11 posts categorized "Books"


New book: Storr, Haeffele-Balch, and Grube, Community Revival in the Wake of Disaster

Storr et al bookJust published in the Perspectives from Social Economics series from Palgrave Macmillan is a book by Virgil Henry Storr, Stefanie Haeffele-Balch, and Laura E. Grube titled Community Revival in the Wake of Disaster: Lessons in Local Entrepreneurship.

UPDATE: There is a dedicated website for the book here, which includes a short video trailer.

From the publisher's description:

Rebounding after disasters like tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, and floods can be daunting. Communities must have residents who can not only gain access to the resources that they need to rebuild but who can also overcome the collective action problem that characterizes post-disaster relief efforts. Community Revival in the Wake of Disaster argues that entrepreneurs, conceived broadly as individuals who recognize and act on opportunities to promote social change, fill this critical role. Using examples of recovery efforts following Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Louisiana, and Hurricane Sandy on the Rockaway Peninsula in New York, the authors demonstrate how entrepreneurs promote community recovery by providing necessary goods and services, restoring and replacing disrupted social networks, and signaling that community rebound is likely and, in fact, underway. They argue that creating space for entrepreneurs to act after disasters is essential for promoting recovery and fostering resilient communities.

Storr is Senior Research Fellow and Director of Graduate Student Programs at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, USA, and Research Professor of Economics in the Department of Economics at George Mason University. Haeffele-Balch is Associate Director of Graduate Student Programs at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, USA, and is also a PhD Student in the Economics Department at George Mason University. Grube is Mercatus Dissertation Fellow and PhD candidate in Economics at George Mason University, USA, and Visiting Instructor in the Economics Department at Beloit College, USA.

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If you have any ideas for a book in the Perspectives from Social Economics series, you can email the series editor (and past ASE president) Mark D. White at profmdwhite@hotmail.com.


New book: Quentin Wodon, The Economics of Faith-Based Service Delivery

Wodon bookJust published in the Perspectives from Social Economics series from Palgrave Macmillan is a book by Association for Social Economics vice-president Quentin Wodon titled The Economics of Faith-Based Service Delivery: Education and Health in Sub-Saharan Africa.

From the publisher's description:

The Economics of Faith-Based Service Delivery provides the first ever comprehensive empirical assessment of the role that faith-inspired institutions (FIIs) play in the supply of health care and education services in sub-Saharan Africa. Wodon focuses on estimating the market share, reach to the poor, and cost for households that rely on FIIs as opposed to public and private secular providers of education and health care services. He also analyzes the causes of user reliance on FIIs, the comparative performance of FIIs, and the level of satisfaction among those that use their services. The Economics of Faith-Based Service Delivery is an innovate combination of previously untapped nationally representative household surveys, qualitative fieldwork, and insights from the fields of religious studies and social economics.

Wodon is an Adviser and Coordinator in the Education Global Practice at the World Bank. See his blog posts at the World Bank and his own blog Rotarian Economist, which "features stories about service projects and provides analysis and tools for work on often complex issues related to poverty reduction and development."

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If you have any ideas for a book in the Perspectives from Social Economics series, you can email the series editor (and past ASE president) Mark D. White at profmdwhite@hotmail.com.


Irene van Staveren shows the value of introducing alternative economic thinking to students

Irene bookI am currently teaching with my own new textbook Economics after the Crisis. I make use of blended learning techniques such as quizzes, flipping the classroom with YouTube videos with my slide shows and voice-over, and visual one-page summaries of each chapter on Facebook page of the book. This all frees up lots of time for classroom discussions. In this blog I would like to share a few of these discussions with you.

Student A, from the UK, asks why Margaret Thatcher was so much in favour of markets but did not want the government to regulate markets to ensure fair competition. Others seemed equally puzzled: if markets have a tendency to lead to oligopolies, they move away from the ideal of full competition, and hence, they need the state to ensure that it does not happen. Of course, they are right. Not bad for students of an introductory course. It is, of course, the same issue that Joan Robinson addressed when analysing real-world markets. My answer, though, is not Post-Keynesian but social economic. The tendency of markets to allow, or even support, winners over losers to accumulate market shares, through mergers and acquisitions, lobbying, and explicit or implicit price agreements, is enabled by a dominant social norm among economists as well as policy makers that markets are good and the states are bad, when it comes to efficiency and wellbeing and growth. This leads the discussion towards the dominant policy paradigm of neoliberalism in the world since Thatcher and Reagan.

