Capitalism explained to my granddaughter

Capitalism explained to my granddaughter

Capitalism rules the world today. International societies defy states and international institutions, trample on the common good, move their production wherever they want in order to to maximize their profits, without hesitating to involve children from Third World countries in slave labor. As a result, under the influence of this globalized capitalism, the lives of more than a billion people are destroyed by poverty, inequalities are growing like never before, the resources of the planet are depleted, and people are becoming depressed. It is with this system and the cannibal order it imposes on the world that Jean Ziegler, after subtle and devoted dialogue with his granddaughter, proposes a breakup.

As usual, the author condemns and fights capitalism and neoliberal economics, with a caricatural tone, if not theatrical. Looking at the title alone, one might think that the purpose of the book is to popularize capitalism through the dialogue of grandchildren and grandparents. The subtitle „Hoping she'll live to se the end of it“, clarifies the situation for for those not familiar enough with Ziegler: this book is resolutely anti-capitalist.

However, we quickly realize that the granddaughter in question is not a little girl but a young adult, and that the quiz is simulated. This is only a way for the author to pass on his interesting ideas. This short book reveals to us a partial picture of the history of the emergence of capitalism, it provides many examples that portray capitalism or liberal democracy as an absolute evil.


Jean Ziegler (1934) is a french writer, former professor of sociology at the University of Geneva and the Sorbonne, Paris.
Currently vice-president of the Advisory Committee to the United Nations Human Rights Council. He was a Member of Parliament for the Social Democrats in the Federal Assembly of Switzerland from 1981 to 1999. He has also held several positions with the United Nations, especially as Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food from 2000 to 2008, and as a member of the Advisory Committee of the UN Human Rights Council from 2008 to 2012. Jean Ziegler has authored numerous works, is a lecturer, and is well known for this sentence: A child who dies from hunger is a murdered child. He studied at the universities of Bern and Geneva and has doctorates in Law and Sociology. Jean Ziegler was made knight (chevalier) of the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1994. He has an honorary degree at the University of Mons in Belgium and was awarded the Medal of the Presidency of the Italian Republic. The Republic of Cape Verde awarded him the National Order of Amílcar Cabral, first degree and in 2002 he received the Gaddafi Human Rights Prize.
Some of his most famous works include Sociologie de la nouvelle Afrique (1964), Le pouvoir africain (1973), La victoire des vaincus, oppression et résistance culturelle (1988), Le droit à l’alimentation (2003), Chemins d'espérance. Ces combats gagnés, parfois perdus mais que nous remporterons ensemble (2016). 

  • Original title: Le capitalisme explique a ma petite-fille
  • Original language: French
  • Translation: Jelena Butković