Capitalist Alternatives

Models, Taxonomies, Scenarios

Co-authored with Paul Dragos Aligica, Routledge 2015 [RoutledgeAmazon]Capitalist Alternatives, COVER

The book’s objective is to explore the challenge of thinking methodically – in a theoretically and empirically informed way – about alternative forms of capitalism. What are the most effective ways to conceptualize the existing models of capitalism that have captured the public imagination and are currently floating around in the public debate? How can one mobilize empirical analysis and theory in thinking about the realm of possibilities and about the future of economic order, but avoid the twin perils of scientism and historicism? This book is an attempt to respond to these and related challenges.

First, it delves into the substantive aspect of the debate, taking a closer look at a set of particular forms and models of capitalism that are currently discussed both in mass media and in academic circles as plausible, or at least possible, alternatives to the status quo: Crony, State, Regulatory, and Entrepreneurial Capitalisms. By elaborating and clarifying those models, it engages in a heuristic exercise that leads to a better understanding of the task of conceptualizing and assessing, in a theoretically informed way, the diversity of forms of capitalism.

Second, the book takes a step further, looking at the epistemic, theoretical and methodological dimensions of the discussion: What is involved, more precisely, in our classifying and theorizing of capitalist systems and their historical evolution? What is the epistemic basis for building plausible conjectures about the future evolution of an economic system? What are the logical and methodological parameters of our endeavors that deal with economic systems, or with the problem of continuity and change in comparative economic systems? Offering an original approach to the problem of alternative forms of capitalism, this book will be of great interest to scholars working in the field of comparative political economy.


Capitalist Alternatives is an ambitious and thoroughgoing examination of the comparative study of capitalism. In their two-part study, the authors argue that researchers need to be modest in their pronouncements about what capitalism ‘is’, how it is manifest and where it is going. … As an alternative to both formal (and often unhelpful) modelling and ad hoc description, readers are encouraged to embrace the difficulty of building and analysing hypothetical scenarios, for it is precisely within these scenarios that we are likely to discover the mechanisms that make capitalism(s) tick. Capitalist Alternatives thus serves as a laudable call to move beyond positivism. This call would be well-heeded not only within the disparate comparative economic literature, but across the social sciences.


Part I Microeconomics, Institutions, and Ideas

  1. State Capitalism
    1. Introduction
    2. The problem
    3. State capitalism and geo-economics: an overview
    4. State capitalism through the classic comparative economic systems criteria framework
    5. Mercantilism and state capitalism
    6. Rent-seeking systems: similarities and analogies
    7. Rent-seeking systems: some implications
    8. Conclusion
  2. Crony Capitalism
    1. Introduction
    2. Cronyism in the literature: a tentative taxonomy
    3. The rent-seeking society: the basic microeconomic foundation
    4. Crony capitalism from a structural perspective
    5. Crony capitalism from an ideological perspective
    6. Conclusions
  3. Regulatory Capitalism
    1. Introduction
    2. A cross-country comparative look at the dynamics of OECD countries
    3. Explaining the “freer markets, more rules” puzzle
      1. Regulatory capture and regulatory arbitrage
      2. The independent regulatory agencies dilemma
      3. The role of ideas
      4. Putting all the pieces together
    4. The normative angle
  4. Entrepreneurial Capitalism
    1. Introduction
    2. The Schumpeterian benchmark
    3. Entrepreneurship and the theory of the market process
      1. Entrepreneurship as speculation
      2. Entrepreneurship as leadership
    4. Networks: the institutions for sustainable disequilibrium
      1. Corporate management, public administration, and social change
      2. Social entrepreneurship in the networked economy
    5. Political entrepreneurship and crony capitalism in information societies
    6. Ideological facets
    7. Conclusion

Part II Epistemic Frameworks and Perspectives

  1. Typologies and Taxonomies in Comparative Economic Systems
    1. Introduction
    2. Building typologies: variables and combinatorial analysis
    3. Building taxonomies
      1. Functional reduction
      2. Pattern analysis by k-means clustering
      3. Hierarchical cluster analysis
    4. Using taxonomies to evaluate outcomes
    5. The difficult problem of social ontology
  2. Stages, Continuity and Change in Comparative and Historical Political Economy
    1. Introduction
    2. Revisiting stages theories
    3. Non-deterministic historical transitions
    4. Transition mechanisms
    5. Continuity and Change in Political Economy and Economic History
      1. Simon Kuznets: The role of historical technical and social innovations
      2. Douglass North: The limits of neoclassical model
      3. Alexander Gerschenkron: A closer look at the conceptual problems
    6. Critical junctures, scenarios, and counterfactuals
    7. Conclusion
  3. Possible Futures: Thought Experiments and Scenarios in Political Economy
    1. Introduction
    2. Limited diversity, thought experiments, and comparative analysis
    3. Epistemic challenges of scenario-building
    4. Scenarios, thought experiments, and the growth of knowledge
    5. The diversity of approaches
    6. Analytic narratives and scenario building
    7. Conclusion