EC Matrix CH 01[1]The students had to write a mini-essay about the dominant policy debate in their countries. Here is what student B, from Mexico, answered. The indigenous people aligned in the Zapatista movement regard nature and earth as a mother. Hence, the farmers are in a caring relationship with the land and for this reason resist production for commercial firms and the market beyond their own community. Only by producing for their own community they can maintain this relationship with the mother. They therefore also resist the state, which offers to provide social security. The Zapatista farmers understand that by accepting this, they are drawn into the national and international market economy, which will undermine their caring relationship with mother earth.

I found this a nice example of how local communities resist not just neoliberalism but even the state in a neoliberal policy environment—their distrust is most likely justified.

Student C, from Indonesia, offered a very different example, but also from a social economics perspective. He argued for keeping the fuel subsidy for the poor, whereas neoliberal policy makers want to abolish the fuel subsidy. His argument is that fuel is a key commodity for the poor and the subsidy helps them to purchase this (for example, fuel for cooking and transport). Here, it is the inequality and poverty argument that was used from social economics, to support a redistributive policy. Even when it may not be friendly to mother earth...

My students' feedback teaches me that even though it is not easy to teach four economic theories at the introductory level, they quickly see the relevance of it for their own economic context. If only to be able to see alternatives to dominant policies, rightly or wrongly.

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IreneIrene van Staveren is professor of Pluralist Development Economics at the Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands. She was awarded the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Thomas Divine award by the Association of Social Economics.


New work on Piketty and inequality from Puaschunder and Pressman

Two intriguing new works on Piketty and inequality from social economists:

1. Julia Puaschunder (New School for Social Research) has a new paper at SSRN, "The Beauty of Ivy: When Inequality Meets Equality." The abstract follows:

Thomas Piketty’s (2014) Capital in the 21st Century revolutionized economic thoughts on inequality. Started by the 2008/09 World Financial Crisis and cumulated in the subsequent Occupy movement, attention to rising inequality regarding economic wage, opportunity and wealth led to advocacy for a more equal society. Innovatively, this article argues for a mixture of equality and inequality within a system holding value when access to opportunities to transfer implicit wealth is distributed merit-based. By the example of Ivy League educational institutions but also elaborating on social environments and interaction networks, a novel economic wealth transfer model is proposed. Within an economic system, dyads of unequal crystallized value based on heritage (e.g., royal families, legacy admits) and merit-based equality represented by offspring from families with underprivileged backgrounds, whose outperforming ambition, fluid intelligence and drive may lead to fruitful social interactions and beneficial wealth transfers, may create beneficial economic outcomes. On the societal level, within networks favorable environments may serve as transformation hubs if entered merit-based by underprivileged families. While presenting a preliminary idea of an economic model of value transfer between equality and inequality, the article outlines a blatant research gap on information about the direct transactions and interactions between equality and inequality representing agents within societal networks. The article concludes with giving hope in Piketty’s outlook of rising inequality by showing the economic merits of inequality when paying attention to merit-based distributed value transfer opportunities.

Pressman2. Steve Pressman (Monmouth University) has a book coming out this fall from Routledge entitled Understanding Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century:

Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century reached the top of most best-seller lists last year shortly after it was released. Nonetheless, few people actually read the book. Yet reviewers have agreed that the book is important because it touches on one of the major problems facing the US economy, the UK economy and many developed nations: rising income and wealth inequality. It also provides an explanation of the problem and a policy solution: a global wealth tax.

This book is intended to do three things. First, it provides a summary of the argument of Piketty’s book, which many people have bought and few people have read. Second, it fills in some of the gaps in the book, by providing readers with the background that is needed to understand the volume and the argument. This background information discusses economic data sources, measures of inequality and why income inequality is such an important issue today. Finally, the work provides a defense of Piketty’s analysis and at times some criticism of his work.

Pressman explains why the problem of rising inequality is important, where Piketty’s data comes from, and the strengths and weaknesses of that data. It defends Piketty’s inequality, r>g, as the reason inequality has risen over the past several decades in many developed nations. Using Piketty’s own data, this book argues that rising inequality is not just a characteristic of capitalism, but results from different growth rates for income and wealth, which can occur under any type of economic system.

