« February 2012 | Main | May 2012 »

4 posts from April 2012


Book reviews now featured on this blog and in Review of Social Economy

The way book reviews are published by the ASE is changing in order to make them more valuable in terms of insight and timeliness! The following is from the book review page, under Review of Social Economy, at the ASE website:

Book reviews have for a long time been a feature of the Review of Social Economy, an official journal of the Association for Social Economics. But in the 21st century, book reviews published in journals are not of the same value as they once were, given increasing use of the internet for disseminating information about new books and hosting discussions about them. As a result, the Review has changed its procedures for book reviews in two ways to keep up with the changing times.

1) RoSE will continue to publish some book reviews, but we aim to shift to analytical reviews of 2 – 4 books. This type of review can integrate discussion of an emerging area of economic research with an overview and comparison of important, recently-published books in the field. Examples could include books on the financial crisis or books on the relevance of the capabilities approach for development research. Books can be selected from those available for review and/or combined with other important books on the same theme. Prospective reviewers should contact Deb Figart with ideas for topics to be covered and books to include. Reviews of this type should be around 3,500 – 5,000 words in length, depending on the number of books included.

All book review essays must be completed in 6–9 months and emailed as an MS Word document to Deb.Figart@stockton.edu. Your email should also include your email and postal addresses, and a 75-to-100 word biographical note for the “Contributors” page of the Review.

2) Instead of being published in RoSE, reviews of single books will now be posted in the blog portion of the ASE website: http://www.socialeconomicsblog.org. The form of such reviews will not change; they are still expected to be well-written pieces of approximately 1,000 words. By posting them to the website, we will be able to bring new books to the attention of social economists in a far more timely way and provide a platform for lively exchange of ideas about new work in the field. As in the past, consult the list of recently received books posted here or contact RoSE co-editor Deb Figart if you are currently reading another book that you think would be relevant for social economics.


Review of Social Economy, 70/1 (2012)

RSEFollowing are the contents (with abstracts) of the latest issue of Review of Social Economy (70/1, 2012).


The Personal Networks of Entrepreneurs in an Informal African Urban Economy: Does the ‘Strength of Ties’ Matter? Jean-Philippe Berrou & François Combarnous

This paper investigates Granovetter's “strength of weak ties” hypothesis in an informal African urban economy. It outlines an approach articulated around the reticular embeddedness conceptual framework associated with the notion of “ego-centred network.” The content of ties in an entrepreneur's network is described by three salient dimensions: strength, social role and exchanged resources. We use an original dataset collected in the informal economy of Bobo-Dioulasso (Burkina Faso) to evaluate how the content and strength of ties influence entrepreneurs' economic outcomes. The instrument of multiple name generators provides a vast amount of information that can be used to compute quantitative measures of the composition of networks. We show that both strength of ties and proportion of business ties have a significant positive impact on economic outcomes. It reveals the importance for small urban informal entrepreneurs to draw on both embedded social relations and more autonomous ones.

Government Size and Trust, Eiji Yamamura

This paper uses individual level data from the Japanese General Social Survey to examine how government size influences generalized trust. After controlling for the endogeneity of government size using instrumental variables, I found: (1) using all samples, government size is not associated with generalized trust, and (2) after splitting the sample into workers and non-workers, government size does not influence generalized trust for non-workers, whereas it significantly reduces generalized trust for workers. This suggests that workers, through their work experience, might have to face greater bureaucratic red tape coming from “larger government,” leading to negative externality effects on relationships of trust in the labor market.

Permanent On-The-Spot Job Creation—The Missing Keynes Plan for Full Employment and Economic Transformation, Pavlina R. Tcherneva

The paper rejects the conventional view that Keynes had an aggregate demand approach to full employment. Instead, it proposes that he advocated a very specific labor demand targeting approach that would be implemented both in recessions and expansions. Modern policies, which aim to “close the demand gap” between current and potential output are inconsistent with Keynes's work on theoretical and methodological grounds. There is considerable evidence to suggest that a permanent program for direct or (in his words) “on-the-spot” job creation is the missing Keynes Plan for full employment and economic transformation. The current crisis presents the social economist with a unique opportunity to set fiscal policy straight along the original Keynesian lines. The paper suggests what specific form such a policy might take.

The Relational Dimension of Identity—Theoretical and Empirical Exploration, Helena Lopes & Teresa Calapez

Identity has been recently introduced as a “legitimate” subject matter in economics. Whereas the social nature of identity is consensually acknowledged, its relational and moral dimensions are overlooked. We begin by clarifying the role of interpersonal relations in identity formation. Following Honneth (1995) we argue that the development of a positive identity, defined as a person's relation-to-self, depends on the processes of mutual recognition in which a person takes part throughout her/his life. We then frame Honneth's recognition processes in terms of the access to relational and moral goods. An empirical study is presented that illustrates the association between relational and moral goods and “relation-to-self.” Based on European Social Survey (ESS) data, we show that high levels of relational goods (e.g. experiencing intense and positive social relations) and moral goods (e.g. perceiving to be treated with justice and respect) are associated with a positive relation-to-self.

