Whether for academic work or a personal pursuit, those who are interested in capitalism may want to add a new book to the shelf: Capitalism: Competition, Conflict and Crisis by Anwar Shaikh, Professor of Economics at The New School for Social Research.
Earlier this semester, NSSR and the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis (SCEPA) held a book launch to celebrate Oxford University Press’s publication of Shaikh’s magnum opus. Speaking to a crowd, Shaikh thanked everyone who inspired him and helped him successfully complete the project.
“In teaching, we try to influence others and, of course, we ourselves are influenced by our teachers,” Shaikh said.
Shaikh started the book 25 years ago, and “as my ideas evolved, I realized I wanted to talk not about what Ricardo had said, and Smith had said, and Marx had said.” For Shaikh, the questions that he wanted to answer had become about capitalism itself, and “not the genealogy of the ideas.” Shaikh became more interested in the actual patterns of capitalism over time, and decided to abandon the manuscript he had been working on for ten years to begin anew.
Shaikh shared that “competition and conflict are intrinsic features of capitalist societies, inequality is persistent, and booms and busts are recurrent patterns throughout capitalist history. And when we talk about the state, we see that the state intervenes to modify these patterns, but it does not abolish them.” Shaikh explained that the book diverges both from orthodox economics and the dominant elements of heterodox economics, because “there is no reference… to any idealized framework as a foundation, rooted in perfect firms, perfect individuals, perfect knowledge, perfectly selfish behavior, rational expectations, and optimal outcomes.”
Shaikh’s work received strong support from Andrew Mazzone, the president of the Henry George School of Social Science in New York City. At the book launch, Mazzone called Capitalism “the most explosive book that people will ever see in the next 20 years.” Mazzone offered to record the graduate class that Shaikh has constructed by using the book’s framework, The Economic Analysis of Advanced Capitalism, and the lectures can be found currently on the HGSSS website.
Shaikh discusses in more detail about his work in an interview with Marshall Auerback at the Institute for New Economic Thinking.