Understanding Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century is the ideal introduction to one of the most important books of recent years for anyone interested in Piketty’s work and the inevitability of inequality.


Op-Ed by Deborah Figart and Ellen Mutari: Summertime and the living isn't easy for area workers

Figart bookDeborah Figart (past president of ASE) and Ellen Mutari (current president of ASE), both of The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, published an op-ed on the casino industry in Atlantic City, New Jersey, yesterday in the Press of Atlantic City. It highlights the stark contrast between the investment in opulence on the part of casino owners and the dire economic circumstances of the workers and families. An excerpt:

In preparation for the new season, the Tropicana Casino and Resort recently unveiled its $50 million facelift at a ribbon-cutting last week, just in time to lure new customers and welcome back old ones. The casino has erected giant LED panels for a new light show. A new granite pathway and coffered ceilings augment a renovation of 434 hotel rooms. New televisions are sprinkled among the table games. With AtlantiCare as a partner, the Trop opened a state-of-the-art fitness facility at the property. One executive boasted that the leg-press machine alone cost $9,000.

Such investments in Atlantic City's business properties are welcome, and increasingly important in a saturated casino industry. The opulence of these facilities, however, contrasts sharply with the Memorial Day 2015 realties of casino workers and former workers. In Atlantic County, as elsewhere in America, working families are feeling squeezed. Beef prices for those barbequed hamburgers are at an all-time high. The prices of chicken and pork are up too due to drought and a virus in the hog industry, as are the prices white bread, iceberg lettuce, American cheese, potato chips and ice cream, the other key commodities measured by Fortune magazine's BBQ Index.

It is almost like a tale of two cities: the Haves and the Have-Nots. Our local economy is still struggling with the closing of four casinos last year and the loss of 8,000 casino jobs. The ripple effects have been felt by businesses, communities and families throughout the area. Unemployment checks are now running out. Those who still have jobs are often working fewer hours, bringing home less after-tip income, and paying more for their benefits packages. And, at the same time that Tropicana Entertainment was shopping for gym equipment and installing the light show, its key investor, Carl Icahn, was cutting payments for health care and pensions for workers at Trump Taj Mahal. This is still being fought in court.

Read the rest here, and see also Mutari and Figart's recent book (shown above), Just One More Hand: Life in the Casino Economy, on economic conditions in the casino industry in Atlantic City.


Wilfred Dolfsma: “The market cannot be usefully understood as separate from society."

Elgar bookValues such as care and fairness are not just values that may be found in families, closely-knit communities, or that are discussed among only some philosophically-minded people as their working week ends and they enjoy a glass of wine.

While social economics does not tend to favour any particular set of values over others (values are discussed equally well over a glass of wine as over a pint of beer or a smoothie), social economists are concerned about inclusiveness. Values in support of inclusion of the disfavoured, allowing people to take part in the economy as a practice through which we can provide for ourselves and those we love, are still a broad set of values.

In this respect, the market is no different from any other social practice: all are value-laden, and practices are laden with a plurality of values. Indeed, even when adopting an academic mind, one that is trained to abstract, applying Occam’s Razor, a social economist would emphasize that any single social practice must be understood as part of a larger social setting. Even such a multifaceted practice as the market cannot be usefully understood as separate from society.

The early economists have always understood this to be the case. For a plurality of reasons, one among these being a streak of physics-envy, economists have abstraction to an extreme in the name of academic rigour. Many economists have looked at the market as fully separate, oddly in line with Marxists. While precision has certainly increased, relevance has definitely not. Rather the opposite.

Fortunately, this is realized by many, and not just by economists, and so social economics has come into even more favourable light. Just as the first edition of the Elgar Companion to Social Economics, in 2008, offering cutting edge thought on core themes in social economics, the economic crisis hit much of the globe. To social economists this crisis did not come as a surprise – even though there is not a single social economists who will claim to have predicted the crisis’ occurrence to the day. Social economists are much too well aware of the complexity of the economy, and perhaps because of it too they are too modest too.

Not being afraid to go against the grain of contemporary economics that still separates the positive from the normative in science, and shuns the latter, social economists have developed a comprehensive approach to judging the current state-of-affairs of a setting. Is it duly serving the needs of all, and how can it be improved upon, tentatively? While recommendations will be provided with due care and caution, there is not the active resistance to stepping in to policy debates. Social economists want to change all society for the better, and particularly for those who are in danger of being excluded (and not just change in favour of some, for instance those who can cough up high speakers’ or consultants’ fees).

