Fifty years ago, capitalism in the West was based on manufacturing that provided well-paid, lifelong jobs and close to full employment. By the 1970s and 1980s that system was carrying a layer of credit and debt that made it more lucrative for banks to extract profits from deals and transactions than provide financing for the creation of actual products.
And then, in the 1990s, the burgeoning tech industry made physical products even less relevant — and even more lucrative for investors and speculators.
These 10 classic business books tell the story of how capitalism changed from a system that made things into a trading desk for bonds, credit derivatives, and leverage … and created modern inequality along the way.
We’ve arranged the books chronologically. If you read them in this order you’ll see how one segues into the next, and how dramatically capitalism has changed in the last 50 years.
RANK AND FILE (1973): The brutal, forgotten history of ordinary people who faced down death threats to get decent pay and safety standards at work.
The Observer Reporter
“Rank and File” is an oral history of the lives of a dozen workers’ rights activists during the six decades to the end of the 1960s, a period in which Americans went from being little more than slaves to some of the best-paid employees on the planet.
Pursuing the American Dream in the mines, steel works, and meat yards of pre- and post-war America sometimes meant risking your life, as authors Alice and Staughton Lynd recount in this often overlooked book.
Jock Yablonksi, for instance, was shot to death in his Clarksville,…