*Worldly Philosopher*

by on March 26, 2013 at 7:13 am in Books, Economics, History, Political Science | Permalink

The author is Jeremy Adelman and the subtitle is The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschman.  This is the book I have looked forward to most all year and so far (p.153) it does not disappoint.  Here is one excerpt:

If there was one author who captured Hirschmann’s imagination, it was Michel de Montaigne.  The highly personal vignettes, meditations, and moral reflections shook Hirschmann to his core.  He immediately grasped the power of the essays — Montaigne questioned absolute forms of knowledge by submitting everything to the interrogating eye of the observer, starting by looking at himself, turning himself over and over to capture the multiple points of perspective or the multiple forms of the self.  “We are never ‘at home’: we are always outside ourselves,” Montaigne wrote.  “Whoever would do what he has to do would see that the first thing he must learn to know is what he is.”

I am pleased that this book has 740 pages and I am wishing for more.  Here is a WSJ review.  Here is a good UK review.  Here is a review from The Economist.

CIP March 26, 2013 at 9:13 am

But reading it would violate my rule about books with stupidly cute titles.

CIP March 26, 2013 at 9:16 am

Never mind. I do read books whose reviewers mispell their titles.

Donald Pretari March 26, 2013 at 2:03 pm

I Pre-Ordered It. I’m trying to remember how many Biographies of Economists I’ve read. Not Many.

mavery March 26, 2013 at 4:07 pm

The plural of this book (by Heilbroner) is good, too. It was assigned reading for my Intro Micro course. I didn’t enjoy it much at the time (mandated reading and all), but I went back and gave it a shot after I graduated and found it to be quite excellent.

So Much for Subtlety March 26, 2013 at 6:11 pm

It is a bit of a telling indictment that the THE gets a sociologist to review the book. The WSJ can’t find an economist either and gets a lawyer who hates Wall Street.

Go figure.

I have not read the book, although I will, but even so it is interesting none of these reviews answer the important question – what precisely were his politics? He fought with the Communists in Spain, but did he fight with the Stalinists or the Trots? He does not seem to be the sort of person who would fight with the Anarchists. So presumably he was a Trot.

That makes his objection to choice all the more obvious. If he was a Trot it is not irrelevant to his later work that he was a supporter of this sort of totalitarianism. In fact it is likely to be key. Yet there seems to be a tacit agreement never to mention the past when it involves the Right Sort of totalitarianism. So Friedman gets criticized even though he did not advise the infinitely less bad Pinochet regime. Hirschmann gets a free pass. It can’t be because Hirschmann was a nicer person or something.

In fact the basic lack of honesty in the reviews I have seen is that no one has pointed out that his life’s work – development economics – was almost entirely a disaster and anyone foolish enough to listen to him only made thing worse. A fairly standard critique of almost any economist I can think of with an interest in Latin America. Except perhaps in the case of Chile.

Ray Lopez March 27, 2013 at 12:55 am

Got a ‘good book’ for you that I gotta feeling you’ll like SMFS: “Confessions of an Economic Hitman – John Perkins”. Enjoy!

Ray Lopez March 27, 2013 at 1:04 am
So Much For Subtlety March 27, 2013 at 2:31 am

Oh God no. Why is it that so many people have fallen for such a transparently fraudulent piece of crap? I mean, it wouldn’t even fool your average alert five year old but half the Hipster douche bags I meet seem to swear by it. Or they did about eight years ago.

The guy is either a grandstanding fraud of really epic proportions, which is what I hope is true, or he is a chronically deluded mental health care, which I suspect is true.

gucci borse April 17, 2013 at 8:12 am

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