Business, Management, and Economics

The high-quality academic books, upper-level student texts and journal articles on our Business, Management and Economics list offer fresh perspectives on the economy, the future of work and organisations, and the relationship between business and addressing global social challenges.  

The list is home to a number of series including Organizations and Activism and Feminist Perspectives on Work and Organization, all of which are edited by leading scholars from the field, along with our journals in the area: Journal of Public Finance and Public Choice, Work in the Global Economy and Global Political Economy.

Business, Management and Economics

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Marx argued that capitalist society acts against the core capacities, skills and talents of human beings, and that it also limits their realisation or channels them into activities related to profit rather than need.

Bringing Marx’s theory of alienation forward to the present day, this book uniquely links it to health and well-being. Using case studies and vignettes of workers across different industries, it reveals their lived experiences, offering crucial insights into the insidious ways in which capitalism continues to damage human well-being.

This is a resounding call for how society can change for the better.

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This chapter explores how alienation affects wellbeing, how it gets under the skin, and how Marxism understands wellbeing. It draws on the previous chapters, moving towards an understanding of wellbeing grounded in a Marxist materialism. In doing so, critiques are made of other wellbeing theories alongside an attempt to understand the dialectical relationships between wellbeing, humans, their emotions and their bodies.

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In the preceding chapters I have outlined that alienation exerts a toll on wellbeing and health. Human lives are stunted and damaged and, stepping into a more normative register, they are not what they could be. The capacities and capabilities that social agents possess lack the freedom to be fully actualized, and when those capacities and capabilities are enacted, it is within a set of estranged relations for the purposes of capitalist accumulation. So, what can we do? What can we do to move to a social formation where this does not occur, where social agents can realize and enact their potential? This chapter seeks to answer those questions, offering some ways forward but also recognizing the enormous challenges that exist.

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In this chapter I wish to bring together the points I have been raising in the previous chapters in an empirical case study. The study of alienation can never be simply a philosophical exercise. All theories, especially in the Marxist tradition, require to be tested in the empirical flow of history. Doing so is vital to keep a theory alive, relevant and to allow it to develop. Unless dialogue exists between theory and empirical research, then the study of alienation will be a dead project. I explore here how and why social workers working in the United Kingdom experience alienation and how that shapes their wellbeing. The reasons for their alienation are more than workload or simple references to stress. It is to do with how they orientate to other people and their identity and sense of self.

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The question arises is alienation a redundant concept? As Ricoeur (1968) observed, alienation is so semantically overridden it has become rendered meaningless. Or it has perhaps been superseded by concepts more capable of analysing the textures of contemporary capitalism, with its flows and relationships and formations of new subjectivities as discussed in previous chapters. As indicated from the outset I believe it is not redundant, and, in fact, the capitalism of the 21st century is as alienative as in previous periods of capitalism. I discuss here how the core relations of capitalism still pertain and that alienation has taken on a new historical but not new logical form.

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A great deal of time has elapsed since Marx first laid down his ideas on alienation in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts in 1844. A considerable volume of scholarship, theorization and empirical work on Marx and alienation has occurred since then, alongside various waves of theories and other work within the social sciences. Different theories and philosophies have raised interesting and challenging questions for how Marx understood alienation. Post-structuralism and post-modernism have posed questions as to what it is to be human. In those philosophies (and I am speaking very broadly here) any reference to some form of essence, a human nature, was eschewed for a fluid relative subjectivity that emerges from discourses and technologies of power. Anything that hints of some form of fixity or essence is automatically deigned to be faulty. The accusation of essentialism can be levelled against alienation theory, and, given the prominence I placed on human nature in Chapter 1, that charge requires a response. More recently, post-humanism and neo-materialism have queried the relationship between humans and nature, alongside the modernist impulse to privilege and centre humans (and a White, heterosexual, able-bodied, cis-male human at that) in understanding societies or environmental change. Those perspectives have sought to reorientate nature, from a passive, inert entity that does nothing without human input to one that possess its own agential potentials. Those are good points and again require a response.

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Alienation theory promises a great deal in terms of understanding wellbeing. It is a theory that seeks to explain the relationships between wider social and economic relations and human emotions, bodies, desires, potentialities and abilities, between subjective experiences and objective conditions. The alienation theory referred to here is the one developed by Marx. In his writings on capitalism, both in what are referred to as the young and mature Marx, a concern is present with how capitalism damages people, creates social and individual suffering, while limiting the potential and capabilities of people. Linkages in the theory between bodies, labour, production, emotions, minds, brains and all forms of material things can become visible and allow insights into how and why people suffer, and, moving into normative territory, why that suffering is unnecessary.

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This chapter presents a comparative history of development and change over the longue durée. It weaves between Latvian and South African history at pivotal moments in spacetime, with particular focus given to the historical processes of colonization, imperialism, and resistance. The chapter concludes with coverage of national independence and social transitions to democracy.

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Food, Heritage and Trade in Post-Authoritarian Environments
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Post-Soviet Latvia and post-apartheid South Africa are far apart geographically and yet have endured a similar history of colonial and authoritarian rule before transitioning to democracy at the end of the 20th century. This book examines these two nations in an unusual comparative study of post-authoritarian efforts to decolonize production and trade.

The book combines an analysis of political economy and ecocultural heritage to unpack alternative trade formations. It also connects world systems thinking with Indigenous knowledge to articulate a decolonial theory of development and change over the longue durée. Conclusions and insights drawn are timely and important for a planet confronted by crises such as authoritarianism, laissez-faire capitalism, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic.

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This culminating chapter returns to various strands presented in earlier chapters of the book to articulate a decolonial theory of development. It begins with a decolonial critique of modern rationalism. Next, it draws from research findings to lay out the three features of authoritarian monocultures as an imperial mode of existence. It then identifies the features of egalitarian ecocultures, showing how this Indigenous and counterhegemonic mode of existence works to establish regenerative food, heritage and trade cultures at the fringes of the hegemonic world-system. These heterotopias of resistance offer critical insight into the relational knowledges, values and practices that support decolonization from within and without.

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