Sunday, August 28, 2011

Links of interest this week

Philip Pilkington interviews David Gaeber, economic anthropologist and author of the recently published, Debt: The First 5,000 Years (Melville House, 2011). This is one of the best pieces I have encountered on the history of money. It is a must-read, IMHO, especially for anyone interested in MMT and the basis for its Chartalist theory of money. Gaeber also participates extensively in the comments. Kudos to Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism for hosting it.

John Emerson posted Attendant Lords, which examines the "professionalization" of philosophy and also of economics. He finds that just as analytic philosophy has come to dominate US academia, commandeering the professional universe of discourse, so too have "the modelers" in economics.

The result is that both disciplines have become alienated from their roots and isolated from reality in their pursuit of rigor and analytic "purity." More ominously, the result is a dogmatism that is reminiscent of the religious dogma and hierarchical dominance from which free thinkers and scientists struggled to liberate themselves in the past. Interestingly, David Graeber lost his position at Yale apparently as a result of this syndrome. Not for everyone, maybe, but for those interested in the state of intellectual debate in these disciplines, this is for you. I comment on my experience, and Emerson responds.

(h/t to Tadit Anderson of Re-imagining Economics for posting the section on economics and alerting me to Emerson's work.)


Clonal said...


On the issue of "professionalization" I may have mentioned Jeff Schmidt, and his book "Disciplined Minds"

A Radio Reading of the book

From a review

As an academic laborer, I design subjects, set assignments, mark essays and supervise theses. This seems natural enough. Could it actually be a deeply ideological process? Worse yet, am I unknowingly helping produce graduates who are more conformist than I wish or imagine?

Jeff Schmidt argues that training professionals is a process of fostering political and intellectual subordination. On the surface, this is a startling claim, since the often-stated aim of educators is to promote independent thinking. Critics have long argued that schooling is a method of preparing children for life as workers within the class structure (Bowles and Gintis, 1976), but have not often pursued the same analysis at the level of higher education.

There are two key ideological processes in professional education, according to Schmidt. One is favoring students who pick up the point of view of their superiors, behavior Schmidt calls "ideological discipline." The other is favoring students who direct their curiosity as requested by others, a trait Schmidt delightfully dubs "assignable curiosity." For example, the teacher sets the class an assignment, say on symbolism in a novel. It doesn't matter so much whether the novel is by Austen or Gordimer. The question is whether the students will do as they are told. "Good" students will undertake the assigned task conscientiously, perhaps even going beyond what the teacher expected -- but in a way that pleases the teacher. "Difficult" students may do something different, refusing to accept the task as given. No prizes for guessing which students get encouragement and rewards.

The same dynamic applies when it comes to qualifying examinations, well known to anyone undertaking a PhD. To be sure of passing, students knuckle down to learn what is expected, for example by studying past exam papers and reading all the assigned books. Any students who instead follow their own interests by only studying things that intrigue them personally are risking their professional future. A few of such independently minded students get through the exams, but most of those who pass have played it safe. They have learned to acquiesce intellectually. They are ready for life as a professional who will not step outside the bounds set by those with power.

Also video of Jeff Schmidt on Academic Freedom

Clonal said...

Also David Graeber is a poster child for Jeff Scmidt's contentions.

googleheim said...

"to manipulate the level of reserves" ... sounds like a tool of elastic currency theory. If you need to swell the reserves to prevent a run on the banks, then bonds might act as a buffer.

What happens if you take bonds away from the rich ? where are they are going to park their monies ?

this is like having to park your car in the street rather than inside the garage ?

or take it out of "lala land" fed/tsy domain and into the RReal economy ...

GLH said...

I thought Bill Mitchell was joking when he said that his professor told him that if the facts didn't meet the theory then the facts must be wrong. But, after reading the second article I now believe he was serious.

Matt Franko said...

This is an excerpt that caught my attention:

"The economic paradigm is backed by a toxic stew of self-serving positivist philosophy. It began with Milton Friedman’s “Preface to Positive Economics”, which claimed that, since Newton used them, counterfactual presuppositions are perfectly acceptable as long as they lead to predictive theories. This idea was never quite right (Keen, pp. 148-164), but it got worse. Following Lakatos, the profession next rejected the very idea of falsifiability: “Lakatos recommends scientists to select certain of their hypotheses, christen them a ‘hard core’ and decide not to modify or renounce them in the face of empirical difficulties. (THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS!) He tells us little about how such hypotheses are to be selected. As it stands, therefore, his methodology gives carte blanche to any group who want to erect their pet notion into a dogma.”


Tom Hickey said...

Contemporary educational system (K thru Phd) = boot camp aka brainwashing.

selise said...

clonal and tom, i read schmidt's book almost a decade ago and have found it EXTREMELY helpful. highly recommended to anyone interested in the subject or struggling with the issues discussed.