D-Econ’s Seasonal Alternative Reading List – 2023, pt. 1

As we are halfway through 2023 and many people across the world are heading off on holiday – or simply looking for new inspirations for readings – we are publishing our top choice of books from the first half of 2023 that you may have missed because of the identity of the author, or their geographical location, or because the topic is not typically considered interesting to those interested in reading about the economy. We include 11 books that cover a range of topics that we think provide a richer understanding of socioeconomic phenomena and are therefore crucial to understanding economics and the world.

We hope you find some time to read these brilliant books. If you’d like to read more, you can find our previous reading lists here. If you enjoy our reading lists, please let us know by emailing us at info@d-econ.org, and please feel free to send us suggestions of books we should read and include in our next reading list!

South-North Dialogues on Democracy, Development and Sustainability

By Cristina Fróes de Borja Reis, Tatiana Berringer (editors)

This book is highly innovative in its approach, as each chapter is written in the form of a dialogue between one scholar from a Brazilian institution and one scholar based either elsewhere in the Global South or in the Global North. These ‘South-North dialogues’ cover many contemporary debates, all with the aim of shedding light on how best to understand and combat global economic, political, and social inequalities. One of the key aims of the book is to move beyond Eurocentrism and to bring theorisation and thinking from the Global South to the forefront of economic and political thought. It does so by bringing in a range of heterodox economic thinkers and putting them in conversation with each other about themes such as democracy, sustainability, geopolitics, urban development, decoloniality, dependency, (de)industrialization, food systems, and racism. Buy the book here.

Zimbos Never Die? Negotiating Survival in a Challenged Economy, 1990s to 2015 

By Ushehwedu Kufakurinani, Eric Kushinga Makombe, Nathaniel Chimhete, and Pius Nyambara (editors)

Economic and financial crises in Zimbabwe have long enjoyed global attention, especially the crises of the 2000s that culminated in the second highest inflation rate globally for an economy not at war. However, what is less known is how Zimbabweans have dealt with these crises in different spheres of economic life. This book fills that gap by exploring how Zimbabwean society and its institutions have survived economic crises in the country, spanning from the 1990s to 2015. The chapters are characterized not only by clarity and depth on a topic that is only superficially understood by most people, but also by careful attention to historiography. Overall, the chapters address survival in informal spaces – such as displacements in Harare’s flea markets, street vendors, and small scale tobacco growers – as well as survival of state and non-state institutions – such as the public health service, social security provision, the army, the education sector, and the banking sector. Finally, it discusses how the crises have impacted patterns of migration and smuggling of humans and commodities. Buy the book here.

Everyday Politics in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya

By Matteo Capasso

In this book, Matteo Capasso provides a counterargument to those who frame the history of Libya as a stateless, authoritarian, and rogue state by focusing on international and geopolitical dynamics that have impacted Libya’s governance. Capasso reconstructs the last two decades of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, leading up to the 2011 events that led to its fall. It carefully presents a collection of oral histories, including personal anecdotes, moods, popular jokes and rumors, in order to trace the ‘everyday’ as central for studying regional and international politics. As such, it gives powerful insights into the workings of power from below. Beyond the historical analysis, it also offers an important foundation for understanding the current state of violence, war, and hope in Libya. Buy the book here.

What Is Antiracism?: And Why It Means Anticapitalism

By Arun Kundnani

This book, written by Arun Kundnani – author, activist and scholar – raises and discusses two key questions: ‘What is “racial capitalism”?’ and ‘How do we overcome it?’ The book contrasts modern liberal anti-racism with radical anti-racism. Liberal anti-racism and its focus on individual attitudes, unconscious biases, celebration and understanding of cultural diversity tends to see racism as an extremist mindset. Radical anti-racism understands racism as a matter of power, resource distribution between different racial groups and the role state violence operates in to uphold these inequalities.. It argues that while liberal antiracism has contributed to the transformation which has happened over recent decades in terms of interpersonal exchanges, structural forces have not improved, but rather expanded. Liberal anti-racism methodology cannot enable the structural changes that are needed, but a radical anti-racism is needed. The book delves into how colonialism expresses itself in today’s world, and its direct relationship to capitalism and racism, illustrated with key moments in modern history. It further argues that the role of racism in the class issue is misread, and needs to be understood for a successful united movement. You can buy the book here.

India from Latin America Peripherisation, Statebuilding, and Demand-Led Growth

By Manuel Gonzalo

This book is written by economist Manuel Gonzalo who in addition to his many academic roles assesses the ‘Latin America – India’ relationship focusing on governments, firms, think tanks, and international organisations. The emerging trade partnership between India and Latin America has expanded over the last decades and is expected to grow rapidly in the near future. While much of Indian and Latin American trade is understood through a westernised lens, this book offers a Latin American perspective of India as an economy and trade nation. The author, with personal as well as professional experience, analyses India from three perspectives: Peripherisation, State Building and Demand-led growth. The book is contributing to a common research agenda for the economic development of the Global South.

