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Capitalism and its Critics



"Capitalism and its Critics" presents a nuanced exploration into the enduring debate surrounding capitalism, tracing its critiques from the Enlightenment era to the present-day antiglobalization movements. The book delves into the paradoxical nature of capitalism, as highlighted by its staunchest supporters and critics alike, offering a rich tapestry of thought on the system's implications for society, economy, and morality.

Historical Perspectives

The work begins by questioning whether Adam Smith, often celebrated for championing the capitalist system, inadvertently laid the groundwork for contemporary criticisms against globalization. It uncovers a tradition of critique that has accompanied capitalism since its inception, noting that concerns over the system's emphasis on self-interest and its potential to undermine collective good have been longstanding.

Philosophical Debates

Central to the discussion is the moral quandary posed by capitalism's encouragement of self-interest. The book revisits Voltaire's defense of economic self-interest as a safer pursuit compared to religious zealotry, using the London stock exchange as an example of harmonious, interfaith commerce. Adam Smith's "The Wealth of Nations" is acknowledged for illustrating how self-interest, under properly structured markets, can lead to widespread prosperity through competition and productivity enhancement.

Critiques and Defenses

"Capitalism and its Critics" does not shy away from the system's darker aspects, particularly its capacity to disrupt traditional social structures and values. Yet, it also emphasizes the critiques offered by capitalism's proponents, who have sought to identify and mitigate these downsides through various means, including regulatory frameworks and ethical considerations.

Contemporary Relevance

The book connects historical critiques with current antiglobalization sentiments, illustrating the cyclical nature of debates on capitalism. It suggests that while the critiques may evolve, the fundamental tensions between individual gain and collective welfare remain pertinent.


Through a detailed examination of capitalism's critics and defenders, the book offers a comprehensive overview of the system's complex impact on modern European thought and its relevance to contemporary global issues. It challenges readers to consider the balance between economic efficiency and ethical considerations, underscoring the importance of ongoing dialogue and reform.