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Rentier Capitalism – Who Owns the Economy, and Who Pays for It?

Rentier Capitalism
Brett Christophers
Verso Books, 2020
Grado: debutante
Perspective: Other
Topic: Criticism of Capitalism, Labour & Care
page count: 256 pages
ISBN: 9781788739726


How did Britain's economy become a bastion of inequality? In this landmark book, the author of The New Enclosure provides a forensic examination and sweeping critique of early-twenty-first-century capitalism. Brett Christophers styles this as 'rentier capitalism', in which ownership of key types of scarce assets--such as land, intellectual property, natural resources, or digital platforms--is all-important and dominated by a few unfathomably wealthy companies and individuals: rentiers. If a small elite owns today's economy, everybody else foots the bill. Nowhere is this divergence starker, Christophers shows, than in the United Kingdom, where the prototypical ills of rentier capitalism--vast inequalities combined with entrenched economic stagnation--are on full display and have led the country inexorably to the precipice of Brexit. With profound lessons for other countries subject to rentier dominance, Christophers' examination of the UK case is indispensable to those wanting not just to understand this insidious economic phenomenon but to overcome it. Frequently invoked but never previously analysed and illuminated in all its depth and variety, rentier capitalism is here laid bare for the first time.

Book summary

You may be familiar with the concept of rentier capitalism: “an economic order organised around income-generating assets, in which overall incomes are dominated by rents and economic life is dominated by rentiers.” The domination of rentiers in the economy has been commented on for centuries, but in Rentier Capitalism: Who Owns the Economy, and Who Pays for It? its scale, influence, and deceit are studied in-depth for the first time. In his anticipated, sweeping study of rentier capitalism in the UK, Brett Christophers reveals how a small number of elite corporate and individual rentiers are passively stockpiling wealth, leaving the rest of the economy to suffer at their expense. Christophers elucidates the rentierization of the UK economy and the insulation of the powerful rentier in modern capitalism. Through this highly-detailed case study, Christophers connects the UK’s economic stagnation, growing income inequality, and decreasing productivity to the growth of the rentier. As said by one reviewer, “Few books come along that fundamentally challenge the way you see the world. This is one of them.”

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