Social economists thus discuss high theory, connecting from what many will understand as economics-proper, but relate to domains in the social science that some might believe is beyond the scope of economics, even to domains that squarely no longer are economics. If a proper understanding of a problem demands that this be done, social economists should not and do not shy away from it. Social economists also do not shy away from philosophical discussions, continuously determining if its premises are in need of further strengthening. Never, however, is social economics involved in theory-for-theory’s sake, A’-C’ modelling exercises that only very few fellow economists can understand. Depth and rigour in analysis can never be an excuse for arcane academic work. Contributions to the Elgar Companion to Social Economics, 2nd Edition, are indications of this.

WilfredDr Wilfred Dolfsma is a member of the University of Groningen School of Economics and Business. He is Editor-in-Chief, with Robert McMaster, of the Review of Social Economy and Editor, with John Davis, of Elgar Companion to Social Economics, 2nd Edition.

This post was originally published on the Elgar Blog, and is reproduced here with permission of the author.


New book emphasizes the ties between social economics and law

LawSE Over the last half-century, the economic approach to law (or “law and economics”) has become the most successful instance of “economic imperialism,” the extension of the neoclassical economic paradigm to other fields of study. Given the shortcomings of that paradigm, however, law-and-economics misses much of the complexity of human choice and the ethical nature of the law that cannot be captured in terms of utility and efficiency alone. Social economics, on the other hand, emphasizes the importance of ethical values to economic theory, practice, and policy, but to date it has engaged very little with the law. Perhaps this is due to an antipathy to the economic imperialism of mainstream law-and-economics. After all, social economists tend to be methodological pluralists that respect the contributions and insights of other disciplines. But we do not have to “co-opt” the law in order to apply social economics thinking to problems involving the law or to incorporate legal aspects of the economy and society into our work. By its very nature, law is a social enterprise concerned with values such as justice, dignity, and equality, as well as efficiency—which is how social economists conceive of the economy itself. The economy and the law work together within a society to influence economic behavior and outcomes, and social economists need to acknowledge this interrelationship if we hope to understand the broader nature of the social economy we study.

In 1993, Steven Medema published his classic article “Is There Life beyond Efficiency? Elements of a Social Law and Economics” in the Review of Social Economy, in which he laid out various ways in which social economics could contribute to the economic analysis of law. In the 20 years since his article appeared, however, few have picked up his baton, much less run with it. Law and Social Economics: Essays in Ethical Values for Theory, Practice, and Policy is an attempt to rectify this situation and renew social economists’ engagement with the law. Drawn from papers presented at meetings of the Association for Social Economics (at the Allied Social Science Association meetings) and the Law and Society Association, the essays contained in this volume explore several areas in which social economics and law can inform and enrich each other. Divided into theory and applications, the ten chapters in this volume, written by an international assortment of scholars from economics, philosophy, and law, employ a wide variety of approaches and methods to show how a more ethically nuanced approach to economics and the law can illuminate both and open up new avenues for studying social-economic behavior, policy, and outcomes in all their ethical and legal complexity.

On behalf on the contributors, I hope this volume inspires social economists to engage with the law in their work, introduces legal scholars to the unique advantages social economics can provide, and leads to greater cooperation between the two in the future.

This post was adapted from editor Mark D. White's introduction to Law and Social Economics. For more information on this title, see its page at Palgrave Macmillan.


Me jan 2015Mark D. White is Chair and Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the College of Staten Island/CUNY, where he teaches courses in philosophy, law, and economics. He is the author of four books and over 50 journal articles and book chapters, and edited or co-edited over a dozen volumes. He is the series editor of “Perspectives from Social Economics” for Palgrave Macmillan and “On Ethics and Economics” for Rowman & Littlefield International, and he served as president of the Association for Social Economics in 2014. He can be found on Twitter as @profmdwhite.


Economics After the Crisis, by Irene van Staveren

Irene bookA year after the fall of Lehman Brothers, The Economist's headline proclaimed the end of modern economics. What has happened since? Well... almost nothing.

