Browsing through books: 5 books about economic relations

This is a post with five brief reviews of books that I consider to explore economic relations, one way or another.  I have read these and other library books slowly. But now the loans cannot be renewed anymore due to (1) the Aalto library database change and/or (2) my inability to use the new system, I decided to crunch reviews together. Here we go!

Macroeconomics Without Growth : Sustainable Economies in Neoclassical, Keynesian and Marxian Theories by Steffen Lange (2018, Metroplis-Verlag)

This book is a much needed exploration of macroeconomics without growth. Lange does a systematic analysis of Neoclassical, Keynesian and Marxian theories. Although the book has equations and therefore respects the essence of economics, it is also critical of the growth paradigm. No wonder this book is portrayed at

While some might consider the systematic structure of the book monotonous, I find it helpful for accessing the materials I need. In the emergence of narrated nonfiction books, I consider this straight-forward style refreshing. I hope to use this book as a handbook when navigating the different assumptions circulated about economy and growth. For that reason I ended up buying the book for myself.

Introducing a New Economics: Pluralist, Sustainable and Progressive by Jack Reardon, Maria Alejandra Caporale Madi, and Molly Scott Cato (2018, Pluto Press)

This book is a textbook that advocates new economics, i.e. “pluralist, sustainable and progressive”. The textbook covers many areas of economics: economic models; resources; inequality and poverty; livelihoods and work; unemployment and employment; money; economic value; firms, industries and markets; economic democracy and governance; consumption, investment and savings;  recession and financial crisis; political economy; trade; financial trends. All of these themes are covered with a sense of new economics that is “pluralist, sustainable and progressive”.

I paid special attention to chapter 6:  livelihoods and work. While it is (of course) accurate, it was quite short. That’s no surprise when the book covers such a wide array of topics. Therefore, this book seems fit for an overview of the new ways of thinking about the economy and economics in the times of ‘unsustainability.’ Because every chapter has discussion points, it is a good source for thinking about economics in the times of socio-ecological crisis. While I’m deeply grateful that this book exists as a resource for new students of ‘new economics’, it offered little answers to the questions I’m thinking about. Perhaps the answers emerge with the discussions with other students? However, it is a great source for getting an overview, finding more details for topics that are not one’s expertise, and definitely has great potential for becoming the new economics course book.

Toward just and sustainable economies: The social and solidarity economy North and South by Peter North and Molly Scott Cato (eds.) (2017, Polity Press)

This is an edited volume with 16 chapters (that are not all visible in the publisher’s site). It is a result of a conference exchange between researchers in the UK and Latin America. The timely purpose of the book is to learn from one another. It is often said that academia in the global North does not support its scholars to seek for or listen to the scholars in the global South. Such dismissal of expertise understandably irritates many. Therefore, I welcome this volume for my education.

As usually is the case with edited books, I asked the Aalto Learning Centre to order it due to a number chapters that I find interesting. When I got to book, several others emerged. The following chapters caught my attention:

Ch 1 Introduction: New Economies North and South: Sharing the Evolution to a Just and Sustainable Future by Peter North and Molly Scott Cato

Ch 4 Co-construction or prefiguration? Rethinking the ‘translation’ of SSE practices into policy by Ana Cecilia Dinerstein

Ch 5 Transitioning towards low carbon solidarity economies by Peter North

Ch 8 The role of universities in the sustainable evolution of solidarity economies by Luis Roberto Alves, Marco Aurelio Bernardes, Victor Gil Neto and Waverli Maia Matarazzo-Neuberger

Ch 15 The social and solidarity economy in Argentina and the UK: Convergence from opposite directions by Molly Scott Cato and Paolo Raffaelli

When reading the chapters, I noticed that many used space to define the key terms, such as solidarity economy. While it is important to get the reading of a concept from its user, the book would have benefited from less repetition. This is typical to edited books, and I’m not free of defining concepts in my book chapters for edited volumes. In fact, that’s half the fun in books that include chapters from different authors. But in that case the reader must be very interested in the topic. Luckily, this was the case for me.

So this much is clear: We need the act of cross-fertilisation of ideas between global South and North. Yet, I kept thinking how academic text following the norms stemming from the global North serve the cause. The answer is not to simply dismiss the genre altogether. First, academics get evaluated internally based on their publications that need to be recognisable to the evaluation committees (hence academic articles, books and book chapters). Second, if one wishes to get busy academic thinkers on board to a writing project, one is better off by starting with a genre they know (hence academic articles, books and book chapters). Third, it is easier to get the message across when the form is similar to everyone (hence academic articles, books and book chapters). No easy answers here, readers.

Money in a human economy by Keith Hart (Ed.) (2017, Berghahn Books)

This is Vol. 5 in a book series focusing on human economy published by Berghahn Books. It is an edited book with 13 chapters. The Introduction and chapter 1 is written by Keith Hart, an anthropologist. The other chapters focus on money as well, but with a versatile and diverse thematic focus. For an overview, I’d turn to Hart’s Introduction and chapter 1, titled Capitalism and our moment in the history of money.

The value of this book is in its humanist and social scientific perspective to money. Usually money is considered as an financial instrument that belongs to the economic sphere, but the texts in this volume speak otherwise. Money is an integral part of social relations, for which reason this short book review could be included in the upcoming social relations compilation post.

Capitals of capital. A history of  international financial centres, 1780-2005 by Youssef Cassis, translated by Jacqueline Collier (2006, Cambridge University Press)

This book is a history of banking in nation state capitals. It is a fascinating overview of how banking changed over the decades due to politics, wars, currency instabilities, and financial crisis among other things. The recent event of Brexit is one of such events that changes also the banking sector in London and elsewhere. While at first banking was Eurocentric, the capitals of capital expanded to other continents as well. The author suspects that China is to host the next major capital of capital, unless globalisation gets disturbed.

I did not have a chance to be absorbed into the book, perhaps because of its somewhat distancing writing style, but I feel there would be rewards in doing that. The author has done a great job in describing in detail how capital cities position changed over time. Anyone interested in financial concentration and elites would find this book fascinating.

The end of the book has a glossary of terms, which seems useful. While for people in the banking sector these terms are everyday, others may need a bit of help understanding them.  This brings me to the point of analysing the role of capitals (in both meaning) for the global economy and local economies. The author does not take a strong stance in this, but in the end briefly mentions that banking has received a lot of criticism, which is not always that informed, while it can be morally justified. I interpret this overall notion to include, for example, the accumulating capitals and income that has angered people, especially when they are left to survive in the face of inequality.

This layout of banking history makes it obvious that global wealth measured in currencies has increased with the development of banking as a sector. As a community economies scholar and a degrowth activist, I’m keen to ask: How can we leverage these institutions for advancing the widened the understanding of capital and wealth during the era of ecological crisis?

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