Ten books for left-leaning Economics students

Capitalism as a system is constantly seeking out the next opportunities for expansion and growth. In recent years the rise of digital technology has provided new opportunities, and the tech sector has become a focus for many accounts of the modern economy. Srnicek superbly outlines the rise of the tech sector. He tracks the emergence of what he calls ‘platform capitalism’ as it emerges out of policy decisions that responded to previous moments of economic crisis. Assessing the extent to which the digital economy really is a new development, Srnicek also looks at alternative ways to organise production in that sector.

Talking of moments of economic crisis, no account of the modern economy is complete without an understanding of the global financial crisis of 2008, the effects of which we are still living through. Grace Blakeley offers a detailed overview of the causes of the crisis, providing a historically-informed account of how ‘every aspect of economic activity has been subtly, and sometimes dramatically, transformed by the rising importance of finance in the economy as a whole’. Not only does the book trace how we came to this moment, but it offers a politically-informed response for you to evaluate.

It’s still common for economics curricula to frame the modern capitalist as an entrepreneur, a largely self-made individual. Mazzucato demolishes the myth, showing instead how the modern state has been central to business practices and investment ‘From the Internet to biotech and even shale gas’, Mazzucato writes, ‘the US State has been the key driver of innovation-led growth’. How this fact has been hidden from conventional narratives is at the centre of Mazzucato’s important book.

Of course, not all states are equally able to shape world affairs and direct the economy as they choose. A classic work of dependency theory and, at the same time, a bravura work of anti-imperial economic history, Rodney. Analysing the unevenness of global economic and social development, and exploring the roles of race and colonialism in uneven capitalist development, Rodney’s account centres our attention on the active political and economic agency of supposedly ‘underdeveloped’ groups and points the way towards a more equitable global economic system.

Jeremy Corbyn’s left leadership of the Labour Party may have failed, but many of the economic ideas that animated it continue to be important. McDonnell, who was shadow chancellor under Corbyn, brings together a range of writers who each assess a different aspect of the UK’s economic system, understood within a global context. A useful collection to allow you to evaluate the economic programme of a broadly social-democratic left programme for government.

To purchase any or all of the titles on this list, recommended bookshops can be found here