Deadly and Slick: Sexual Modernity and the Making of Race

By Sita Balani

In Deadly and Slick, Sita Balani draws on the tradition of British cultural studies associated with Stuart Hall and the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies. Balani highlights the intimate connection between techniques used to govern sex, domestic life and children – and techniques used to make, maintain and manage ‘race’ as both a set of social structures and a common sense understanding of bodily and social difference. This book draws on histories of sexual and racial governance in colonial India, as well as the racialisation of British Asians in the present. In contemporary Britain, the Conservative government’s support for gay marriage – and policy of aid conditionality for countries where British colonial laws opposing homosexuality were still on the statute books – cannot be understood independently from its embrace of austerity, the privatization of social welfare and a renewed emphasis on ‘family’ as the site of sole economic responsibility. By highlighting these ‘deadly and slick’ operations of power, Balani’s book is replete with reminders that ‘the economy’ cannot be understood independently of the entanglements of race and sexuality. 

Against Racial Capitalism: Selected Writings

Neville Alexander, edited by Salim Vally and Enver Motala

This volume collects the writings of Neville Alexander, a South African activist, educator, trade unionist and founder of the National Liberation Front, who spent many years imprisoned on Robben Island alongside Nelson Mandela and other anti-apartheid freedom fighters. In recent years, ‘racial capitalism’ has become much discussed within and without academia. Yet Neville Alexander’s contributions to theorizing and challenging ‘racial capitalism’ in South Africa have only recently started to garner wider attention. The editors of this volume have collected Alexander’s writing on education, language, and the national question in a post-apartheid South Africa, alongside his direct contributions to theorising ‘racial capitalism’. As they make clear, racism and capitalism were never merely “theoretical constructs requiring reconciliation” for Alexander. Rather, racial capitalism was seen as the material basis of a political economy, of socio-linguistic orders, and even as shaping the consciousness and strategies of the liberation movement itself.

 White Saviorism in International Development: Theories, Practises, and Lived Experiences

Edited by Themrise Khan, Kanakulya Dickson, and Maïka Sondarjee

In this new book, the authors argue that the colonial idea that the Global South is characterized by gaps and inferiorities, which is at the very foundation of the development field. As a result, much of the field is oriented towards White development practitioners trying to “save” racialized communities in the Global South while supporting the capitalist system that perpetuates their exploitation and dispossession. The authors argue that in many instances, not only is this not helpful, it is often actively harming communities in the Global South. The book gives several examples of scandals of violation of privacy and human rights, sexual violence, and bodily harm caused by Western development practitioners. But it goes further to argue that these aren’t standalone instances, but manifestations of a structural feature of the field in which White/Western people in development are seen as experts in all things, often measuring the political, socio-economic, and cultural processes in developing countries against a standard of Northern Whiteness. It is a provocative collection of contributions comprising academic work, practitioner-based approaches and personal stories of those who have experienced what the editors call White Saviorism in global development and is essential reading for anyone interested or involved in the field. 

Work and Alienation in the Platform Economy: Amazon and the Power of Organization

By Sarah Kassem

The world of work has been transformed by platforms like Google, Amazon, Uber, Netflix and many others, and it is very difficult to now avoid using these platforms in our daily lives as they have become an intrinsic part of our social fabric. In this book, Kassem explores the world of workers that power one of the largest platform economy firms, Amazon, and focuses her attention on its e-commerce platform and its digital labour platform MTurk. Notably, she takes the reader through a discussion of how workers organize and reshape the structure of the platform that seeks to atomize them from one another. Even though the structure of work alienates and individualizes the workforce, these platforms are sites for crucial labour struggle. This book is an important read to understand work in the 21st century, and how labour processes and struggles have and can shape the future of Artificial Intelligence.

Divided: Racism, Medicine and Why We Need to Decolonise Healthcare

Annabel Sowemimo

Annabel Sowemimo draws on her experience of medical education, and working as a Sexual and Reproductive Health clinician, in this examination of the persistent – and often unacknowledged – influence of race science on medicine. Sowemimo shows how racial inequalities underpin a health system that doesn’t work for Black patients. But she also traces the history of race science from 18th century Europe, making explicit that unequal health outcomes for Black people are shaped not only by ideas inherited from race science, but by a medical profession often unwilling to unlearn this inheritance. 

Decolonisation and Legal Knowledge – Reflections on Power and Possibility

Folúkẹ́ Adébísí

In this book Folúkẹ́ Adébísí examines how the foundations of law are intertwined in colonial thought and how it [re]produces ideas of commodification of bodies and space-time. Adébísí explores the implications of the law creating, maintaining and reproducing racialised hierarchies which then creates and preserves severe global disparities and injustices. This analysis discusses crucial themes that would be of interest to any social scientist seeking to engage beyond their disciplinary boundaries. With chapters such as: “(Un)Making the Wretched of the Earth and “Another University is Necessary to Take us towards Pluriversal Worlds”, this promises to be a read that both deconstructs, as well as encourages us to reconstruct. In Adébísí’s own words: “In response, the decolonisation movement, gives us an option for imagining together, new ways of thinking, being and doing in the world, to avert global injustice, deprivation and climate disaster.” This book is a vital contribution to anyone who views these ideas as central to our research, teaching and practice.

This list was compiled by Alexandra Arnsten, Devika Dutt, Paul Gilbert, Michelle Groenewald, and Ingrid Harvold Kvangraven.