As the UK government tries to ban materials that are critical of capitalism in schools, we’ve compiled a list of anti-capitalist books and essays to help overthrow the system
STEAL AS MUCH AS YOU CAN
In her striking debut, Natalie Olah examines the threatening power of legacy media and satellite industries in shaping and maintaining power structures. The corrosive effects of neoliberal and postmodern culture, Olah argues, has created a generation characterised with financial insecurity and crisis. By rejecting the established methods of achieving success, and encouraging us to steal what we can from the establishment along the way, ‘Steal As Much As You Can’ offers hope to a bright generation whose potential has been stunted for reasons out of their control.
HOW TO BE ANTI-CAPITALIST IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY
In this detailed manifesto, Erik Olin Wright asks the question: What is wrong with capitalism, and how can we change it? An urgent and powerful case for socialism, Wright analyses different sorts of anticapitalism, assessing different strategic approaches, and laying the groundwork for a society dedicated to human flourishing.
Back in 2013, David Graeber’s essay ‘On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs’ in Strike! Magazine went viral for its nuanced argument against the existence of meaningless jobs (AKA anything that doesn’t make the world a better place). In an age that places capitalist efficiency above all, the proliferation of pointless jobs is a puzzle and a means to control the masses. Graeber’s calls on the power of trade unions and universal basic income for a brighter, more hopeful future.
FULLY AUTOMATED LUXURY COMMUNISM
In ‘Fully Automated Luxury Communism’, Aaron Bastani presents us with a framework beyond work, scarcity, and capitalism. Technology, Bastani argues, should liberate us from long working hours, neoliberal anxiety, and sad-looking meal deals. Instead, he suggests a move to energy abundance: improvements in renewable energies will make fossil fuels a thing of the past, asteroids will be mined for essential minerals, and genetic editing and synthetic biology will prolong life, virtually eliminate disease and provide meat without animals. Welcome to fully automated luxury communism, baby.
THE SHOCK DOCTRINE
Naomi Klein's critique of neo-liberalism, ‘The Shock Doctrine’, explores capitalism’s quasi-religious belief in free markets in shaping the policies of governments. Klein believes that “the closed, fundamentalist doctrines that cannot co-exist with other belief-systems... The world as it is must be erased to make way for their purist invention. Rooted in biblical fantasies of great floods and great fires, it is a logic that leads ineluctably towards violence”.
Klein explores galling examples of the Shock Doctrine at play across the world, often capitalising on moments of political and social strife: the instability in Poland and Russia after the collapse of communism; how hyperinflation in 80s Bolivia allowed the government to foist unpopular ‘shock therapy’ on the population; and the effects of 9/11 in allowing George Bush to launch a war aimed at producing a free-market Iraq. The result is a striking reminder of the political manipulation happening behind closed doors.
THESES OF FEUERBACH
We couldn’t have an anti-capitalist reading list without the OG himself. The ‘Theses on Feuerbach’ features eleven short notes written by Karl Marx as a basis for the first chapter of 1845’s ‘The German Ideology’. He argues that it’s not only religion, but the underlying social and economic structure which gave rise to it, that should be considered when moving towards the elimination of religion. As per his final line: “Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.”
POSTSCRIPT ON THE SOCIETIES OF CONTROL
In his ‘Postscript on the Societies of Control’, philosopher Gilles Deleuze builds on Michel Foucault’s idea that the world is moving from a Disciplinary Society model to a Society of Control. Anyone who’s ever read Deleuze can confirm that this isn’t exactly easy reading, but patience comes with much reward.
FREEDOM IS A CONSTANT STRUGGLE
In this collection of essays, interviews, and speeches, activist and scholar Angela Davis examines the connections between struggles against state violence and oppression throughout history and around the world. Reflecting on the importance of Black feminism, intersectionality, and prison abolitionism, Davis discusses the legacies of previous liberation struggles, from the Black Freedom movement to South African anti-Apartheid. Drawing parallels to the Michael Brown shooting and Palestine, Davis’ words remain pertinent in an era of Black Lives Matter, and more.
A cult favourite, ‘Capitalist Realism’ is a short but powerful book about “the widespread acceptance that there is no alternative to capitalism”. Fisher explores the feelings of sadness and despondency through a lens of culture (from ‘Children of Men’ to ‘Wall-E’), politics, and education, ultimately highlighting the inconsistencies and glitches inherent in the capitalist system.
Paul Mason’s groundbreaking bestseller ‘Postcapitalism’ argues that capitalism is already over. The rate of information technology has changed our notions of power, which provides the potential to reshape outdated notions of work, production, and value; and to destroy an economy based on markets and private ownership.