After the utter disaster that was Maoist socialism, at the end of the s, China began, very slowly and timidly at first, to finally allow some room for market forces. In this book, the familiar narrative of a top-down liberalisation, led by reformer Deng Xiaoping, is somewhat qualified.
Political Economy, Capitalism, and Popular Culture
Zitelmann is not starry-eyed about China, and sees the economic reform process as very far from complete. The story of Africa is less impressive, but there are silver linings too. In the post-war decades, most African countries experimented with various forms of socialism or other forms of state-directed development, again with poor results.
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Since the early s, most of them have moved away from that, and towards more market-based economies. This has led to some improvements as far as it went. But the beneficial effects of economic liberalisation remain muffled when they are not accompanied by improvements in the legal and institutional framework.
For example, in sub-Saharan Africa and excluding South Africa , about three quarters of the workforce continue to work in the informal sector, where contracts are not easily enforceable, and where property rights are not secure. Nonetheless, compared to the era of LiveAid, when Westerners associated Africa primarily with hunger, disease and civil war, the continent has come a long way.
In hindsight, we often treat the East German system as a freak accident of history, and West German capitalism as the norm. But as Zitelmann shows, in the immediate aftermath of the war, it was not at all clear that West Germany would adopt a market-based economy. There was initially a strong anti-capitalist consensus in the nascent Federal Republic, with both major parties advocating a government takeover of key industries.
Free-market economics was a minority pursuit, and it was only due to the dogged determination of a small number of individuals that West Germany ended up with the liberal economic policy that unleashed the post-war boom. East Germany, meanwhile, had no such luck. They did better than other members of the Eastern bloc, but they fell light years behind West Germany.
Around the same time, a similar quasi-natural experiment was set up in Korea, with its division into a socialist North, and, from the s onwards, an economy based on private enterprise in the South. In any case, South Korea already started to move away from that model in the early s, and thus before their economic take-off started in earnest.
Dr Kristian Niemietz. He is also a Fellow of the Age Endeavour Fellowship.
Trading on Tradition: Tourism, Ritual, and Capitalism in a Chinese Village
He is a regular contributor to various journals in the UK, Germany and Switzerland. Leave a Reply Cancel reply Your e-mail address will not be published. Comment Name Email Website Save my name, e-mail, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. His thoughtful and imaginative critique will bring to life the concepts and practices of economics and political economy for all readers. Ronnie D. Lipschutz is professor of politics at the University of California at Santa Cruz.
Popular Culture - Sociology - Oxford Bibliographies
Highly recommended. An important text that students will relate to, learn from, and enjoy. Lipschutz's range is very impressive in this carefully structured exploration of what makes our economic world tick. Essential reading for students of both popular culture and recent film history.