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The Progressive Economics Forum

Best Books of 2012

Here are, in no particular order, my picks for the four best books of 2012 from a progressive economics perspective.

Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin. The Making of Global Capitalism: The Political Economy of American Empire. (Verso). I suspect this book will become a classic. It is a rich and highly detailed  account of how states, and above all the US state, constructed the contemporary global neo liberal order post WWII under the increasingly strong influence of financial capital. Some may baulk at the depiction of the US as a ruling imperial power, but the US state continues to shape and lead a global economic order in which US capital remains formidably strong. This historical account of the emergence of US led global capitalism is rooted in a Marxist political economy framework that gives a great deal of weight to the relative autonomy of politics. While written from a critical perspective and while the authors are well aware of the many contradictions of neo liberal capitalism in the wake of the crisis, they struggle to end on a hopeful note.

Robert Skidelsky and Edward Skidelsky. How Much is Enough? The Love of Money and the Case for the Good Life. (Allen Lane.) A long elaboration on Keynes’ essay, “Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren”,  this book by a father and son, economist  and philosopher, sets out a truly radical case for the “good life” which is in our grasp if we reject ceaseless accumulation and embrace reforms like radical reductions of working time and a basic income for all. Utopian, but a stimulus to thinking about alternatives.

Michael J. Sandel. What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux.) An interesting and compelling reflection on what important issues should not be left to markets at a time when public and private spaces outside the sway of the market and the cash nexus continue to shrink.

Joseph E. Stiglitz. The Price of Inequality. (Norton.) Probably the best book length account of why economic inequality has risen to extreme levels, and why this matters so much for democracy and economic well-being. While the general thrust of the argument is now familiar, this book is a f0rmidable synthesis and meticulously sourced. The policy conclusions are, however, disappointingly cautious.

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Comment from Paul Tulloch
Time: January 2, 2013, 12:36 pm

2013 factoid- I was reading a small bit the other day, that said Joseph Stiglitz was at one point a student of Joan Robinson. I believe it was a brief stint. Joan was such a force- I have been reading some of her work.

Amazing to think of the time period she lived- the worst of times and the best all rolled into a 40 year period- from the depths of the war and the destruction wrought by so many abusive assets to the “golden age”. I wonder how far they believed that another massive crisis would not arrive. It truly were some very serious action and power sharing in the realms of economy after the war. The whole right discourse was up against the wall with the red menace rising, and the failings of unfettered capital that created the great depression and the mass murder of the war.

I do recall a quote saying that even poetry had died during the war. Meaning some big changes had to be made- before life could move forward.

Seems as though Joseph must have paid heed to some of his former professor’s tutelage.

Sounds as though your list Andrew goes deep into the rethink space- potentially economists after the last great war were digging even deeper into the great mines of the base and the super structures.

I do wonder

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