Preliminary throat-clearing: as promised, a reply to David Graeber’s reply below, or rather, to the particular bits of it that concerned me. Before getting into the substance, let me briefly clear up that I won’t be talking at any length about what I think of his general conduct, style of argument in which he claims that serious critics are liars out to delegitimize him and so on. As you may imagine, I am very unhappy with his behavior – but I also believe that for purposes of analysis one ought to separate the person from the work. Worse people have written better books. I will, however, note (since Gabriel Rossman is too nice to do this himself) that Graeber’s account of their Twitter interactions is extremely tendentious, to the point of being more or less unrecognizable to me.
Warning: what comes below is rather long. The first section will look at the specific complaints in Graeber’s reply, each in its turn. The second will return to the book chapter in question. The third will look at broader issues of how to study imperialism.
PART I - RESPONDING TO THE RESPONSE, POINT BY POINT
Is my post, as Graeber claims, an example of deliberate delegitimization, a “case in point” of dismissing someone interested in “the actual connections between US military power, the banking system, and global trade … as a paranoid lunatic”
Hardly. And Graeber himself doesn’t seem to believe it – he later suggests that he isn’t sure what the difference is between our positions on imperialism. I have no problems at all with someone talking about the connections between US military power, the banking system and global trade. Nor do I think that the word ‘empire’ is at all provocative, contra Graeber’s suggestion – I regularly talk about the US imperium in class. My issue is with the specific mechanisms that Graeber claims to underlie imperial power – his particular account of empire is neither very plausible, nor supported by much in the way of evidence. More broadly, as I said in the post, I’m not interested in delegitimizing because I think that there is a lot of good material in the book. The chapter on exchange and the economists is excellent. The early history material is beyond my professional competences, but was fun and intriguing, and I’m happy to accept Neville Morley’s judgement that it’s an interesting and useful interpretation of the evidence.
Is it an “obnoxious rhetorical strategy” to cite to Graeber’s own description of what he claims to do in the book?
Graeber’s pique seems to be a bit over the top. If Graeber wants to pat himself on the back, for writing the kind of book that hasn’t been written in 100 years, and for “back[ing] up all his claims” (his words) with copious references, that is fine. Authors trying to create public interest in their books are under no obligation to be self-deprecatory. But if the book actually makes extremely strong claims which are inadequately footnoted, it seems to me to be entirely fair to point out that the author isn’t living up to his own stated standards.
Do I say, as Graeber claims, that one can’t and shouldn’t talk about ruling classes?
Demonstrably not. As I make quite clear in the post, the problem isn’t with talking about the ruling classes, or the consent they generate, or their use of violence. It is with seeing the architecture of world politics as a seamless product of deliberate design. I argue that Graeber radically overestimates the extent to which the system that we live in is a planned one, not that one shouldn’t talk about rulers, consensus and coercion. This is reasonably plain in the text, I think.
Am I “entirely oblivious” to one of the key arguments of the book – “one that in fact breaks dramatically with much leftist orthodoxy,” the “innovative” claim that “while markets are founded and usually maintained by systematic state violence, in the absence of such violence, they will quickly turn into something far less obnoxious—and can even come to be seen as the very basis of freedom and autonomy.
Actually, not so much. I certainly don’t see this claim as a substantial innovation that really gives Marx’s Capital a good talking-to; instead, I see it as a standard anarchist argument, and the main cause of the last chapter’s weaknesses. As I noted in my original post: “For Polanyi, the villain is long distance trading relations, while for Graeber it is the state (in a formulation which is somewhat reminiscent of Althusser’s Ideological State Apparatus and Repressive State Apparatus), which is the actor that keeps the corrupt system going through its ideological and coercive resources,” and later, “Graeber comes up with a theory which (like economists’) starts from a very simple claims – that behind the ubiquitous relationship of creditor to debtor lies the coercive power of the state. Unfortunately this theory, again just like the economists, doesn’t work very well outside the context where it was developed.” Graeber points to another reviewer, who he says got what I didn’t, in arguing that “[i]n the absence of state power, market exchanges tend … to be re-absorbed into a moral economy of a human society.” But the specific point that I was making is that sometimes individuals, in pursuit of autonomy, might prefer that these exchanges not be so reabsorbed, and, instead, remain disembedded. David Miller has a very interesting book, Market, State and Community which makes a similar argument at greater length (I don’t buy Miller’s reconstruction of Marx, but I think he makes some very interesting points).
