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How the World Works: The Story of Human Labor from Prehistory to the Modern Day


Few authors are able to write cogently in both the scientific and the economic spheres. Even fewer possess the intellectual scope needed to address science and economics at a macro as well as a micro level. But Paul Cockshott, using the dual lenses of Marxist economics and technological advance, has managed to pull off a stunningly acute critical perspective of human history, from pre-agricultural societies to the present. In How the World Works, Cockshott connects scientific, economic, and societal strands to produce a sweeping and detailed work of historical analysis. This book will astound readers of all backgrounds and ages; it will also engage scholars of history, science, and economics for years to come.

Paul Cockshott, one of the most distinguished contemporary Marxist scientists, advances towards the construction of a new paradigm of 21st Century Socialism, which he calls ‘21st Century Digital Communism.’ His outstanding contributions to the renovation and evolution of Marx and Engels’s scientific paradigm of post-capitalist society give him a special place in the hagiography of contemporary revolutionary intellectuals.

—Heinz Dieterich, Center for Transition Sciences, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Mexico City-Berlin-Beijing

This is historical materialism with a strong technological emphasis. A hugely informative account of the capitalist and non-capitalist modes of production—a term Cockshott takes seriously, almost literally. You may well disagree with some of his views, but you will learn a great deal from this highly readable book. Strongly recommended.

—Moshé Machover, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, University of London; coauthor (with Emmanuel Farjoun), Laws of Chaos: A Probabilistic Approach to Political Economy

Ranging from pre-class to slave economy, from peasant economy to capitalism, this analytical book provides illuminating insight into the functionality of economic systems. A must-read for those striving to bring down fossil capitalism.

—Oliver Ressler, artist and filmmaker

Paul Cockshott’s How the World Works is an important contribution to historical materialism, complementing Marx and Engels’s classic analyses of labour and wealth with a systematic account of how economies and societies are shaped by energy sources and technologies. With a strong focus on transitions from early societies to contemporary capitalism, Cockshott’s dispassionate appraisal of “actually existing socialism” and sober exploration of plausible communist futures offer promising new directions for progressive politics.

—Greg Michaelson, Emeritus Professor of Computer Science, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, Scotland

An impressively erudite, exceptionally informative, and expertly presented study, How the World Works will especially be of interest for dedicated scholars of history, science, and economics for years to come, as well as non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject.

—Midwest Book Review

Paul Cockshott is a computer engineer, working on computer design and teaching computer science at universities in Scotland. Named on fifty-two patents, his research covers robotics, computer parallelism, 3D TV, foundations of computability, and data compression. His books include Towards a New Socialism, Classical Econophysics, and Computation and Its Limits.

SKU: mrp7773 Categories: , , ,
Topics: Ecology History Marxism Places: Global

Publication Date: January 2019

Number of Pages: 440

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-58367-777-3

Cloth ISBN: 978-1-58367-778-0

eBook ISBN: 978-1-58367-779-7