowered participatory governance (with Archon Fung. London, Verso, 2003); Envisioning Real Utopias (Verso, 2010); and jointly with Joel Rogers, American Society: how it really works (W.W. Norton, 2011). He is also the editor of the Real Utopias Project series, published by Verso Books. His forthcoming book, Understanding Class (Verso, 2015), proposes a framework for integrating the insights of different traditions of class analysis. He is currently working on a new manuscript, Sociological Marxism (Verso: tentatively, 2017).


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