Friday, March 18, 2011

Coming Soon!(ish)

I've just finished reading Shimson & Bichler's Capital as Power and would have really liked to post a review, seeing as how fecund it is with ideas and arguments that could do with broader dissemination (not that reviewing it here would get it any broader dissemination!). But before I can do the book justice, I'm going to have to re-read all of my Veblen, and anyone who's tried reading Veblen will know that this isn't an enviable task. His style is prolix, dry, and to all appearances detached and contemplative (although at the same time he is funny, ironic, and insightful, and his analyses of American capitalism secured for him the epithet "the American Marx.") Shimson & Bichler lament the fact that their book has yet to be reviewed by any Marxists, but I suspect that that's because it means acquiring a familiarity with Veblen that few people of sound mind outside of the academy would want to entertain.

I'll characterize their book as a neo-Veblenite analysis of capital, liberally sprinkled with Castoriadian pixie dust and copious amounts of documentation and research, which is how it should be. Don't go anywhere near it until you've read Veblen's economic writings (The Engineers and the Price System and Absentee Ownership being the two most relevant). I was able to dig out my Portable Veblen and Diggins's Thorstein Veblen: Theorist of the Leisure Class in order to jog my memory (I read Veblen for my master's nearly two decades ago), but they really only allowed me to keep up with Shimson & Bichler, and even then I was unable to fully understand many of the passages, particularly those dealing with more arcane arguments amongst contemporary Marxist economists (S&B also claim to be influenced by Polish economist MichaƂ Kalecki, although he really only seems to feature in the closing chapters).

Frankly, I'll probably have to read Capital as Power another couple of times before I can fully understand it. And having now done my best to dissuade you from reading it too, let me just say that you really should read it. ;-)

In the meantime, let me draw your attention to AK Press's newly published Pierre-Joseph Proudhon reader, Property Is Theft! edited by Iain McKay, who's responsible for the Anarchist FAQ site. The ideal gift (see what I did there?)

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