Paul Cockshott

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Cockshott in 2016.

William Paul Cockshott (born 16 March 1952) is a British Marxist economist, computer scientist, and author. His work focuses primarily on Marxist econophysics and economic computability, and he is widely known for co-authoring Towards a New Socialism (1993) with Allin Cottrell, in which the authors lay out the implementation of a democratic and efficient command economy using modern computational resources and cybernetic theory, as well as the sole author of How the World Works: The Story of Human Labor from Prehistory to the Modern Day (2020), a modern take on Marxist historical materialism.

He maintains a blog and in 2018 became active on a personal YouTube channel with short presentations on a variety of Marxist topics, including the interaction between Marxism and various branches of science and mathematics, the role of democracy and referenda in leftist strategy, the failure and collapse of the Soviet Union, and Maoist and Leninist philosophy.


Cockshott has stated that he grew up in a working-class household which supported the Labour Party, but who were not communists.[citation needed] He read Capital when he was about 18.[citation needed] Cockshott strongly supported the Maoist line during the Cultural Revolution and continues to show great respect for Mao and his ideas through his work. In his twenties, Cockshott was a founding member of the Communist Organisation in the British Isles (COBI), a group formed by former members of the British and Irish Communist Organisation (B&ICO) who had left the party on account of perceived revisionism, including an over-emphasis on "liberal constitutionalist politics" and having a poor effect on developing class consciousness in Ireland.[1] He was also active in the opposition and eventual defeat of the attempts of the Thatcher government to institute a regressive poll tax.

In the 1980s, Cockshott opposed what he saw as a shift in the Labour Party towards neoliberalistic and anti-planning rhetoric, including Labour endorsement of works like Alec Nove's The Economics of Feasible Socialism (1983), a leftist attack on planning. When it became evident that the Soviet economic system was in serious crisis, Cockshott and Allin Cottrell wrote Towards a New Communism[citation needed] as a proposal for radically reforming the Soviet economy in a more responsive and more democratic direction. By the 1980s, however, neoliberal and rightist economists such as Abel Aganbegyan had already taken control of the narrative throughout the Eastern Bloc. After the fall of the USSR, Cockshott and Cottrell were able to find a publisher in the West, but were forced by the political climate of the 1990s to revise the title to "Towards a New Socialism". Cockshott and Cottrell, as well as others such as Dave Zachariah, have continued to produce works in defense of socialist economics and theory since the mid-1990s.

Cockshott now gives talks at the Communist University, affiliated with the Communist Party of Great Britain, and at other locations hosted by socialist and communist groups around the world.

Politics and thought

Proposed system

Video introduction to the TANS system

Cockshott is best known as a prominent advocate for a holistic fusion of three main components originally put forward in Towards a New Socialism:

Since the publication of Towards a New Socialism in 1993, Cockshott has made very few changes to this proposal outside of methodological tweaks accounting for huge leaps in technology. He has drawn attention to his model in light of recent events such as the Brexit referendum, the leftist debate surrounding the anti-democratic European Union, and most notably, dealing with the climate crisis. Cockshott has pointed out that the system he and his colleagues advocate is highly similar to proposals which others had arrived at independently, including the socialism of the 21st century of Heinz Dieterich (with whom Cockshott and Cottrell have since collaborated[2]).

Cockshott's politics are strongly influenced by his Maoist background, particularly the struggle and eventual failure of the Cultural Revolution. He frequently cites Mao on his YouTube channel and holds generally pro-Maoist views in opposition to Deng/Liu and their socialism with Chinese characteristics. However, he holds that modern capitalist China remains a progressive force due to its central role in the unprecedented shift in the global division of labour away from Western countries, which Cockshott considers "objectively reactionary" as they "attempt to return to an economic order that is irretrievably lost."[3]



Paul Cockshott has authored or co-authored the following books:

  • (2022) Economic Planning in an Age of Climate Crisis
  • (2020) How the World Works, Monthly Review Press.
  • (2015). Computation and its Limits, Oxford University Press.
  • (2012). Classical Econophysics, Routledge.
  • (2012). Arguments for Socialism, Lulu.
  • (2011). Glasgow Pascal Compiler with vector extensions, Lulu.
  • (2010). Transition to 21st Century Socialism in the European Union, Lulu.
  • (2004). SIMD Programming Manual for Linux and Windows, Springer.
  • (1993). Towards a New Socialism, Spokesman.
  • (1990). A Compiler Writer's Toolbox: Interactive Compilers for PCs With Turbo Pascal, Ellis Horwood Ltd.
  • (1990). Ps-Algol Implementations: Applications in Persistent Object Oriented Programming, Ellis Horwood Ltd.


External links


  1. What is the Communist Organisation in the British Isles? Statement upon founding of COBI.
  2. Cockshott, Paul; Cottrell, Allin; Dieterich, Heinz (2010-03-10). Transition to 21st Century Socialism in the European Union (PDF). ISBN 978-1-4457-1507-0.
  3. "The World Crisis." (timestamp 27:00) YouTube.