Do I say that Graeber is “driven by [his] biases to become a bad scholar”?
Not only do I not say that, I don’t even hint it. I made it clear that my problem was with (a specific section) of the work, rather than with Graeber himself. I concluded by saying that I hoped and believed that Graeber could and should write something that took account of these criticisms, and that I felt that he could come up with something that was valuable and worthwhile. Most academics are capable of distinguishing between criticism (even tough criticism), of their work, and ad hominem or ad baculam criticisms of their intrinsic worth as scholars. My criticisms (which started with a genuine and detailed appreciation of the parts of the book that I thought were very good) were clearly of the former, rather than the latter sort.
Did I, “with consumate dishonesty,” ignore Graeber’s framing of the chapter around Hudson’s work?
Again, no. The problem, as I lay it out, is that Graeber is looking to establish that the US’s unparalleled military force is the lynchpin of its domination of the world economy. But Hudson – and here I repeat myself – is arguing that US domination of the world economy is the lynchpin of its unparalleled military force. Graeber is apparently good mates with Hudson, and has talked to him to confirm that Hudson believes that “the US government’s position come[s] down to ‘adopt our version of the free market or we’ll shoot you.’” But the issue is not what Hudson believes – Hudson may believe that he knows the song the Sirens sang, and the name that Achilles took among the women for all I know, or care. The issue is what Hudson provides evidence for in the book, Super Imperialism (not ‘Superimperialism’ – a minor nitpick I know) that Graeber is citing to. And, as I read it, it is about economic forms of domination, with some discussion of how this underpins military adventurism, rather than vice versa. Nor do I read the book, or the actual history, as providing evidence that the US was pulling the Delian League Switcheroo on its allies. The mechanisms were indirect, rather than direct gathering of tributes, and there wasn’t any threat of US military intervention against allies who were unhappy that the US was using its economic dominance to force its allies to bear the cost of adjustment. The closest thing that I can find to a Graeber style argument (there may be more that I have missed, and I would welcome correction so that I can evaluate the supporting evidence) is a brief mention in the context of military aid of how the US discourages “tendencies toward developing independent military forces capable of initiating acts that might not serve U.S. policy ends,” with an example from Yugoslavia, but this is pretty weak tea for a theory of general domination.
Hudson’s own conclusions in the book as to what underpins other countries’ acceptance of US imperialism are not especially satisfactory in themselves, but don’t support Graeber either.
Only America has shown the will to create global international structures and restructure them at will to fit its financial needs as these have evolved from hyper-creditor to hyper-debtor status. It is as if European and Asian society lack some gene for institutional self-programming for their own economic evolution, and have acted simply as the mirror image of America like a dancer following the partner’s lead.
I’m not seeing much to support claims about a militarized reign of terror here, myself. Perhaps Graeber reads it differently, but if this is the empirical cornerstone for Graeber’s arguments, it’s not a very good one. I should say that despite the book’s weak ending, and Hudson’s colorful claims about his own pivotal role in economic policy debate,1 I recommend this book, and am happy that this debate got me to read it. Insofar as a book about monetary policy, multilateral institutions etc can be a cracking read, it’s a cracking read, and while there are some claims that seem iffy to me, and others that I disagree with, there are some very interesting arguments too. You shouldn’t read only this book on these topics, but you should read it.
Am I setting impossible evidentiary standards?
For Fisk what I observed—that there’s a widespread impression of such a connection—is treated as simply self-evident. “Of course” people remember. This is what I assumed too. But Farrell wants documentation. Can Fisk’s essay be so considered? Who knows? No doubt if Farrell wanted to be stubborn, he could like some annoying six-year-old, play the game of “prove it!” forever, insisting that just because Fisk claims something, it doesn’t prove he’s right. If I then turned up a quote from a banker or statesman stating on the record they were intimidated, no doubt he would demand proof it was not an isolated case. If I got a grant and carried out a detailed survey of bankers and statesmen, he could always critique my methodology.
I’m sorry – but whether David Graeber likes it or not, this is the way that serious debate works. People who are making big assertions, and who want to get people to change their minds, usually are asked to produce strong evidence to back up those claims. He may believe, as he says, that I would refuse to accept any reasonable evidence. As a matter of fact, he’s wrong, but even if he were right, this wouldn’t be an excuse to pick up his marbles and go home. It would instead be a spur to him to do the research, and to produce sufficient evidence to convince other people that I am being completely unreasonable in refusing to accept it. I’ll talk to Graeber’s associated claim about ‘common sense’ in the next section.
