Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of Business Enterprise - The founder of the Institutionalist/Evolutionary school of economics (you're probably familiar with John Kenneth Galbraith... also an institutionalist) at his best. Thorstein Veblen digs deep in his critique of early twentieth century capitalism by getting at the root of the functional problem with business in the world of the credit economy. Now Veblen can be a little hard to read... so... I'll help some of y'all out by getting to the crux of his argument: In modern capitalism there is an incentives gap between the aims of the productive system in total and the aims of the monied interests at its helm. Business is driven by profit and by incentives toward pecuniary gain. Industry, by its very nature is driven by the instincts of workmanship and idle curiosity. Further, the pecuniary (money related) motive and the aim of industrial efficiency are not always mutually aligned with one another: the industrial system, it's interests reflected in those of the community at large, is not always best represented by those who drive it forward for predatory gain. This is detailed quite well by Naomi Klein a century later in The Shock Doctrine. Moreover, The effect of loan credit on the accumulation of business capital is such as to create a tripartite incentives gap in the modern corporation. Firms are incentivized to borrow so that they may expand their share of sales to undersell firms which do not. In modern business this habit has become so universal as to practically nullify the advantage gained by any business participating in the institution of credit over and against that of any other of its co-participants. Subsequent to this, capital within our present day “credit economy” is based not upon material assets so much as on the prospective earning capacity of a business firm. This predicted earning capacity is not the same as the actual earning capacity of a firm. The result is that the businessman in the modern capitalist market is given incentive to influence the the speculated capacity of his firm to a point well beyond its actual earning capacity so as to incur profits from the stock market; subsequently, the businessman no longer has his eye to the maximization of profits so much as to a maximization of their own personal gain in the capital market. This maximization is usually obtained through deception, pitting the financial interests of business enterprise not only against the interests of the public at large, but also against those of the better capitalistic management of business itself. This is in essence the very point of the stock market as manifest on Wall Street. If there is one book that I believe should be in EVERY Occupiers arsenal, it is this one.
William M. Dugger, Corporate Hegemony - Radical Institutionalist Economics at its best, William Dugger expands on the Veblenian approach through elaborating on the social processes whereby corporate power has come to dominate all of our social institutions throughout many clusters of institutions in society, economic or otherwise. Our economic, political, military, educational, religious and even family kinship institutions have become big business in America. This, Dugger argues, is no accident. It is rather the process of the acquisition of power by the corporate institutions which we've created to maintain our economic habits.
C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite & Harold Laswell, Power: Who Gets What, When, and How? - Focusing on on the folks who have garnered power within society to themselves, how they did so and how they maintain their power Mills & Laswell both paint very useful frameworks of analysis. These 2 books should be in the hands of anyone who is actively engaged in challenging authority to push power to concede to popular demand.
Rosa Luxemburg, The Accumulation of Capital: A Contribution to an Economic Explanation of Imperialism - In here Marxist tour de force, Luxemburg expands upon the ideas of Marx laid out in Volume II of Capital to explain, among other things, how war is a mechanism whereby the state could secure a continuation of the exploitation of surplus value within a capitalist market. Luxemburg pulls no punches in her analysis which could as easily be applied to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan today as it was to WWI in her own time.