*Capitalism: Competition, Conflict, Crises*, by Anwar Shaikh

by on January 26, 2016 at 9:18 am in Books, Economics | Permalink

Oxford University Press, 1024 pp., New School lineage, endorsements from the big “heterodox” names, this may be another one of the big economics books this year.

I’ll keep you posted.  Here is the Amazon link.

For the pointer I thank the excellent David Gordon.

1 Urstoff January 26, 2016 at 9:21 am

At 1,000+ pages, it certainly is big.

I never understand what is considered “orthodox” by “heterodox” economists. Just neo-classical economics? All major schools of macro? Anything that uses marginal analysis?

2 Ray Lopez January 26, 2016 at 10:09 am

The table of contents reads like a textbook, and, like a typical Econ 101 freshman textbook, no mention of imperfect competition, monopoly, or patents. Further, the book seems to make the classic mistake of simply expounding on the various schools of economic thought (Keynesianism, Monetarism, but no obvious mention of Austrian economics) without mentioning whether these models apply to the real world (I bet they don’t).

3 dr January 26, 2016 at 11:13 am

A devastating take down of the table of contents!

4 msgkings January 26, 2016 at 12:12 pm


5 Britonomist January 26, 2016 at 12:16 pm

” like a typical Econ 101 freshman textbook, no mention of imperfect competition, monopoly, or patents”

You have definitely never, ever, *ever* read an econ textbook – because every textbook I have read goes into great detail on these. Or otherwise you’ve read some truly terrible textbooks.

6 Ray Lopez January 26, 2016 at 11:13 pm

Sorry, I meant to say the reviewed book read like Econ 101, “BUT” no mention of the three areas I mention. I have Blanchard’s excellent Econ 101 tome on my book shelf.

7 Garrett Watson January 27, 2016 at 11:28 am

Shaikh explicitly discusses the Austrians on pages 349-353.

8 Sirr Duende January 26, 2016 at 2:59 pm

Probably Neoclassical. What even defining that is tricky. Best article on the issue:

What Is Neoclassical Economics?

9 Urstoff January 26, 2016 at 5:36 pm

So given that, who are the neoclassical economists these days? That paper really seems to be confusing axioms with regulatory principles. Those three axioms they state as features of neoclassical economics are never inviolable principles; they are principles that are helpful in building models and can be discarded if the situation calls for it.

10 The Devil's Dictionary January 26, 2016 at 10:12 am

Another one of the big economics books? Give me a break. Please.

11 lt2 January 26, 2016 at 11:05 am

hey, there’s a severe worldwide shortage of new economics books!

imagine the unspeakable horror of humanity forced to struggle through 2016 with last year’s economics books.

12 Arjun January 26, 2016 at 10:44 am

Tyler Cowen endorsing a magnum opus of a Marxist economist! Huzzah!!

13 Nathan W January 26, 2016 at 10:48 am

I welcome any attempt to develop a coherent set of economic principles which do not rely so heavily all all of those “too good to be true” things, like, we are perfectly rational, act as though fully informed, and other nonsense that constitutes the fundamental building blocks of the field of economics. But does he actually do this? I’m not so sure.

14 RM January 26, 2016 at 12:31 pm

What must it have been like to be a Pakistani/Indian graduating from Stuyvesant in 1961?

15 So Much For Subtlety January 27, 2016 at 12:52 am

Better than being a Pakistani/Indian graduating from South Asia in 1961?

Although becoming a Marxist suggests disappointment.

16 dearieme January 26, 2016 at 3:43 pm

What, another crisis of capitalism? zzzzzzzzzzz

17 Tom Warner January 26, 2016 at 5:16 pm

If only we had a president from the anti-war, left wing of the Democratic Party, say someone like Barack Obama, then all the aggressive authoritarian dictatorships of the world would feel so much less threatened and there would be some much less conflict.

Oh wait.

But maybe if we only read and watch left-wing media and only talk to other people who think like ourselves, we can keep pretending it’s so. You see, it might look like US foreign policy is a shambles and Putin is pissing in our face, but Obama’s actually carefully plotting this all out, giving Putin enough rope to hang himself. If you try hard enough you can believe it, too!

