A groundbreaking debunking of moderate attempts to resolve financial crisesIn the ruins of the 2007–2008 financial crisis, self-proclaimed progressives the world over clamoured to resurrect the economic theory of John Maynard Keynes. The crisis seemed to expose the disaster of small-state, free-market liberalization and deregulation. Keynesian political economy, in contrasA groundbreaking debunking of moderate attempts to resolve financial crisesIn the ruins of the 2007–2008 financial crisis, self-proclaimed progressives the world over clamoured to resurrect the economic theory of John Maynard Keynes. The crisis seemed to expose the disaster of small-state, free-market liberalization and deregulation. Keynesian political economy, in contrast, could put the state back at the heart of the economy and arm it with the knowledge needed to rescue us. But what it was supposed to rescue us from was not so clear. Was it the end of capitalism or the end of the world? For Keynesianism, the answer is both. Keynesians are not and never have been out to save capitalism, but rather to save civilization from itself. It is political economy, they promise, for the world in which we actually live: a world in which prices are ‘sticky’, information is ‘asymmetrical’, and uncertainty inescapable. In this world, things will definitely not take care of themselves in the long run. Poverty is ineradicable, markets fail, and revolutions lead to tyranny. Keynesianism is thus modern liberalism's most persuasive internal critique, meeting two centuries of crisis with a proposal for capital without capitalism and revolution without revolutionaries. If our current crises have renewed Keynesianism for so many, it is less because the present is worth saving, than because the future seems out of control. In that situation, Keynesianism is a perfect fit: a faith for the faithless.From the Hardcover edition....
|Title||:||in the long run we are all dead|
|Format Type||:||Kindle Edition|
|Number of Pages||:||432 Pages|
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in the long run we are all dead Reviews
Originally Mann thought he was going to write a book that deconstructed and eviscerated Keynes. As he researched and wrote he shifted more towards an agnostic position (even bit more sympathetic view) on Keynes, although he is certainly still torn in his positioning. There is a lot to this book and I could write an endless review but I'll try and keep it to the very basics as I understood it. It is wide in scope with an examination that stretches from philosophical, historical, political, economic realms. Densely thicketed at times, but worth the effort and in my view the material is generally quite accessible. Book is framed in 3 parts, with a focus on the precursors to Keynesianism -Pre-Keynesian-, then Keynes, then Post-Keynesianism.The main analysis of the book is the focus on the crisis of modern day capitalism and the efforts and intellectual frameworks of the liberal reformist Keynes who wished to save it. What crisis-management policy tools should be implemented to avoid potential economic collapse and revolution? There is a lot of discussion on the dynamics between capitalism, the state, the bourgeoisie, the masses, civilization, revolution, and the role of Keynesianism in all this. There is philosophical exploration involving a lot of Hegel which I thought was really fascinating, especially the concept of necessity and the tensions in democracy and capitalism and the role of the state. The concept of how to provide pathways to honor and dignity for those who live in poverty is richly explored. The book features Keynes as critic of the system and yet ultimate believer in the system, desperately wanting to reform it so that it can keep surviving and allowing civilization to thrive. Keynes was a believer in a technocratic elite, according to him it was this elite that kept the engine of civilization and culture going, the thin veneer of civilization was a crust laying on top of a teeming darkness, and this crust could easily be destroyed by the "rabble." And this isn't to say Keynes did not have sympathy for the masses but he certainly distrusted them and thought they were the potential destroyers of civilization. That's part of the reason he felt society (but most specifically the technocratic elite) needed to find a way to create a framework to make capitalism work for the masses, or at least provide pathways (like decent jobs) so that the necessities and basics of life could be met, otherwise teeming resentment could destroy everything. Misery breeds hate. And then destruction if unchecked. For Keynes one of the main avenues for the technocratic elite to walk tightrope in managing policy was figuring out how to expertly handle the policy levers via the state. Keynes was a capitalist but recognized dangers of this mode if it was unfettered and rentiers and oligarchy hijacked the system. Without sensible policy/guardrails (implemented via the only entity powerful enough to enact counterbalance, the state) he thought capitalism would/could implode and take everything else down with it. The tension with democracy/capitalism that Keynes seemed to struggle with was fear of tyranny of the masses and fear of tyranny of a rapacious oligarchy whose singular pursuit of profit could spin things out of control and warp the system. And a 3rd fear he recognized was tyranny of the state (he was no fan of the Soviet state which was a good example of this!). So there was potential danger