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December 22nd, 2012

Reading List: Most-read economics book reviews 2012

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Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Blog Admin

December 22nd, 2012

Reading List: Most-read economics book reviews 2012

0 comments | 1 shares

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Since launching in April 2012 we’ve published reviews of over 350 books from across the social sciences. Here are the top three most-read reviews from economics and business studies.

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When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order by Martin Jacques

When China Rules the World considers how China has become a challenge to the West and is reshaping the global economy, but may not replace the US if it cannot make further cultural and institutional breakthrough. Ting Xu recommends this book to anyone interested in not only China and its future, but also the future of the West and the global world.

Martin Jacques is a highly distinguished British scholar, writer and columnist. When China Rules the World, first published in 2009, is among his most important publications. Since then the book has been translated into eleven languages, and sold nearly a quarter of a million copies worldwide. The book’s focus on Asian modernity and the rise of China as a global power is of course highly relevant for contemporary concerns and interests in globalisation, as well as its implications for evaluating an evolution from the economic and geopolitical ‘great divergence’ to the recent rapid ‘convergence’ between China and the West. Jacques argues that the rise of China has not followed the Western model of a transition to modernity and will challenge the global dominance of the Western nation-state. China, as a ‘civilisation-state’, will soon rule the world. Its impact will be not only economic but also cultural, leading to a global future of ‘contested modernity’.

This excellent book raises more questions than it answers. China’s growth and transformation were and are path-dependant. Historians will ask: has China ever ruled the world before? Read the full review…

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Cognitive Capitalism by Yann Moulier Boutang

Cognitive Capitalism argues the political economy born with Adam Smith no longer offers us the possibility of understanding the value, wealth and complexity of the world economic system. Gerardo Serra holds that despite its occasional verbosity and lack of clarity, the book is valuable for the way it prompts readers into asking uneasy questions about the nature of the economic system we live in.

In an overwhelming landscape of economic publications concerned with the recession, Cognitive Capitalism is certainly to be welcomed. The relevance of the book does not stem from the way it explains the crisis, as this is dealt with only in the last chapter (an addition which came after the publication of the 2007 French edition), but from the way it accounts for the distinctive nature of contemporary capitalism. Author Yann Moulier Boutang is a French heterodox economist well versed in philosophy and sociology. Boutang has devoted the last few years to analysing the rise and impact of knowledge as a factor of production in contemporary economies.

The book reviews existing accounts of the structure and the nature of contemporary capitalism, with labels that foreshadow the book’s characteristic wit: “old wine in new bottles”, “new wine and new bottles” and “new wine in old bottles”. Examples of the first category include the much-talked about “knowledge economy” and the “information society”. None of these frameworks, according to Boutang, provides “a shoe that really fits the foot of the new Cinderella of capitalism” (p. 46). At the same time, whilst adopting a mainly Marxist analytical template (although largely contaminated by many and varied intellectual influences), Boutang is critical of orthodox academic Marxism, which he claims remains “too busy trying to combine calculations of general equilibrium with the orthodoxy of the sacred texts of value”, and also for recycling “the old recipes of socialist planning” (pp. 6-7). Read the full review…

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Occupy! Scenes from Occupied America. Astra Taylor and Keith Gessen

In the fall of 2011, a small protest camp in downtown Manhattan exploded into a global uprising, sparked in part by what many saw as the violent overreactions of the police. Occupy! is an unofficial record of the movement and combines first-hand accounts with reflections from activist academics and writers. Jason Hickel finds the book has excellent moments of insight but thought it could benefit from a more lengthy analysis.

When a small group of activists first occupied Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan last September nobody thought it would amount to much. But it wasn’t long before Occupy Wall Street struck a chord with a nation embittered by bank bailouts, plutocracy, and rising social inequalities, galvanized hundreds of thousands of angry protestors, and inspired similar encampments in dozens of cities across the United States and Europe. As a scholar who followed OWS closely with both personal and scholarly interest, I was thrilled to get my hands on Occupy! Scenes from Occupied America, one of the first book-length texts to have been published on the topic.

Occupy! was composed in an unconventional style. It compiles 34 short chapters and dozens of sketches and photographs selected and edited by a team of eight scholar-activists, mostly from radical journals in New York such as n+1 and Dissent, led by Astra Taylor and Keith Gessen. Some of the chapters are first-person diary entries – most of them authored by the editors themselves – that report observations from occupations across the United States (in New York, Oakland, Boston, Atlanta, and so on) and supply ethnographic perspectives on the movement. Others are reprints of viral blog posts or speeches and essays addressed to OWS by prominent figures on the Left, including Slavoj Zizek, Judith Butler, Jodi Dean and Angela Davis. Read the full review…

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This work by LSE Review of Books is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 UK: England & Wales.