How to Be an Anticapitalist in the 21st Century Book Summary - How to Be an Anticapitalist in the 21st Century Book explained in key points
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How to Be an Anticapitalist in the 21st Century summary

Erik Olin Wright

A pragmatic strategic guide to building an alternative economic system

4.2 (109 ratings)
35 mins

Brief summary

How to Be an Anticapitalist in the 21st Century by Erik Olin Wright is a critical analysis of capitalism and offers a roadmap for building a socialist society through democratic means. It emphasizes the importance of class analysis and collective action in achieving this.

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    How to Be an Anticapitalist in the 21st Century
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    Key idea 1 of 12

    Although capitalism can claim many successes, it also has many failings.

    “How to be an anticapitalist in the twenty-first century?!” a supporter of capitalism might exclaim. How could any reasonable person be such a thing in this day and age?

    After all, our pro-capitalist might argue, just look at capitalism’s track record. Since the mid-twentieth century, the developed world has enjoyed massive increases in overall prosperity, economic growth, labor productivity, technological innovation, average life spans, living standards, and the range of consumer goods and services available to ordinary people. 

    Sure, there’s still poverty and economic inequality – but thanks to capitalism, even lower-income people can enjoy modern conveniences like indoor plumbing, washing machines, and televisions. Meanwhile, all of these benefits are increasingly spreading to the developing world as well. Why would anyone oppose such a successful economic system? 

    The key message here is: Although capitalism can claim many successes, it also has many failings. 

    To begin with, the problems of poverty and economic inequality can’t be waved away so easily. Basic modern conveniences aside, millions of people in the US alone suffer from malnutrition, ill-health, unsafe neighborhoods, and other serious issues related to poverty – and all of this despite living in one of the richest capitalistic societies on earth. 

    Furthermore, poverty and inequality call into question all those material successes our pro-capitalist touted earlier. Sure, capitalism has produced tremendous increases in economic growth, labor productivity, and so forth – but who gets to benefit from these achievements? Mostly the elite. Because of inequality, the majority of people only get to enjoy capitalism’s bounty to a limited and disproportional degree, compared to the wealthiest members of society. And because of poverty, many people struggle to even meet their most fundamental human needs. 

    Meanwhile, the majority of people also have to pay a heavy price for all these “benefits” that are mostly reserved for the rich. To produce all that prosperity that flows upward, most working adults are stuck in boring, unfulfilling jobs. To make way for all that innovation that boosts the bottom lines of big businesses, many people lose their livelihoods and get thrown into destitution as their jobs become “obsolete.” And to promote all that economic growth that feeds capitalism’s insatiable desire for profit, our current economic system is destroying the environment, causing climate change, and endangering our very ability to continue living on our planet. 

    It all adds up to a pretty serious list of problems. 

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    What is How to Be an Anticapitalist in the 21st Century about?

    How to Be an Anticapitalist in the 21st Century (2019) is both a moral critique of capitalism and a pragmatic strategy guide to building an alternative economic system. Drawing from Erik Olin Wright’s four decades of work in sociology, it provides a nuanced account of why democratic socialism is both possible and desirable.

    How to Be an Anticapitalist in the 21st Century Review

    How to Be an Anticapitalist in the 21st Century (2018) by Erik Olin Wright is a thought-provoking book that challenges the capitalist system and offers alternative ways of organizing society. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Exploring the practical strategies needed to enact social change, it empowers readers to envision and work towards a more just and equitable world.
    • Backed by extensive research, it presents a compelling case against capitalism, providing a comprehensive understanding of its flaws and potential alternatives.
    • Tackling complex ideas with clarity, the book engages readers from start to finish by offering concrete examples and relatable stories that bring the concepts to life.

    Who should read How to Be an Anticapitalist in the 21st Century?

    • Anticapitalists looking for new ways of thinking
    • Pro-capitalists who want to understand their opponents’ views
    • Skeptics who aren’t sure which side of the debate is right

    About the Author

    American sociologist Erik Olin Wright was one of the most prominent and influential thinkers of a school of thought called Analytical Marxism. Along with other Analytical Marxists in the fields of history, economics, and philosophy, he sought to bridge the gap between classical Marxism and modern social science. He taught sociology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison for more than 30 years and was the author of 10 books, including Envisioning Real Utopias and Understanding Class. Wright died in 2019.

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    How to Be an Anticapitalist in the 21st Century FAQs 

    What is the main message of How to Be an Anticapitalist in the 21st Century?

    The main message of How to Be an Anticapitalist in the 21st Century is a call to rethink and challenge the capitalist system.

    How long does it take to read How to Be an Anticapitalist in the 21st Century?

    The reading time for How to Be an Anticapitalist in the 21st Century varies, but the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is How to Be an Anticapitalist in the 21st Century a good book? Is it worth reading?

    How to Be an Anticapitalist in the 21st Century is worth a read as it offers insightful perspectives on challenging capitalism in the modern world.

    Who is the author of How to Be an Anticapitalist in the 21st Century?

    The author of How to Be an Anticapitalist in the 21st Century is Erik Olin Wright.

    What to read after How to Be an Anticapitalist in the 21st Century?

    If you're wondering what to read next after How to Be an Anticapitalist in the 21st Century, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • Socialism by Michael Newman
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