PART II - THE ERRANT CHAPTER, REVISITED
Having gone through the final chapter again, and read Graeber’s arguments, my criticisms still stand more or less as they were. However, it’s probably worth developing them to make them clearer.
I briefly suggested in my original post that I thought that the weaknesses of this final chapter were a result of the weaknesses of Graeber’s theory of the state. I subsequently had a useful email exchange which helped me clarify what I think the key problem is. Briefly – for Graeber’s account of debt to work, you need a powerful and oppressive state apparatus, to provide the direct coercion that underpins the entire malign system of exchange. Without such a powerful apparatus, as he argues in his reply, you will see market relations becoming re-embedded again. And for Graeber, the means of oppression are less than subtle. They are direct ideological control, underpinned by brute force. Graeber suggests, in his reply, that military force is only one element in his explanation. I think that any fair minded reading of what he actually said would find that it is the central element of his explanation. To repeat the key quotes from my original post, when one argues that:
One element, however, tends to go flagrantly missing in even the most vivid conspiracy theories about the banking system, let alone in official accounts: that is, the role of war and military power. There’s a reason why the wizard has such a strange capacity to create money out of nothing. Behind him, there’s a man with a gun.
The essence of U.S. military predominance in the world is, ultimately, the fact that it can, at will, drop bombs, with only a few hours’ notice, at absolutely any point on the surface of the planet. No other government has ever had anything remotely like this sort of capability. In fact, a case could well be made that it is this very power that holds the entire world monetary system, organized around the dollar, together.
one is pushing very strongly for a military-power based explanation.
But here’s the problem (and this, I think, is why many people, as Graeber himself acknowledges, think that the last chapter is far less convincing than the rest of the book). The modern economy is now, for better or worse, a world economy. For Graeber’s thesis to apply he needs to find some kind of global equivalent to the national state, which can serve as the agent of oppression. Graeber looks to find it in the US, and in so doing, greatly exaggerates America’s ability to use military force in order to pursue its interests. His account of US dominance has more in common with vintage Charles Krauthammer, than Super Imperialism. Krauthammer, like Graeber, roots US power in its ability to project force, more or less unopposed, anywhere in the world, in untrammeled pursuit of its interests. Obviously, they disagree profoundly on the ethical consequences of this power. For Krauthammer, US military dominance allows the US to pursue its interests and global welfare simultaneously, as they are magically one and the same thing (Krauthammer is a moral monster, and his theory is of the US as a global cop, who also can and should beat the shit out of anyone who he doesn’t like). For Graeber (who is not, obviously, a moral monster), US military dominance is the lynchpin of a reign of global terror, what might be called (with apologies to Brian Stableford) an Empire of Fear.
But the problem is that what they agree on – the empirical claims about US power – have been pretty effectively discredited. The US ability to intervene abroad is limited both by financial costs, and by difficulties in maintaining domestic political support. This suggests that the US power to intervene militarily abroad is far more qualified than Graeber thinks it is. The current world order can very reasonably be described as an empire. But it is not an empire of crude coercion where the US can call all the shots, based on its military capacity, or where other countries can expect military intervention if they e.g. stop denominating important stuff in dollars, or fail to pay their debts. Military force is expensive and controversial. The US is quite prepared, as Graeber and others argue, to deploy it in pursuit of entirely self-centered aims, and to maintain its power position. But it is only usually prepared to do this in pursuit of what it considers vital national interests.
Unfortunately, for Graeber’s argument to succeed, the US has to stand in relation to oppressive economic relations within the world economy, more or less as traditional states stood towards oppressive economic relations within their domestic economies. And it really, really doesn’t – it simply doesn’t have enough resources.
This leads to most of the problems in Graeber’s final chapter. If I suggest that Graeber is caught up in a more complicated version of John Holbo’s Two Step of Terrific Triviality this is not to imply that Graeber is being deliberately dishonest in the way that Jonah Goldberg is in Holbo’s account. I don’t believe that he is. What Graeber is trying to do, I think, and not succeeding at, is to come up with an argument that is both what his theory needs and that has some empirical prima facie plausibility. And because he can’t really do this, the chapter lurches back and forth between three rather different arguments about empire.
