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 primarily known for co-authoring Towards a New Socialism (1993), in which he lays out the implementation of a democratic and efficient command economy using modern computational resources, and 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. He read Capital when he was about 18. 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. 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 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
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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.
- What is the Communist Organisation in the British Isles? Statement upon founding of COBI.