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Thread: Deirdre McCloskey

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    Rightwing left liberalism/Careerism RevForum Administrator Nim Chimpsky's Avatar
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    Default Deirdre McCloskey

    Will be visiting our Master's program in January to discuss her book, Bourgeois Dignity, where I assume she argues (along the lines of "Neo-Institutionalists" like North) that bourgeois institutions created the conditions that led to the developments we associate with the Industrial Revolution and the course of capitalist development.

    I am unfamiliar with her writing. I suppose it is worth mentioning that McClosckey is trans. If the thesis of the book is, however, what I think it is, I tend to find myself on the "anti-McClosckey" camp, along with a number of other members of our MA program, who are tired of hearing apologia for bourgeois hegemony. In any case, I'd be curious what you all think of Deirdre's ideas, based on whatever information is at hand. I am listening to this lecture at the moment, for instance:


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    Rightwing left liberalism/Careerism RevForum Administrator Nim Chimpsky's Avatar
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    Default Re: Deirdre McCloskey

    At the beginning of the lecture, she states that "Milton Friedman was a personal friend of mine". This is going to be a long semester…

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    Paperback Writer RevForum Administrator Amoeba's Avatar
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    Default Re: Deirdre McCloskey

    That postmodern economics text I linked to a while ago mentions her as a person who's right-wing but critical of certain aspects of (neoclassical) economic orthodoxy.

    That may very well be the case, but the positive side of her work, at least on the subject of economic development, is basically rehashed Mokyr, and it's been proven to be inadequate by the likes of Rosenthal & Wong and others working in the Pomeranz tradition (or the so-called "California School" in economic history).

    Also the fact that she's been on Dave Rubin - the alt-right's main media platform - is quite telling.
    To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer,
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them.

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    Default Re: Deirdre McCloskey

    I tried to listen but gave up after 15 minutes. (The mumbled introduction may have been interesting but I couldn't understand him.) What I heard sounded like a parody of a small town chamber of commerce speech.
    Einstein on marxology:
    "In the realm of the seekers after truth there is no human authority.
    Whoever attempts to play the magistrate there founders on the laughter of the Gods."

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    Paperback Writer RevForum Administrator Amoeba's Avatar
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    Default Re: Deirdre McCloskey

    I looked at the bottom of Piketty's page 6; it's a mundane statement on supply and demand that's totally uncontroversial.

    But you have to make sure to take a dig at him to prove you're relevant as an economist these days.
    To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer,
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them.

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    Paperback Writer RevForum Administrator Amoeba's Avatar
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    Default Re: Deirdre McCloskey

    It's actually among the most inane defenses of capitalism I've heard. "Ideas cause economic prosperity; pro-capitalist ideas cause economic prosperity; ergo pro-capitalist ideas are good".

    It's a weird attempt at going back to the Young Hegelians and all the "idealist" philosophizing in the period before Marx, which proclaimed the disembodied, immaterial spirit as the prime mover of civilization. It is not surprising that she's some sort of weird Christian as well.

    This is what you get with a Harvard education and Chicago professorship.
    To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer,
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them.

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    Rightwing left liberalism/Careerism RevForum Administrator Nim Chimpsky's Avatar
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    Default Re: Deirdre McCloskey

    Quote Originally Posted by Amoeba View Post
    That postmodern economics text I linked to a while ago mentions her as a person who's right-wing but critical of certain aspects of (neoclassical) economic orthodoxy.
    Which postmodern text?

    That may very well be the case, but the positive side of her work, at least on the subject of economic development, is basically rehashed Mokyr, and it's been proven to be inadequate by the likes of Rosenthal & Wong and others working in the Pomeranz tradition (or the so-called "California School" in economic history).
    Not sure about that. This is the first I've read of the Cali's school's existence. And. on browsing McC's index yesterday, I couldn't help but notice quite extensive references to your Mokyr. So - at least from an influence perspective, there is something there, it appears.
    Also the fact that she's been on Dave Rubin - the alt-right's main media platform - is quite telling.
    The right seems to be trying on the "big tent" approach for style.

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    Rightwing left liberalism/Careerism RevForum Administrator Nim Chimpsky's Avatar
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    Default Re: Deirdre McCloskey

    Quote Originally Posted by Amoeba View Post
    It's actually among the most inane defenses of capitalism I've heard. "Ideas cause economic prosperity; pro-capitalist ideas cause economic prosperity; ergo pro-capitalist ideas are good".

    It's a weird attempt at going back to the Young Hegelians and all the "idealist" philosophizing in the period before Marx, which proclaimed the disembodied, immaterial spirit as the prime mover of civilization. It is not surprising that she's some sort of weird Christian as well.