The first are the strong claims that he really needs for his previous arguments to work. These are the bald claims that it is all about tribute and US willingness to use military power to keep other states paying their debts etc. Graeber states:
one effect of Nixon’s floating of the dollar was that foreign central banks have little they can do with these dollars except to use them to buy U.S. treasury bonds. This is what is meant by the dollar becoming the world’s “reserve currency.” These bonds are, like all bonds, supposed to be loans that will eventually mature and be repaid, but as economist Michael Hudson … noted, they never really do … What’s more, over time, the combined effect of low interest payments and the inflation is that these bonds actually depreciate in value – adding to the tax effect or, as I preferred to put it in the first chapter, “tribute.” Economists prefer to call it seignorage. The effect, though, is that American imperial power is based on a debt that will never – can never – be repaid. Its national debt has become a promise not just to its own people, but to the nations of the entire world, that everyone knows will not be kept (366-367).
When he talks about the seignorage which the US gets from having major transactions denominated in dollars, he brings in the famous suggestion that Hussein’s decision to “buck the dollar” helped precipitate the Iraq war. He acknowledges that it is “impossible to know” how much this played into the US decision, but shows no such hesitation when he suggests that restive East Asians and the Argentina debt default precipitated US militarism in the 2000s. To quote the relevant bit again:
By 2000, East Asian countries had begun a systematic boycott of the IMF. In 2002, Argentina committed the ultimate sin: they defaulted – and got away with it. Subsequent U.S. military adventures were clearly meant to terrify and overawe, but they do not appear to have been very successful: partly because, to finance them, the United States had to turn not just to its military clients, but increasingly, to China, its chief remaining military rival.
This isn’t hedged around with any maybes, one-might-says and it-is-plausible-to-thinks. It is a blunt assertion that the efforts of East Asian countries to buck the IMF, and the Argentinian default precipitated subsequent “U.S. military adventures” that were intended to “terrify and overawe” the world back into submission.
The problems with these claims are obvious. They’re wrong. Lots of private actors buy T-bonds without any US government pressure, especially during times of economic crisis, making them highly unlikely forms of tribute. Of course, the reasons why T-bills are regarded as a safe investment have a lot to do with US predominance, and the US did impose the adjustment costs on everyone else during the 1970s. But this is not tribute, a point I’ll return to in the third section. The claim that US foreign policy adventurism in the 2000s were motivated by US fears that it was losing its grip on Argentina and the boys not only has no evidence to support it, but seems to me to be completely indefensible. And let me be clear. These are Graeber’s own words that I’m quoting up there. They’re plain in their meaning, and they are entirely unqualified. In these sentences, he is making just the sort of crude reductionist argument that he later gets outraged at people for attributing to him.
Because such strong claims are unsustainable, Graeber veers between them and a somewhat less strong argument – that even if one cannot be sure that the US will invade you to retaliate for shifting currency, repudiating your debt or whatever, the mere possibility that it will is sufficient to terrify the rest of the world into submission. This requires less evidence. But it does require some. On Twitter, when I pushed him to provide this evidence, Graeber resorted to a rhetorical mode that Kieran described as ‘argument from wake up sheeple!’ – asserting that my demand for evidence of this showed how hopelessly sheltered I was from reality, and that no evidence was required to show that people in the developing world were terrified of the threat of US intervention. In his more formal response, he speaks a little more directly to this question. First, he provides a speculative quote from Robert Fisk, to show that someone believed that Iraq’s decision to change to the dollar might have helped precipitate the invasion. Second, he claims that “common sense” shows that this must be so, given the US’s coercive power.
The problems here are straightforward. A single quote from a journalist is sufficient to establish the most tentative form of plausibility – that someone around that time might have reached this conclusion. But it doesn’t do any more than that. It certainly doesn’t tell us anything direct about the beliefs of the people who are actually under discussion here. Nor does argument from “common sense” substitute for actual research. The first reason why this is so is that different people may reasonably have very different standards of what “common sense” is. A foreign ruler who notices that US military power is not unlimited, that lengthy foreign interventions etc are not usually popular with the American public is going to have a very different calculation of what he or she can get away with than the abjectly terror-stricken subject that Graeber assumes is inevitable. People also plausibly pay attention to what the US says and does. In my own “common sense” world, Saudi Arabian policy makers have no doubts that if e.g. they tried to organize an oil blockade against the US, the US would do whatever it felt it needed to, up to and including brutal military invasion and occupation, to stop this happening. The US has made it clear that it regards oil access as a ‘vital national interest’ – a codeword for something that it is prepared to go to war over. But in my “common sense” world, nobody is terrified that the US is going to invade in order to stop copyright violations in other countries, even though US policy makers frequently fulminate about this issue. They may of course fear other forms of retaliation, signalled through Special 301, primarily involving market access. This is less a world of complete terror, than variegated worry, shading from well-justified fear of military attack on some issues, through worries about non-military forms of pressure to complete indifference about US preferences on some topics.