Mainstream and near-mainstream economic textbooks still sell like before. And INET has supported some initiatives that eliminate the rough sides of neoclassical thought and neoliberal policy advice. Very laudable initiatives, with, for example, Wendy Carlin's work on developing a new undergraduate curriculum CORE. But students of economics are not satisfied with these minor changes, so many years after the start of the financial crisis. Their Rethink Economics petition demands more fundamental changes to textbooks.

As a supporter of every single petition, pamphlet, op-ed, and plea for pluralism in economics before and after the crisis, I decided three years ago that I should practice what I preach. The result is Economics after the Crisis, a pluralist introductory textbook published by Routledge in January 2015. It offers a tool to understand the basics of economics from four theoretical perspectives either for use in the classroom or for self-study alongside a standard course book. The theories are presented in every chapter, micro and macro. And from interdisciplinary and close to real-world experiences to mathematically in an idealized world of perfect markets and agents following the single ethical guide of utility maximization. The book presents social economics, institutional economics, post Keynesian economics, and neoclassical economics and thereby shows that almost no economic concept or tool is theory-neutral. If only this message gets across, the book will have accomplished already more than I could hope for.

The window of opportunity to reform economic teaching is almost shut. Banks pass stress tests in Europe and the US while still being too big to fail. Nobel Prizes are awarded to economists who show no effort at all in rethinking economics. And economic policies ignore the danger of continuously increasing private and public debt, while shifting the consequences of such myopia on disadvantaged groups and whole populations.

If it is not now, we may have to wait for the next crisis to change economic thinking and teaching. I truly hope that the combined efforts of critical economists, activist students, and courageous teachers will help to make the change. We cannot afford to standby any longer.

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IreneIrene van Staveren is professor of Pluralist Development Economics at the Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands. She was awarded the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Thomas Divine award by the Association of Social Economics.


New heterodox microeconomics textbook: The Microeconomics of Complex Economies

TextbookFrom Wolfram Elsner (managing editor of Forum for Social Economics):
Dear social-economics friends and colleagues,
This is to let you know about a new ‘heterodox’ microeconomic textbook that has just has appeared. Please visit its website for details. If you consider a review, the authors would be happy to have sent you an inspection copy through the publisher:
The Microeconomics of Complex Economies:
Evolutionary, Institutional, Neoclassical and Complexity Perspectives.
An Intermediate Textbook
Wolfram Elsner, Torsten Heinrich, and Henning Schwardt
New York, San Diego, Amsterdam:  Elsevier/Academic Press, 2014, ca. 580pp.
Should you have any question or comment, please do not hesitate to contact me at: welsner@uni-bremen.de.


Call for abstracts: Edited volume on law and social economics

Call for abstracts for edited volume

Law and Social Economics

To be edited by Mark D. White, College of Staten Island/CUNY

Planned for inclusion in the “Perspectives from Social Economics” series from Palgrave Macmillan

By its very nature, law is a social enterprise concerned with values such as justice, dignity, equality, and efficiency, but the economic approach to law (or law and economics) focuses on the last goal to the exclusion of the rest. Social economics emphasizes the importance of ethical values to economic theory, practice, and policy, but it has engaged very little with legal studies (or law and economics).

In 1993, Steven Medema published his article “Is There Life Beyond Efficiency? Elements of a Social Law and Economics” in the Review of Social Economy, in which he laid out various ways in which social economics could contribute to the economic analysis of law. In the twenty years since his article appeared, however, few have picked his baton, much less run with it.

This book is an attempt to rectify this situation. Proposals for chapters are welcome on any aspect of law-and-economics on which social economics can make a contribution, and are welcome from economists, legal scholars, and scholars from related disciplines.

Possible topics include:

  • Social-economic approaches to the various categories of legal studies, such as
    • Private law (tort, contract, property)
    • Criminal law
    • Procedure
    • Jurisprudence
  • Methodological critiques of mainstream economic approaches to the law, such as
    • Maximizing conception of individual choice
    • Efficiency criterion for evaluating laws and institutions
    • Application of game theory, behavioral economics, or experimental economics to legal issues
  • Examination of the history of law-and-economics scholarship
  • Suggestion of topics neglected by mainstream law-and-economics

Proposals should include name and affiliations of all authors, tentative chapter title, and abstract, and should be sent to Mark D. White at profmdwhite@hotmail.com by April 30, 2012. Tentatively, first drafts of chapters will be expected by November 30, 2012, with final drafts due by February 28, 2013.