Thursday, August 19, 2010

OUP's "Capitalism: A Very Short Introduction"

The "world's leading academic press" has a series of books out in what it calls Very Short Introductions. Picking up its Capitalism: A Very Short Introduction by James Fulcher, a professor of Sociology at Leicester, we encounter this at the end of the first chapter, which is titled "What is Capitalism?" (a great title for a first chapter in a book on capitalism, I might add):

So, the answer to our question is that capitalism involves the investment of money to make more money. While merchants have long done this, it is when production is financed in this way that a transformative capitalism comes into being. Capitalist production depends on the exploitation of wage labour, which also fuels the consumption of the goods and services produced by capitalist enterprises. (p. 18)

Can we get a facepalm over here?

Now, this is simply, unequivocally, absolutely unacceptable for a reputable presentation about capitalism. Exploitation doctrines have long since been exploded by Bohm-Bawerk, Mises, Nozick, Rand, and others with any lick of common sense. This is intellectually incompetent if not dishonest. It doesn't matter one fucking bit if the author meant "exploitation" in some benign dictionary sense ("to make productive use of: UTILIZE"); the use of the term "exploitation" in connection with capitalism is without question associated in the public consciousness with the pejorative sense intended by Marx and his spawn.

Fucking unacceptable.

Who is running the Oxford University Press's editorial department for these "very short introductions"? (As it happens, I have purchased one of these, on Aristotle, only because I know its author, Jonathan Barnes, to be a respected Aristotle scholar. But I can't place any general trust in the series.) And why would they hire this particular work out to a professor of Sociology, rather than, say, a professor of Economics who might actually have a clue? Amongst major academic disciplines, that of Sociology has got to be one of the most pathologically left-wing ones around (certainly outside of the Humanities, anyway).

There are several references to Marx (a long-discredited, bad-faith opponent of capitalism, the last guy you'd want to read to get an accurate analysis of the subject) in the index to this little book, but none whatever to leading champions of capitalism like Mises (who arguably is to economics what Aristotle is to philosophy) and Rand.

I didn't bother with the rest of this corrupt little book after that. Best as I can tell from skimming it, it would read much like that mediocre encyclopedia entry dissected by Rand in her "What is Capitalism?" essay. That was, like, 45 years ago, and yet these dumbass sociology professors apparently haven't made any progress whatsoever in all that time.

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