    This is what you get with a Harvard education and Chicago professorship.
    Have you heard of Noble? https://youtu.be/DxyPn2Oxy5M He makes similar claims about religion / beliefs in progress in the Middle Ages being responsible for alot of the technological innovation that later led to the Industrial Rev..

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    Rightwing left liberalism/Careerism RevForum Administrator Nim Chimpsky's Avatar
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    Default Re: Deirdre McCloskey

    Then of course there's Jean Gimpel's argument that much industrial development occurred in the Medieval period. His book, The Medieval Machine, makes similar claims to Noble. Then there are of course people like Lewis Mumford, who claim that phenomena like cities were instrumental in creating the condition for transformation.

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    Paperback Writer RevForum Administrator Amoeba's Avatar
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    Default Re: Deirdre McCloskey

    I only know Noble through references by others, don't recall coming across Gimpel or Mumford.

    But I think there's a difference between how you describe the Mumford argument and the others. Cities are a material phenomenon; you can make a case that an urban environment has certain features that aid the development of certain things that in turn lay some of the foundations for something like an industrial revolution. Notice how I've presented the argument with as many qualifiers as possible, because there's a lot of cases where that didn't happen even though the same features were present, and that has to be explained somehow. This then becomes the crux of the argument: do you fall back into the "ideas!" stuff, which sometimes involves references to Christianity or some other cultural thing, and in the worst cases some sort of genetic basis for greater creativity - or do you focus on some kind of material aspect that was either present or missing in each cases?

    People in the California School wisely go with the latter. As you may know, Pomeranz' main argument is about the presence of certain resources in the UK in a certain configuration (things like coal being closer to certain key urban locations and the cotton imports from the US) which was missing in areas of China that were otherwise remarkably similar (and in fact more developed in terms of some of their urban sites).

    Rosenthal and Wong argue that the structure of the city in Europe was different than in places like China because there was no unifying state structure that ensured long-term peace, forcing many urban environments to be so constructed that they would fit within walls and other types of defensive structures. The spatial closeness this created developed into a material context that was more conducive to the invention and implementation of certain technologies in workshops, whereas in China this process, that was also ongoing, tended to take a lot longer given the more spatially dispersed nature of urban centers.

    This is a gross oversimplification of their main thesis, though. I've referenced their book below, there's a lot of interesting data there. The underlying point is to go against the "it's the superior ideas of the Europeans!" argument.

    Regarding the California School more generally, it's kind of an informal grouping of these economic historians who have internally different views, but they do share the common feature I just mentioned: material conditions (or aspects thereof) are key in the argument, not some vague notion of "ideas", "culture" or even "institutions" (the last of which often collapses into some sort of set of ideas).

    Here's a description of it: https://histempire.wordpress.com/201...ritish-empire/

    And a critical review by someone I don't find particularly convincing (though he has some good points, like adding a more contextual sensibility to their work; but someone like Pomeranz already does that in his later texts): http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/1...698.x/abstract

    Which postmodern text?
    The text is no longer online, or at least I can't find it.

    But it was this one I think: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Post-Modern.../dp/0415110262

    McCloskey actually has a chapter in it, too: http://w.deirdremccloskey.com/docs/g...cullenberg.pdf

    I haven't read that chapter but it doesn't seem particularly interesting. I like "postmodern" heterodox economists like Amariglio, Ruccio and Cullenberg though, and would recommend their stuff for interesting critiques of economic orthodoxy which unlike McCloskey's isn't tainted with right-wing nonsense.

    Not sure about that. This is the first I've read of the Cali's school's existence. And. on browsing McC's index yesterday, I couldn't help but notice quite extensive references to your Mokyr. So - at least from an influence perspective, there is something there, it appears.
    Not surprised, he's the godfather of the whole "ideas!" argument, though he has a rather detailed account of it in technological terms (ideas of the techne kind).

    Unlike McCloskey, he's actually a worthwhile author to read not only due to his position within the field as the source of many of these arguments, but also because he's actually a serious person who presents a thorough case with a lot of empirical sources to back it up with, though obviously I disagree with his conclusions.

    Some other recommended literature that I enjoyed, and is critical of the McCloksey view (though not necessarily in line with the California School either):

    Jean-Laurent Rosenthal and R. Bin Wong, Before and beyond divergence: The politics of economic change in China and Europe
    Robert C. Allen, The British Industrial Revolution in global perspective
    Daron Acemo?lu and James A. Robinson, Why nations fail: The origins of power, prosperity, and poverty

    Also anything by Pomeranz and those listed in the California School in the links I mentioned.

    It should be pretty easy to present a thorough case against McCloskey with these economic historians' results in hand.
    To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer,
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them.

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