Capital Without Capitalism: Adam Smith, Arrighi, and Cultural Political Economy

dc.contributor.authorSmith, Christopher Thorneen
dc.contributor.committeechairGill, Bikrum Singhen
dc.contributor.committeememberPoets, Desireeen
dc.contributor.committeememberBlaney, Daviden
dc.contributor.committeememberPula, Besniken
dc.contributor.departmentPolitical Scienceen
dc.description.abstract20th century debates within Marxism regarding the origins of capitalism—debates culminating in the Brenner Debate of the late 70's—have not been resolved. Recently, Giovanni Arrighi's Adam Smith in Beijing contributes to these debates by returning the conversation to the inheritance of classical political economy. Arrighi offers fresh readings of Adam Smith and Karl Marx to redefine capitalism and national development for the 21st century, paying particular attention to the relationship between state political power and market forces. Specifically, Arrighi makes the case that Marxists should not conflate markets with capitalism; that, in fact, markets are necessary for societies hoping to generate wealth for all. In making this argument, Arrighi argues for a market socialism, for a world of capital without capitalism. This thesis contextualizes this argument within the history of the Brenner Debate, noting how Arrighi's work refines earlier world-systems analysis and complicates Robert Brenner's accusation of Neo-Smithian Marxism. More importantly, this thesis considers closely Arrighi's argument and its reliance on the political economy of Adam Smith. It notes that contradictions in Smith's work lead to confused conceptions of capitalism for Arrighi and for the world at large, especially when one considers Smith's philosophical and ethical writings. Utilizing the lens of Inayatullah and Blaney's "cultural political economy", this thesis critiques Arrighi for neglecting the philosophical components of Smith's work, and attempts to expand Arrighi's definition of market socialism to account for capitalism as an ethical and philosophical project.en
dc.description.abstractgeneralIn the 20th century, leftist economists debated where capitalism came from. Those economists also wanted to know what features made capitalism unique. A recent book by Giovanni Arrighi, Adam Smith in Beijing, weighs in on these debates by arguing capitalism is when the state serves the interests of capitalist elites. In doing so, Arrighi also argues for a better kind of economy—an economy that can generate wealth, like capitalism, without also generating recessions and crises. He calls this better economy "market socialism". To make this argument, Arrighi doesn't use communist thinkers like Karl Marx of Vladimir Lenin. Instead, he uses the writings of the godfather of capitalism: Adam Smith. This thesis looks at how Arrighi reclaims Adam Smith for the Left, and how Adam Smith helps Arrighi define capitalism. It then looks at the parts of Adam Smith he ignores, and argues that his definition of capitalism—the capture of the state by capitalists—does not include many of the parts of capitalism Adam Smith made famous: self-interest, classes of rich and poor peoples, etc. My thesis shows that, according to Adam Smith, capitalism is more than a question of who is in charge; it is also a question of ethics and beliefs. It argues that for Arrighi's "market socialism" to be a reality, it needs to consider these ethics and beliefs. In other words, my thesis argues capitalism needs to be seen as a culture, and that future economies should be viewed this way as well. When we see our economy as our culture, we can begin to imagine ways to take control of it and make it work for us instead of the top 1%.en
dc.description.degreeMaster of Artsen
dc.publisherVirginia Techen
dc.rightsIn Copyrighten
dc.subjectPolitical Economyen
dc.subjectAdam Smithen
dc.subjectBrenner Debateen
dc.titleCapital Without Capitalism: Adam Smith, Arrighi, and Cultural Political Economyen
dc.typeThesisen Scienceen Polytechnic Institute and State Universityen of Artsen


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