THE POLITICS OF THE SOLAR AGE: Alternatives to Economics by Hazel Henderson

THE POLITICS OF THE SOLAR AGE: Alternatives to Economics

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The ""small is beautiful"" and/or alternative-futures literature is a sometimes maddening jumble of important insights and half-digested bits of Eastern religion. Henderson, a former member of the Advisory Council of the Congress' Office of Technology Assessment and author of Creating Alternative Futures, is an example of the practitioners of this genre. Although she likes to talk about ""wholistic"" approaches to the economy and society, and the need to look to our ""inner spaces"" for a start, she also incorporates less faddish material in her assault on our outmoded--they were never right--ways of looking at things. Her main contribution is in picking up some of the insights of the Hungarian economic historian and anthropologist Karl Polanyi, who criticized modern economics for treating as its subject only those aspects of the ever-constant process of sustaining society as could be expressed through markets and money. Henderson argues that in taking only the monetized part of the economy into consideration, economics fails to incorporate non-quantifiable factors like customs, environmental concerns, culture, social costs, non-monetized work (like housework, or what Ivan Illich calls ""shadow work""), etc. None of this would matter if economists weren't in the political position to control both the discussion of public policy and its implementation. Wielding this critical sword, Henderson cuts down Keynesianism, post-Keynesianism, monetarism, and just about every other current economic ism, while extolling self-help movements, alternate-energy experiments, job-sharing and redistribution projects, and a whole panoply of such efforts to create a renewable future. This grab bag is held together by her theory that increasing social complexity is at the root of inflation--she argues, for example, that increased technological availability of information regarding money markets has speeded up the circulation of money and contributed thereby to inflation. Her solution, like Schumacher's and Illich's, is social simplification. Henderson's vision itself sounds simple, but her criticism of current policies does indeed render them idiotic. There's a lot of fluff here, but enough substance to make the book worthwhile.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1981
Publisher: Anchor/Doubleday