in each element.A lot of the discussion on Robespierre and the French Revolution revolves around the problem of how to maintain honor/dignity of those in poverty, philosophical analysis of necessity, and also the dynamic of the struggle between the masses and the professional bourgeoisie (and technocrats). Robespierre does provide an example of how dark and off the rails things can go with a revolution, even one founded upon liberal principles (many more examples since then of course), and there is interesting discussion on the two major groups who were the engines behind the French revolution, the masses and the bourgeoisie (each had different goals and vied for power and control of the revolution). The various interpretations of Keynes are explored. Keynesianism means different things to different people and there are splits and Mann meticulously documents post-WWII Keynesianism and its various branches. I still don’t have a proper enough handle on this to deliver a good summary, so I will need to read more on it. The discussions on the classical economists was also great, especially on Adam Smith, Say, Ricardo, and Malthus. I really should read some of those original texts at some point... Discussion of capital, capital scarcity, and how too much capital can flatten yields and drive down investment was something I'd never thought about. I don't know too much about this issue but in the text there is mention that there needs to be some capital scarcity to maintain marginal capital yields that are sufficiently strong especially in relation to interest rates. If interest rates are high especially in relation to marginal capital returns there will be less capital investment. This part of the discussion focuses a lot on Piketty and Keynes who had similar interpretations on this issue. I haven't read Piketty but probably will at some point.Overall this book is a great discussion, interwoven with analysis of political economy, philosophy, tensions in society and the interplay between these various elements. It's one of those books that I think could be enjoyed by those who don't agree with Mann or his ideas, his presentation is interesting and thought-provoking. I could always be wrong about that but given the breadth of analysis I think there is enough here to provide appeal for a diverse audience, although if one is a fan of unfettered laissez-faire capitalism then this book will be a harder pill to swallow and I can imagine this is the one group who will have a harder time appreciating Mann's analysis and will likely contest large portions of it. Even though I’m far from that positioning I'd certainly be interested to hear that critique and how they would interpret this book. I wish there were more reviews of this book, especially outlets like the Financial Times (Martin Wolf for instance) and WSJ, it’d be fascinating to see how they parse this thing.
A very stimulating read. Mann (re)reads Keynes's "General Theory" as a political manifesto of what he calls a "Keynesian critique" of capitalism, an orientation he traces back in figures such as Hobbes and Hegel and which today is represented by - among others - Thomas Piketty. At the core of this worldview lies the fundamental belief that modern, liberal society sows seeds for its own distruction. Hegel's confilct between the particular and universal and Keynes "composition fallacy" are for Mann essentially the same thing. What binds these two thinkers even more is their relation to masses and revolution, which can never be a successful event. Masses themselves are not able to overthrow the liberal order that renders them poor and unemployed and therefore excludes them from the "community of the free", the burgeois civil society. The revolution they seek to achieve is always destructive, yet - in principle - justified, since it is the imperfect system that is to blame for their miserable condition rather than the poor themselves. Just as Keynes debunks the neoclassical myths of unemployment as always "voluntary" (due to workers' reluctance to accept lower real wages which interrupts the working of Say's law), Hegel also debunks one-sided kantian ethics which underestimate the role of Notrecht - the material necessity, that "knows no law" and threatens the social order with revolution. Mann engages with many different critiques of keynesian policies and thought stemming from more radical leftist thinkers (e.g. Negri) and manages to explain the "knee-jerk" resort to them in the times of crisis, as they are indeed an indispensible component of modern liberalsm. They enable us not so much to save capitalism from itself, as is often said in relation to Keynes, but rather to save the burgeois civilisation from existential threat to its stability which stems from it's central conception of freedom.
Quite brilliant in parts. Compelling and convincing as a political biography of "Keynesianism" The conclusion baffled me though.
its insanely good. you gotta read it
Very provocative and extremely helpful. A great entrance into a smart understanding of the history we are all living. While I have some background in social theory (Marx especially for this book) and economics (exposure to mainstream thought, critical work in inequality, and general economic history), Mann provides synthesis, insight, and critique with a personal voice I found to be compelling. The right book for these post-recession and post-Keynsian times, I highly recommend it. Certainly one of the best non-fiction books I've read in the past 10 years.