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!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Making Sense of the Global Crisis

Earlier this year, I ran a series of ten posts which started with a simple question – why are we so badly served with books about the economic crisis? I bemoaned the fact that authors –
-  seem to have made up their mind up about the explanation before they started to write
- make little attempt to analyse previous efforts at explanation
- generally spend their time on diagnosis
- leaving prescriptions to the last few pages

Of course, there are exceptions – in particular Howard Davies’ The Financial Crisis (2010) which identified and briefly assessed no fewer than 39 different explanations for the crisis. And I have just been reading Vampire Capitalism – fractured societies and alternative futures a book by Paul Kennedy which appeared only a few months ago. 
An academic sociologist, Kennedy earns high points by stating in the very first sentence that he has 
stood on the shoulders of so many giants that I am dizzy” 

and then proves the point by each chapter of his book having extensive notes (often with hyperlinks) and concluding with a bibliography of 25 pages…
More to the point, the book covers pretty extensively a lot of subjects, such as the ecological crisis and the future of work, which are normally ignored in such texts. You really feel that the guy has made a real effort to track down and summarise for us the most important texts in the field – a quite exceptional approach….which so few others attempt. You can check for yourself since the book can be downloaded in its entirety here.

I suspect that one reason for this feature is that the book is based on a much longer textbook he did a few years back called  Global Sociology – which would perhaps explain the lightness of some of the discussion dealing with the feasibility of “green solutions” to the ecological aspects of the crisis. Surprisingly, there is no reference to Capitalism 3.0 (2006) by Peter Barnes – a very fair-minded entrepreneur sensitive to the evils of unregulated capitalism. Nor to people such Paul Hawkens….whose Natural Capitalism – the next industrial revolution made such an impact when it came out as far as back as 1999. Hawkens indeed has just released an intensive analysis of 100 “feasible solutions” – assessed by a credible advisory team over the past 3 years…… Drawdown

But I didn ‘t actually mean any takedown with these remarks – because at least the man has been courageous enough to aim high, write clearly and put his stuff out there for us to assess…..I so much wish others would do likewise…….
 
In that spirit, let me return to the effort I made earlier this year to identify, in some ten posts, about 200 of the key books which try to explain the economics of the modern world – you can find them dealt with from pages 35-58 of Common Endeavour

Somewhere I have made the comment that the best books on the subject for me are actually not written by economists - so I thought I would test that throwaway remark and came up with the following table which simply identifies (very subjectively) some seminal titles which are then placed not quite in a left-right spectrum but more in a “tonal” spectrum…..

 Key Texts on the Crisis - by category of writing - and "tone"
Discipline
Critical
Moderate
Apologiae

Economics
Globalisation and its Discontents; Joseph Stiglitz (2002)

Debt and Neo-Feudalism; Michael Hudson (2012)


Why Globalisation Works; Martin Wolf (2004)

most of the discipline
Political economy

The discipline still rediscovering itself
Political science
Paul Hirst (stakeholding)

Peter Mair
Few pol scientists trespass into the economic field
Sociology
End of capitalism? Michael Mann (2013)
A lot of sociologists seduced into polling work
The sociological voice is still inspired by C Wright Mills – although divided a  bit by the French school
geography
A Brief History of Neo-Liberalism – David Harvey (2005).
Injustice ; Daniel Dorling 2014)

The geographers are a bolshie lot!
Environment
                            
Although most of this bunch have been geographers, they pride themselves on their technocracy
Journalism


They don’t enjoy the tenure of the academics – and therefore have to pay attention to their mealticket
Management and mant studies
Rebalancing Society; Henry Mintzberg (2014)

Peter Senge
Charles Handy
Capitalism 3.0 Peter Barnes (2006)
Most mant writers are apologists – apart from the critical mant theorists
Religious studies
Laudato-Si – Pope Francis’ Encyclical (2015). Accessible in its entirety here

Questions of Business Life; Higginson (2002)
A more ecumenical bunch!

My apologies to all those who may feel demeaned……but, as I hope my next post will make clear, there is a very serious point I will be trying to make……  

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