So – there are different “common sense” accounts, each of which may have surface plausibility. The way that we figure out the relative explanatory usefulness of such “common sense” accounts of how the world may work is by appealing to evidence, or, where the evidence is lacking, doing actual research. As the sociologist Duncan Watts observes, everything is obvious – after you know the answer. Before you do the research to find the answer, a variety of equally “obvious” causal relationships, each with very different implications, may be true.
This is something that applies with especial force to anthropologists. I’m used to anthropologists giving the rest of us social scientists well-deserved grief for the ways in which we assume that we know what people think and believe in specific contexts, and can infer their systems of meaning from big structural theories without actually bothering to talk to them properly or to live with them. I think that Graeber, in other contexts, would recognize that the claim that one can tell what people (here – the people being non-US central bankers, finance ministers and their officials and the like) actually believe, on the basis of “common sense” is a non-starter. Obviously, the research project of finding out what everyone significant in the world of non-US economic policy making actually thinks about the US is an implausibly large one. But one could still generate useful findings by doing smaller, more localized work, and also (as a highly imperfect stop-gap perhaps, if you are a stone-hard anthropologist) using the kinds of methods that standard social scientists use to at least narrow down the likely range of beliefs. In the absence of such work, I think that a single journalist’s opinion, and appeals to “common sense” are very slender reeds indeed to carry a major theory about the workings of the world economic system. Hence, I think that even this somewhat more moderate version of Graeber’s argument fails to find good empirical support.
This leads to the third argument, which I’m not going to talk about at nearly so great a length – Graeber’s claim that it would be rather extraordinary if US economic dominance and military dominance were not somehow connected. On this level of generality, I have absolutely no argument with Graeber. I too think that they’re connected. But I don’t think that this very general claim does what Graeber needs it to do. It’s almost certainly empirically right (if underspecified), but it doesn’t map out the relationships that Graeber needs to see, if the thesis he develops in the historical chapters is to prevail in explaining the modern era too. In short – I don’t think that Because: Imperialism! works as a theory, because there are so many different ways in which imperial power might work, each of which has very different consequences for world politics, and many of which don’t invoke the specific causal relations that Graeber believes in.
In short then, I think that Graeber’s problem is that he needs the US state to have a very particular kind of role in the world system if his argument from previous chapters is to carry over easily. But I don’t think that the US state actually does have that role. Nor do I think that there is any good evidence that people believe it has this role (and “common sense” could go in a variety of different ways). This leaves a more general argument about imperialism, which is surely more supportable given the evidence, but doesn’t really provide support for the specific mechanisms that Graeber wants to invoke.
PART III - CONCLUSIONS: THINKING ABOUT IMPERIALISM
As the last bit of the final section makes clear, I do believe that imperialist and power-based explanations of the world economy are where we should start from. However, I don’t think that Graeber’s final chapter is a good place to jump off into this argument. In part, because as I’ve suggested above, the metaphors don’t travel well. Thinking about superficially anodyne relationships as forms of “tribute” has the useful and salutary effect of pushing us to think about them as being political, rather than something that just naturally happens. But it also pushes us – as Graeber’s line of argument suggests, to think about them as being exacted under the direct threat of military force in the event that they are not delivered. That’s what tribute is. This may explain some relationships in the world economy, but it doesn’t explain nearly as much, I don’t think, as Graeber argues.
More generally, as Graeber makes clear in his response, it focuses on the state as the primary locus of action. If it weren’t for the state’s military and ideological power, markets would be reabsorbed into society. But this radically underestimates the role that market actors and market integration play, independent of US interests. It used to be that countries which didn’t pay up their debts could expect to be invaded by major powers. Now, even in the absence of even an indirect threat of force from the US, they can expect to find themselves isolated from the world economy instead. And this is not because the US state orders it to happen, but because economic actors, who are largely autonomous of the US government, or of any other state, coordinate to make it so. Furthermore, if we look to the power of the EU, which does nearly as many bad things in the markets of developing countries as the US, we see a power that is exerted without anything very much in the way of force to back it up. The EU has no army itself, and the power projection capability of its member states ranges from limited to negligible. Yet it is able to shape global markets, not by military threat, but by using market access and other economic tools. Finally, there are excellent reasons to believe that the US state is the creature of economic actors in many ways rather than vice versa.
