ABSTRACT

For reasons that presumably now are fairly obvious, given the enormous impact of capitalism on the way we live, people have been debating its nature from its inception. Indeed there is an important sense in which disagreements about the character and consequence of organizing economic life on capitalist lines actually triggered the nineteenth-century emergence of what we would now recognize as modern social science. Moreover, such disagreements certainly stood at the heart of the twentieth-century debate on how best to organize advanced industrial societies; and in this new century they remain key elements dividing electorates (and their attendant intellectuals) in advanced capitalist societies, in former communist societies, and across the under-developed world. If we are to make sense of contemporary capitalism and its potential futures, therefore, we too need to pick our way through at least the best of the various intellectual traditions that have emerged as capitalism has developed. That mapping will not solve the choices of thought that we each need to make; but it will, if done properly, help significantly to clarify the nature of the choices themselves.