Global Political Economy - A Marxist Critique

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Bill Dunn, Pluto Press, £19.99

As the ideological grip of neoliberalism unravels in the midst of the current economic crisis, this book paints a picture of the dynamism and chaos of the capitalist system and traces its twists and turns over the last century.

Part one deals with competing theories of political economy. Bill Dunn explains that, as Britain became the richest country on the back of the political revolutions of the 17th century and the establishment of a parliament, classical political economy developed in relation to deep political and social upheavals.

Liberal theorists such as Adam Smith, describing the world as they saw it, opened the door to the likes of David Ricardo and Karl Marx who began to theorise the developing class contradictions in society.

Before moving on to theories in the classical Marxist tradition as developed by Marx, Frederick Engels and Vladimir Lenin, Dunn looks at "critical" theories of the 1970s covering constructivism, feminism and green critiques.

In the second part of the book the author examines the shift from the feudal mode of production to capitalism and the key transformations in capitalism through the Second World War and the long boom that followed it.

The final section of the book, and in many ways the richest, concerns itself with theories surrounding contemporary analyses of globalisation. The changes in the nature of global trade, transformations in the global working class, the impact of the debt crisis on the developing world and the new imperialism are all covered here.

Thoroughly referenced throughout and with graphs and tables on every other page, Dunn provides a survey of the system useful both to students of the subject and to those wanting an introductory map of capitalism's history.

One drawback is that you are frequently left with the feeling that you could read a whole book on each sentence Dunn has written. At the same time, one of the book's great strengths is in its function as a "jumping off" point for further reading.

Simultaneously very broad in its scope and dense in its analysis, Dunn's book does occasionally make assumptions about his reader's level of understanding (which indeed he apologises for in his introduction).

If you're looking for a soundly argued reference book on political economy from a Marxist perspective, this is a good place to start. Be warned, however, that the sheer amount of ground it covers in a mere 300 pages doesn't make it a light read.