If it needs emphasizing again, let me emphasize it – vigorously disagreeing with Graeber’s take is not stating, or implying that he is a bad scholar. I think that his arguments in this particular chapter don’t work at all, but bad arguments happen even to the best thinkers. I would genuinely be interested to see what he had to say if he took some of these criticisms not as efforts to delegitimize him, but to push him to provide good evidence and more carefully developed arguments to support his main contentions in later work. If he doesn’t want to take my criticisms seriously, because he believes that I am a fundamentally dishonest person who is out to discredit him, I’d at least push him to imagine how he might respond if (purely for the sake of argument) I was genuinely interested in constructive dialogue, and in pushing him to do better rather than to tear him down.
Still, while I’d like to see more work on the American imperium, I would argue, contra Graeber, that it should pay at least as much attention to questions of market access as to military power, and that it should start from the basis that market actors can be largely autonomous of state power. The work that Marxists such as Claire Cutler have done on how market actors are creating their own private spheres of international governance should be part of this conversation. Equally, I’d like to see more work from my colleagues in international relations, who in general haven’t done nearly as much as they should to figure this stuff out. There is a little movement, especially after the financial crisis. Hartal in comments points to a recent book by Carla Norrlof which sounds interesting, especially as she is someone much closer to the game-theoretic heavy center of the discipline than I am. Thomas Oatley has a fascinating unpublished paper on the relationship between US military spending and global financial crises, which I can’t wait to see in the public domain so that I can blog about it. Economic sociologists are doing a lot of good work that I don’t have time to develop here (this post is already more than 5,000 words). Anthropologists have a lot to contribute. Most of the good work by IR scholars on these topics (as well as by the occasional rogue economist like Dani Rodrik) are footnotes to Polanyi. More Polanyi style grand analysis, that was really grounded in the specifics of the system, would be greatly appreciated.
Finally, what this work needs to do is to explain variation in imperial relations as well as constancy. As I argue above, there is prima facie evidence that the ways in which the US views threats to oil supplies is very different to the way in which it views threats to the music and movie industry. This is not to say that it doesn’t respond to the latter – but it responds in very different ways. This distinction is obvious, but there are also differences across a whole variety of intermediate areas, where the US is likely to respond with greater or lesser force, different tools, is better or worse able to influence others and so on.Explaining such differences is important, because it helps us to map out the actual power relations involved, and get some better understanding of the underlying causal mechanisms. This is important to academics – but I can’t help thinking that it’s also important to people who want to change the world rather than studying it. I think that they should be looking for a Gramscian mapping out of the territory – and a willingness ruthlessly to discard maps if they don’t actually describe this territory particularly well. “Because: Imperialism” helps to identify the problem, but it doesn’t provide any useful diagnosis for how to start remedying it.
1 As an aside, I’d like to see some evidence to back up Hudson’s “Chinese central bankers are trained using my book” claim. Hudson seems to have some quite emphatic beliefs about his own central role in various economic policy discussions. Elsewhere he tells us that he’s the guy who gave Nixon’s people the idea of using monetary policy to shaft the rest of the world. And in the introduction to Super Imperialism, he tells us about how “U.S. agencies were the main customers [in Washington for his book], using it in effect as a training manual on how to turn the payments deficit into an economically aggressive lever to exploit other countries via their central banks.” He’s been reliably informed (same link) that the Commerce Department changed the way it reported its statistics because of what he was able to do with them. This is not to mention the US diplomatic efforts to successfully stop his book being published in Japan, and the threats of two university board members and economic professors to resign if his books were published. I’m not claiming that any, or all of this is necessarily untrue (odder things have happened) – but given that the main expert on the global influence of Michael Hudson appears to be Michael Hudson, it might be nice to see some supporting external evidence from other sources. Also – to be clear, as per the distinction between author and work at the beginning of this post, even if a couple of these claims did turn out to be a wee bit overstated, it wouldn’t shift my assessment of his arguments all that much – people who have had a tough time in getting their ideas accepted by the more hidebound members of their profession sometimes react by overselling themselves in other ways.