Check out two recently released books authored by CPEG members Joe Persky and Ron Baiman!
The Political Economy of Progress
John Stuart Mill and Modern Radicalism
Joseph Persky – Oxford Studies in the History of Economics
While there had been much radical thought before John Stuart Mill, Joseph Persky argues it was Mill, as he moved to the left, who provided the radical wing of liberalism with its first serious analytical foundation, a political economy of progress that still echoes today. A rereading of Mill’s mature work suggests his theoretical understanding of accumulation led him to see laissez-faire capitalism as a transitional system. Deeply committed to the egalitarian precepts of the Enlightenment, Mill advocated gradualism and rejected revolutionary expropriation on utilitarian grounds: gradualism, not expropriation, promised meaningful long-term gains for the working classes. He endorsed laissez-faire capitalism because his theory of accumulation saw that system approaching a stationary state characterized by a great reduction in inequality and an expansion of cooperative production. These tendencies, in combination with an aggressive reform agenda made possible by the extension of the franchise, promised to provide a material base for social progress and individual development.
The Political Economy of Progress goes on to claim that Mill’s radical political economy anticipated more than a little of Marx’s analysis of capitalism and laid a foundation for the work of Fabians and other gradualist radicals in the 20th century. More recently, modern philosophic radicals, such as Rawls, have deep links to this Millean political economy. These links are still worthy of development. In particular, a politically meaningful acceptance of Rawls’s radical liberalism waits on a movement capable of re-engineering the workplace in a manner consistent with Mill’s endorsement of worker management.
“Joseph Persky’s Political Economy of Progress is a thoughtful and provocative reflection on problems with modern radical thought, and how a sympathetic reading of John Stuart Mill can provide some needed coherence. It is definitely worth reading.” — David Colander, Christian A Johnson Distinguished Professor of Economics, Middlebury College
“Like Fleischacker on Smith, Persky on Mill claims the man for the left. The claim is certainly correct, and is here thoroughly argued, exhibiting the generosity and thoughtfulness characteristic of Perksy’s scholarship. Mill was simultaneously the apotheosis of laissez-faire and the beginning of its long descent. Some of us think the descent was ill-considered. To understand it, though, Persky’s is the essential book, a pleasure to read from beginning to end.” — Deirdre McCloskey, Distinguished Professor of Economics, History, English, and Communication Emerita, University of Illinois at Chicago
“This fine book straddles the disciplines of intellectual history and political philosophy. Persky’s original and insightful discussion of how John Stuart Mill reconciled the tension between his progressivism and his commitment to liberalism will be of considerable interest to scholars of Mill and of Utilitarianism in general. The book’s argument that Utilitarianism provides the most robust grounding for the design of public policy opens up a useful debate on what philosophical principles should underpin social and economic policymaking. An excellent chapter on Mill and Fabianism illustrates the author’s intriguing hypothesis that modern radicalism is reformist rather than revolutionary. This book is sure to find favor with intellectual historians and political philosophers who specialize in Mill and themes of social justice.” — Gary Mongiovi, Professor of Economics, St John’s University
“Persky’s book marks a significant advance in our knowledge of John Stuart Mill and of his place in the history of economic thought. It argues convincingly that Mill made important additions to the work of his predecessors, and that these additions make Mill’s work of great interest and relevance today.” — Steven Pressman, Emeritus Professor of Economics and Finance, Monmouth University and Professor of Economics, Colorado State University
The Morality of Radical Economics
Ghost Curve Ideology and the Value Neutral Aspect of Neoclassical Economics
Ron Baiman – Palgrave Macmillan
This book is in equal parts a treatise on morality and economics, a critique of neoclassical orthodoxy, a brief for replacing mainstream economics with a radical political economics, and an argument for the abandonment of neoliberal capitalism in favor of democratic socialism. It includes a detailed proposal for a “demand and cost” alternative to “supply and demand” analysis and an in-depth technical critique of both neoclassical “high theory” and “applied microeconomic analysis” demonstrating that these are not only infeasible or immoral, but have directly contributed to public policy disasters. Further, the book suggests that only a moral economics in the form of radical political economy can address the looming economic and environmental crises of today’s world.
Baiman begins with an introduction to morality and ethics in both general sciences and in economics in particular. He then guides readers through evidence of how neoclassical economics has not only failed to remain objective and value-free, but has become an ideology of apologetics protecting an immoral system. In addition to breaking down real-world examples to demonstrate his assertions, Baiman analyzes a theoretical Utopia design exercise. He concludes by arguing that the only form of economics that supports widely shared human values—such as social equity, democracy, and solidarity—is so-called “radical economics”, and that all true economics science should be directed toward achieving more socially productive economic activity. An invaluable guide to morality and economics, this book will appeal to researchers and teachers looking to change the way we think about economics, policy, and society.
“Neoclassical economics pretends to be “value neutral,” which is untrue. You can’t make a statement about how the economy functions without adopting a set of values. From “ghost” supply curves in the textbooks to the realm of high theory, Ron Baiman demolishes the pretenses and presents relevant value-based alternatives.” — Lance Taylor, Arnhold Professor Emeritus, New School for Social Research, USA
“Ron Baiman has given us an interesting account of the role of values and morality in economics, taking issue with the conventional view that economics is a value neutral discipline. The book makes a strong case that economics cannot be separated from the values of economists.” — Dean Baker, Co-Director Center for Economic and Policy Research; Coauthor of “Getting Back to Full Employment”
“Baiman provides a refreshingly honest guide for everyone who has ever tasted a bit of formal neo-classical economics and found it implausible… He offers a deep critique of the favorite machinery of neo-classical economics … makes solid suggestions concerning how we can start to replace neoclassical rationalizations with radical value-sensitive theories and applications. His conclusion is clear. We can only get a useful economics when economists consciously accept as their goal the improvement of social and human well-being.” — Joseph J. Persky, Professor of Economics, University of Illinois at Chicago, USA; Author of Does “Trickle Down” Work? and When Corporations Leave Town