Sunday, 8 April 2012

On the to-read list

2 books to read:

Lea Ypi, Global Justice and Avant-Garde Political Agency:.

Why should states matter and how do relations between fellow-citizens affect what is owed to distant strangers? How, if at all, can demanding egalitarian principles inform political action in the real world? This book proposes a novel solution through the concept of avant-garde political agency. Ypi grounds egalitarian principles on claims arising from conflicts over the distribution of global positional goods, and illustrates the role of avant-garde agents in shaping these conflicts and promoting democratic political transformations in response to them. Against statists, she defends the global scope of equality, and derives remedial cosmopolitan principles from global responsibilities to relieve absolute deprivation. Against cosmopolitans, she shows that associative political relations play an essential role and that blanket condemnation of the state is unnecessary and ill-directed. Advocating an approach to global justice whereby domestic avant-garde agents intervene politically so as to constrain and motivate fellow-citizens to support cosmopolitan transformations, this book offers a fresh and nuanced example of political theory in an activist mode. Setting the contemporary debate on global justice in the context of recent methodological disputes on the relationship between ideal and nonideal theorizing, Ypi's dialectical account illustrates how principles and agency can genuinely interact.


Johnathan Schlefer, The Assumptions Economists Make:

Economists make confident assertions in op-ed columns and on cable news—so why are their explanations often at odds with equally confident assertions from other economists? And why are all economic predictions so rarely borne out? Harnessing his frustration with these contradictions, Jonathan Schlefer set out to investigate how economists arrive at their opinions. 
While economists cloak their views in the aura of science, what they actually do is make assumptions about the world, use those assumptions to build imaginary economies (known as models), and from those models generate conclusions. Their models can be useful or dangerous, and it is surprisingly difficult to tell which is which. Schlefer arms us with an understanding of rival assumptions and models reaching back to Adam Smith and forward to cutting-edge theorists today. Although abstract, mathematical thinking characterizes economists’ work, Schlefer reminds us that economists are unavoidably human. They fall prey to fads and enthusiasms and subscribe to ideologies that shape their assumptions, sometimes in problematic ways. 
Schlefer takes up current controversies such as income inequality and the financial crisis, for which he holds economists in large part accountable. Although theorists won international acclaim for creating models that demonstrated the inherent instability of markets, ostensibly practical economists ignored those accepted theories and instead relied on their blind faith in the invisible hand of unregulated enterprise. Schlefer explains how the politics of economics allowed them to do so. The Assumptions Economists Make renders the behavior of economists much more comprehensible, if not less irrational.

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