RIVAL VIEWS OF MARKET SOCIETY and Other Recent Essays by Albert O. Hirschman


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Ten reflective essays that display Hirschman's inquiring mind to an advantage more apt to be appreciated by his academic peers and intellectuals than by a lay readership. The collection features offerings that vary in length and subject matter. Throughout, however, the former professor of social science at Princeton's Institute of Advanced Study raises far more questions than he answers. In the title piece, for example, he examines a number of contradictory market theses--e.g., doux-commerce, self-destruction, feudal-shackles, and American exceptionalism; none, he concludes, affords a plausible explanation of capitalism's causes and effects. But the author likewise commends complexity to economists in ""Against Parsimony,"" which charges them with ascribing a one-dimensional rationality to human beings, who are equally likely to act on what he terms metapreferences. In another context, though, liberals are taken to task for the moral equivalent of over-reaction, i.e., failing to realize that the welfare state's difficulties are attributable mainly to ""growing pains rather than. . .(a) systemic crisis."" While the author seems at his cheerful best when discoursing on evidential ambiquities that undermine accepted doctrine on institutions as unlike (and like) as markets and marriage, he's a philosopher, not a popularizer; his analyses, with their constant citations of world-class thinkers and often arcane terminology, are never less than demanding. Nonetheless, for those willing to invest time and effort, there are rewards aplenty.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1986
Publisher: Viking