what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

the concerned citizen is very badly served

You would think that, after the last decade of the global crisis, it would not be difficult to find a few impartial books clearly written by those familiar with the huge literature and which help the concerned citizen understand how exactly the crash happened; and whether any measures could realistically rekindle hope….  
We have thousands of books about the causes of the global economic crisis of 2007/08 which pin blame, variously, on banks, speculators and a score of other explanations - but few have actually been written which satisfy the five preconditions which the previous paragraph specifies - in relation to purpose, audience or knowledge ……Almost all are rather produced to argue an existing (partial) viewpoint; are written for students (to pass exams) or for other academics – rather than for the concerned citizen; and cover only those parts of the literature which the author’s job and/or inclinations require him/her to pay attention to…. (the last therefore excludes, for example, work which comes from the political economy (eg Susan Strange; Mark Blyth); or sociology (Wolfgang Streeck) fields…

I have a simple test for whether a book on the crisis is worth buying - go the Preface/Introduction and check how many of the key points are covered (award one point for each)–
- Does it say why yet another book is needed to add to the huge pile we already have?
- Does it argue that the book has something distinctive to say?
- is anything said about the audience the author is aiming at?
- Does it hint that there are different schools of thinking about the issue?
- No book can be comprehensive – does the author list what subjects (s)he has excluded?
- Is there an annotated further reading list in an annex?

I can’t say I was greatly helped when I googled phrases such as “best sellers in the global crisis” - I got a list of 100 books – but nothing to help me make a selection. 
I did, however, find this annotated list of 12 from someone who was writing his own book and recounted how difficult it was to get past the book buyers of the major companies, 
And there was a rare annotated list of 25 “must read” (mostly American) books on the crisis on an interesting website Planning beyond Capitalism - but its selection was understandably a bit light on books from other ideological stables…
Economics for Everyone in a very friendly-looking book which can actually be downloaded in full (all 360 pages!!) and has an excellent “further reading” list. Zombie Economics - how dead ides still walk among us; by John Quiggin (2010) is a great read    
And here's an introductory course on economics whose 11 sections have some good reading (and viewing) material - with hyperlinks.....
I’m currently sifting all the references I’ve made in my thousand plus blogposts about the issue – to see if I can come up with a commentary which might help others in my position…The names which figure are the following (in no particular order) – Michael Lewis, Michael Hudson, Martin Wolff, David Korten, Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Mason, Will Hutton, Paul Hirst, Andrew Gamble, Herman Daly, Susan George, Mark Blyth, Wolfgang Streeck, David Harvey, Michel Albert, Colin Crouch, David Marquand…

If asked to make a single recommendation, I would plump fairly confidently for Mark Blyth’s Austerity – the history of a dangerous idea But I’m sure there is another book out there which I could recommend to the concerned citizen?  

At least, people are now prepared to call the system by its name – “capitalism” – before the crisis, this was a word which rarely passed people’s lips. Now the talk everywhere is not only of capitalism but “post-capitalism”…….And an encouraging American initiative The Next System had an initial report – The Next System Report – political possibilities for the 21st Century (2015) which contains extensive references to writing I had not so far encountered and to good community practice in various parts of the world.  It has since followed up with a series of worthwhile papers.

Update; there's a useful bibliography here - if a bit outdated and American. And I've also just uploaded the "Economics for Everyone" book (all 360 pages) which I would recommend

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