1943. John Pharr Davis, Corporations – book

May be hard to get. Check Amazon for other Editions. I have the original 1961 paperback


I will post notes.

1939. Andreas Malm

Some new reading.. i will add notes.

Malm wrote

The Progress of This Storm: Nature and Society in a Warming World (Verso Futures)

some references

Google ScholarMalm, A (2013a) The origins of fossil capital: From water to steam in the British cotton industry. Historical Materialism 21: 15–68. Google Scholar, CrossrefMalm, A (2013b) Sea wall politics: Uneven and combined protection of the Nile Delta coastline in the face of sea level rise. Critical Sociology 39: 803–832. Google Scholar, LinkMalm, A, Esmailian, S (2012) Ways in and out of vulnerability to climate change: Abandoning the Mubarak Project in the northern Nile Delta, Egypt. Antipode 45: 474–492. Google Scholar, Crossrefquote


“In 1990, one year after Jameson’s Postmodernism was published, Bill McKibben proclaimed ‘the end of nature’ in a book of the same name, today regarded as the first popular book on climate change. Before almost everyone else, he sensed that the altered composition of the atmosphere turns everything inside out: the meaning of the weather, to begin with. A sudden downpour can no longer be shrugged off or an Indian summer enjoyed as a caprice of nature. All weather must now be distrusted as an artefact of ‘our ways of life’, including on a Svalbard mountaintop or an Atacama sand dune, in areas that pass as remote wilderness: with CO2, the human fingerprint is everywhere. ‘We have produced the carbon dioxide – we have ended nature’ – or: ‘By changing the weather, we make every spot on earth man-made and artificial. We have deprived nature of its independence, and that is fatal to its meaning. Nature’s independence is its meaning; without it there is nothing but us.’28”

Excerpt From
The Progress of this Storm: Nature and Society in a Warming World
Andreas Malm
This material may be protected by copyright.


1922. The problem of seeing the economy as a system.

To see an economy as a system is implicitly to treat it as though it’s a coherent set of parts that are adapted to each other. this implies the system has an internal integrity and purpose and those who interact with the system should help to keep it functioning, to repair it if it is in trouble rather than replace it with something new and better, but alien to the original intents.

But if the economy is really an aggregate of decisions and revisions made over centuries by people who did not know each other and had different frames of reference, then the economy is a hodgepodge, a colage, and there is no reason to not re-think any of the parts. There is no underlying system integrity that has to be preserved.

The economy we have is a short blip in history. Discovery of fire, domesticating animals, organizing in families, empires, feudalism, industrialization using capital from increases in land value, wars, over-production,  consumerism: yet we tend to attribute a rock solid presence to the economy as if it and its major structures and the concepts to name them are part of the long duree, almost universal, almost timeless, while our society, like those ferrys leaving South East Asia for Australia, are overloaded with problems we do not seem able to solve and likely to sink of their own weight. Fred Hoyle, the cosmologist in his book 10 Faces of the Universe says that if we solve the energy problem without solving social problems we will sink the species,, because the forces that lead to war, population increase, and inequality will use the increased energy for their own purposes If those purposes are still in place. A minor example is that LED Replacing conventional lighting in cities is leading to an increase in the amount of Illumination from the existing costs rather than cutting costs and energy use with the same levels of illumination.

We have so broken our economics into specialties that we are not dealing with the general problems.

In the Adam Smith spin factory it was important that somebody remember that they were making pins with all the division of labor of labor, but In economics, the division of labor into segments and specialties forgets that we are making a society.

Things change and morph, but economics tends to think of the economy as a kind of platonic concept that can be discovered in nature and was not made by men (mostly). Real change is considered impossible and we have to live with TINA. We are hobbled by our own assumptions.

Five new books I find extraordinary that are opening up the range of thought about who we are, how we have coped, and what might – might – happen.

1. Dotan Leshem The origins of neoliberalism from Jesus to Foucault
The humor in the title masks the seriousness of the content
Two key points: first is that Aristotle and Plato both said that surplus beyond existing needs would be produced by a “well manage estate.“ (the meaning of ‘economy’. The question they both asked was what to do with the surplus. They agreed surplus should be used for leisure to engage in politics and philosophy and not for consumption of unnecessary goods and trinkets. Second, Lesham shows that the language moved into early Christianity and can be found even in St. Paul who uses the word economy, the well-managed estate, to discuss the management of God’s kingdom on earth. The understanding that good management lead to surplus was used in the new context of the Christian community and monasteries.

The Origins of Neoliberalism: Modeling the Economy from Jesus to Foucault

The idea of surplus is maintained but shifted to meditation and prayer. The early church leaders were aware that the population was expanding and that to reach an infinite god the well-managed estate should grow in order to take care of the larger task. The logic for growth moved into the standard economic thinking later centuries, Now turned into “we need growth to meet humans’ insatiable needs”.

2. James Scott, Against the Grain. A deep history of the earliest states.

The argument is complex beginning with the fact that early states were not created around settled agriculture, and settled agriculture was not a response to need for food but as part of the new states maintaining the boundaries of slavery. Early settlements had lower quality of life and worse diet. Also history has exaggerated the role of large settlements because they were the places that left artifacts easier to study. The result has been to ignore the significance of life lived outside compounds. The book has radical reframing on almost every page.

Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States

3. Andro Linklater, Owning the Earth: The transforming history of land Ownership. more radical reframing. The first property that could be called private property (As distinct from personal items) were patents. Patent‘s were the first registered and named pieces of property that existed without some kind of restriction in the form of entails and ownership by the monarch. These restrictions on land ownership (The form of almost all property)could not be borrowed against. Patents were assigned to Individuals without entails. The first land that could be borrowed against was that created by the US homestead provisions where the government sold the title to land free of any entailing. The result is such land could be borrowed against which led to the freeing up the capital to build factories and railroads. The increase in land value rather than the output of production was the major source of investment capital. The book is sophisticated and mature and full of interesting detail.

Owning the Earth: The Transforming History of Land Ownership

4. I can add Jack Goody, Capitalism and Modernity. Breaks the link between the West and innovation. And in this context well worth the time to watch the video of last weeks seminar on China. Both imply more marginalization of “the West” than we are used to.

Capitalism and Modernity: The Great Debate

5. Germano Maifreda From Oikonomia to Political Economy. The details of thinking, mostly lost to modern histories of how we got from the Greeks to Adam Smith. Wonderful writing.

From Oikonomia to Political Economy: Constructing Economic Knowledge from the Renaissance to the Scientific Revolution

Let’s add two

Goetzmann, Money Changes Everything, showing the deep story of complex finance back to Mesopotamia and 2000+ BC. Goetzman by the way has a solid interest in art as can be seen by his twitter tweets.

Money Changes Everything: How Finance Made Civilization Possible

Francis Fukuyama Political Order and Political Decay, showing the complexity of history since the renaissance. I think it also shows the futility of trying to change the Economics while ignoring politics. We tend to be aware of economic history but not the rich political history it is embedded in. This book is a solid political history well worth the reading.

Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy

1909. Book Note: Dotan Lesham, The Origins of Neoliberalism: Modeling the Economy from Jesus to Foucault

Just fascinating. By Dotan Lesham: The origins of Neoliberalism from Jesus to Foucault.

First Aristotle and Plato discuss the well managed estate, economia, producing a surplus, and what to do with it? Should be for leisure to do politics and philosophy, not spent on stuff.

For those who say TINA here is a serious alternative purpose of “economy”.

Then, that model moves into early Christianity and becomes the basis for the monastery and meditation. God’s home, well managed produces a surplus. Expanding meditation to reach the infinite god, becomes that basis for an ideology of growth.

The Origins of Neoliberalism: Modeling the Economy from Jesus to Foucault

1908. Book note: Germano Maifreda From Oikonomia to Political Economy: Constructing Economic Knowledge from the Renaissance to the Scientific Revolution

Wonderfully detailed history by Germano Maifreda of the moves from the renaissance  to Adam Smith. There is lots that happens before the renaissance but this is very helpful and shows much about lost initiatives that may now be relevant.

From Oikonomia to Political Economy: Constructing Economic Knowledge from the Renaissance to the Scientific Revolution

1870. Nudging economics toward real wealth

Provocation #95. Nudging economics toward real wealth

It us getting harder to write on Sunday in a new way something that has not been written about by someone else in the last week. . We have a flood of very good efforts to try to nudge economics towards dealing with the wealth of society for real blood and guts humans rather than as cash management for those who are already rich.

Where is economics in this?

Simply legitimizing the redistribution of wealth from the top, even by a tax policy that would slowly reverse the curve of concentration, would boost morale for the majority – though the elite seem already scared and bunker-minded.

We seem to be stuck on a little boat called economics in the midst of devastating sea change. Its not that we lack a map, its that we lack a destination on it. This makes us more vulnerable if we are treading water in our little boat.

When we talk of “jobs” we are assuming the split between capital and labor, owners and employees. this might make improving the productive human action very difficult.

To show how deep this is, the purpose of economic activity is to meet needs and distribute income. but we think of profit as on the positive side of the ledger but wages we treat as a cost. the implication is it is management’s task to move profit up but to cut costs. Until we break down the capital/labor caste system we might be stuck on efforts to make better work.

“The distance race of learning” is for the swift, brags a silicon valley exec. . the rest are left out, marginalized.

So we are recycling old ideas that, however excellent, failed to divert the tide of commerce, industry, information, energy…

Take for example Ron Stanfield’s Economic Thought and Social Change of 1978

Several recent commentators of the state of the art in contemporary Keynesian economics have referred to the methodological problem of ahistoricity. In a recent examination of the limitations of Keynesian economics, Alan Gruchy places much stress on the failure of Orthodox economists to recognize and integrate into their political economy the changes in the economic system since World War II, Gruchy sites with much approval the Review of Gunner Myerdal that economics is nearsighted and lacks the requisite historical experience and revision to guide the economy beyond the immediate upturn or recession, shortage or surplus, etc. On the other hand, this means that the economics tends to be out of date, fighting the last economic war. On the other hand , it means that economics lacks the long– term perspective necessary and economic planning. Economics is useful in reactive intervention to the immediate problems, to crises already wreaking havoc, but it is weak in forseeing long-term difficulties and trends that are working from historical tendencies. To be of use for long term planning, economics would have to view economic processes from an evolutionary and developmental perspective.

Chuck Schumer’s “Better Deal”. NYT this Monday morning is an attempt to beak out but it still seems narrowly constrained in a way that lags public opinion. No mention of jobs, only of training for jobs. Exception is the infrastructure Trillion . Lets build roads and bridges made unnecessary by self driving cars. Auto autos.

But can we pay for Schumer’s future? It looks ok now, but what about a year or so from now?  My view is that ordinary people are concerned about climate and automation and war but Schumer stays in the virtual reality of policy without engaging enough in the reality of plight.