Go Bernie!

18 So Much For Subtlety January 26, 2016 at 7:25 pm

I like big thick books. On the other hand look who endorses it:

— G. C. Harcourt, Reader in the History of Economic Theory, Emeritus, University of Cambridge and Visiting Professorial Fellow, School of Economics, UNSW Australia

— Vivek Chibber, Professor of Sociology, New York University

— James K. Galbraith, author of The End of Normal and of Inequality: What Everyone Needs to Know

— J. Barkley Rosser, Jr., Professor of Economics and Kirby L. Cramer, Jr. Professor of Business Administration, James Madison University

OK, some people may have problems with Barkley but that is a serious recommendation. The others? Not so much. The first is by a Historian, not an Economist? The second is by a sociologist? Who may or may not be known to the author?

Not sure I will be at the head of the line to buy one.

19 Ray Lopez January 26, 2016 at 11:17 pm

Excellent critique. I notice (sorry for my prejudice) that Indian authors favor ‘big sweeping picture’ non-fiction books that have very little substance. More like a a cut-and-paste from dozens of books already out in the field. A typical title might be: “Chess: the history of the game, its famous players, and how to play the Opening, Middlegame and Endgame”. It’s sort of what the market for books when a country is poor demands: they want to spend money on just one book that will supposedly ‘explain it all’ and not ‘waste money’ on many books.

20 Barkley Rosser January 27, 2016 at 9:58 pm

Shaikh is not Indian. He was born in Pakistan, but his family moved to the US when he was fairly young and indeed he graduated from a high school in Brooklyn. He has just hit 70, but is currently Chair of the economics dept at the New School of Social Research. This is indeed his magnum opus, which shows both the depth and breadth of his brilliant scholarship.

21 Barkley Rosser January 27, 2016 at 9:56 pm

Thanks for at least a bit of nice comment.

Geoff Harbourt is not a historian. He is an economist who was at Cambridge University for decades. Close to the late Joan Robinson, he was a major player in the “Cambridge capital controversies” of the 1950s-1970s. Hr is retired to his home in Adelaide. He is probably the most respected living post-Keynesian (or Post Keynesian) economist. He is the real thing and very serious. I note that Shaikh published important papers on that controversy and part of the book is about it.

I have never heard of Vivek Chibber. When I googled him I found that he has published quite a few books and got his PhD in 99 from Wisconsin, at that time the most highly ranked sociology program. Obviously having him shows that Shaikh’s book has multi-disciplinary reach, which it certainly does.

While many people disagree with him, James K. Galbraith is the most influential of us blurbers, an inside adviser of several presidents and currently the Director of Economists for Peace and Security. Curiously, he also like Shaikh has criticized Piketty on grounds drawn from the Cambridge capital theory controversies, namely his reliance on aggregate capital rather than heterogeneous capital, ironically a criticcism made by some Austrian economists. Jamie also happens to be the son of the late John Kenneth Galbraith, JFK’s Ambassador to India, who with his wife ran into his 90s the most elite intellectual salon in Cambridge, MA. The upshot is that Jamie knows everybody. In any case, he is an economist of considerable substance and influence…

22 Barkley Rosser January 27, 2016 at 10:02 pm

Just to sum it up, many will disagree with miuch in his wide-ranging book, and most will disagree with at last something in it, but this is a book of great substance.

23 Vivek Balram February 1, 2016 at 11:25 pm

Shaikh’s uniqueness is that he has a thorough grounding both in ‘Heterodox/ Marxist’ Economic thought and the way it relates to other schools- including the Austrian- as well as an intelligent interest in econophysics. His empirical results are what make his book interesting.
I must admit, a recommendation from Vivek Chibber would normally put me off. However, Shaikh’s work is of interest to real world forecasters. He is talking about turbulence and reflexivity rather than distorting the historical record and predicting a Dies Irae.
I think Shaikh’s book is going to help a lot of people in countries like India and Greece and Turkey, or smaller provincial Colleges, who are stuck in gerontocratic Leftist Uni Depts. to start doing useful empirical work without being shunned and ostracized as turncoats or C.I.A agents.

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