Political Economy / History

Part of what makes business interesting for me is that it’s a tangible manifestation of philosophies and societal structures — it’s where you see just what parts of these abstract ideas affect real-world decisions. Here’s some related books:

A History of Western Philosophy

A History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell

Coming at you from 1945, Russell is highly opinionated, articulate, and British. This is the only philosophy book you’ll ever read that won’t require epic reserves of patience and caffeine, which is partly because it is just as much a history book. It is also written by a mathematician, which perhaps reinforced a level of logical consistency that makes the book just as relevant years later (although it is important to keep in mind the social context within which the book was written). Most of all, it’s just fun and inspiring to read.

Tragedy & Hope

Tragedy & Hope: A History of the World in Our Time by Carroll Quigley

Written in the 70s, this is another encyclopedic and opinionated history, this time of a time period bracketing the two world wars. This isn’t exactly a fun read, but sprinkled throughout the exhaustive and occasionally dated details are pieces of the story of the hugely ambitious plans that certain British elites attempted to carry out in the waning days of the empire. Although these grand plans to a large extent failed, they played an important role in forming US institutions, and are a compelling enough story that conspiracy-minded people from both the right and left still see evidence of the plot today.

Against Capitalism

Against Capitalism by David Schweickart

With “capitalism” the overwhelmingly dominant context used to organize societies today, it’s worth asking (1) what is capitalism really, and (2) are there any better alternatives or significant alterations? The first question seems to desperately need an accessible treatment today, but this book is an attempt by a modern “Marxist” to come up with an answer to the second question. Although for me at least, the book’s conclusions aren’t convincing, it is one of the the most well thought out analyses I’ve seen by an author genuinely hostile to capitalism and/or its more unpleasant effects yet not completely constrained by the naive and disproven alternatives of the past.

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