Meaning of Life: Exploring the Relation between Economics and Religion, Aloys Wijngaards & Esther-Mirjam Sent

This paper starts from the perspective that giving meaning to life is a key function of religion: through its narratives, rituals, creeds, and practices, religion clothes life in a meaningful frame. Interestingly, though, meaning of life has not yet appeared in studies on the relation between religion and economic behavior. As meaning of life may prove to be a crucial factor in understanding this relation, this paper seeks to develop a new approach to understanding the link between religion and economic behavior from the viewpoint of meaning of life.

Book Reviews

America's Economic Moralists: A History of Rival Ethics and Economics (Donald E. Frey), reviewed by D. Marshall Meador

On the Role of Paradigms in Finance (Kavous Ardalan); From Economics Imperialism to Freakonomics: The Shifting Boundaries between Economics and Other Social Sciences (Ben Fine and Dimitris Milonakis); and Economics Versus Human Rights (Manuel Couret Branco), jointly reviewed by Roderick J. Macdonald

Boosting Paychecks: The Politics of Supporting America’s Working Poor (Daniel P. Gitterman), reviewed by Nancy E. Bertaux

The “Woman Question” and Higher Education: Perspectives on Gender and Knowledge Production in America (edited by Ann Mari May), reviewed by Susan B. Carter


Last call for papers: "Social Issues and Public Policy" at ASE/SEA meetings in November

The Association for Social Economics will hold two sessions at the annual meeting of the Southern Economic Association to be held in New Orleans, LA at the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel, November 16-18, 2012 (Friday to Sunday). The theme for this year will be “Social Issues and Public Policy.” 

Please send your paper proposals to Aparna Mitra (amitra@ou.edu) by April 27, 2012.  For more information on the Conference, please visit the SEA website at www.southerneconomic.org or contact Aparna Mitra directly.


ASE executives quoted in The Chronicle of Higher Education

Association for Social Economics president Martha A. Starr and vice-president Mark D. White were quoted in a recent article by Dan Berrett in The Chronicle of Higher Education about Robert Shiller's new book Finance and the Good Society. In "One Economist's Mission to Redeem the Field of Finance," Berrett surveys the various reactions to Shiller's defense of the field of finance among fellow academics and students (including those at Yale, where Shiller teaches, who have protested financial firms recruiting on campus).

Berrett references the reaction to Shiller's opening plenary speech for the Association in January 2012 (miscrediting it to the American Economic Association), on which Starr elaborates:

The audience was fairly shocked, says Martha A. Starr, an associate professor of economics at American University, who introduced him that evening. But his faith in the virtues of the financial system is not as big a departure as it may seem to those who have watched Shiller's career.

"There have always been two Shillers," Ms. Starr says.

The first Shiller, she says, is the behavioral economist who has cautioned that unpredictable human choices can muddy rational thinking and render economic models less predictable in the real world than they might appear on paper. It is that Shiller who sees the connection between human foibles and the existence of stock-market and housing bubbles.

The other Shiller, Ms. Starr says, is the visionary who sees financial markets as holding the potential to fix social problems, if only they could be fully developed and left alone to innovate. It is this other Shiller, the one also in evidence in his 1998 book Macro Markets: Creating Institutions for Managing Society's Largest Economic Risks, whose thinking guides his new book.

The problem, says Ms. Starr, is that in Finance and the Good Society, Mr. Shiller offers an "optimistic and utopian view of finance," which the events of the last few years have called into question.

"In some ways, there's a missed opportunity here to bring the two strands of his thinking together," she says. "People are hesitant to come out in front with an opinion of his book, in part because the things they might say are a critique of the second Shiller, which they have to factor in with their extraordinary admiration for the first Shiller."

Later in the piece, White distinguishes between corruption of the financial system and of the people working within it:

Ms. Wang [a senior majoring in economics, and one of Shiller's research assistants] hopes to bring her analytical and financial skills to work for a firm specializing in clean energy, a position that would help her fulfill Mr. Shiller's vision of finance serving the good society. "You can absolutely go into finance and retain what you're passionate about," she says.

That perspective was echoed by Mark D. White, professor and chair of the department of political science, economics, and philosophy at the City University of New York's College of Staten Island, who studies ethics and economics.

He concedes, though, that recent graduates who enter finance are more likely to find themselves working at big firms where they may have little contact with their clients, and that those sorts of jobs can insulate people from the consequences of their decisions.

Students who are unhappy with the way finance operates should seek to enter the field and change it, he says. "Rather than protest them, join them."

The article concludes with White's comments on the likelihood of Shiller's message being heard:

Distinctions of this sort can easily get lost amid heated rhetoric about finance, says Mr. White, of Staten Island. "Discussion these days about anything tends to be polarized," he says. "I don't think someone trying to be nuanced and hit all the bases is likely to succeed. Someone of Shiller's stature may get listened to more."