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I’ve got an essay in Raritan about Edmund Burke, Adam Smith, and the problem of value.
The essay is part of my long-term book project, on the political theory of capitalism, which I’ll be coming back to once I’m done with my book on Clarence Thomas (though I’ve been periodically teaching on the topic at the Graduate Center as a preparatory to writing the book). You could read the essay as a kind of prequel to this other essay I wrote on Nietzsche and Hayek and the problem of value.
The idea of the book is to look at how theorists and philosophers (and even some economists) conceived of capitalism less as an economic system and more as a political system, at several junctures in time. Part I will look at the idea of capitalism in the so-called Age of Democratic Revolution, from 1776 to 1848, mostly focused on Britain and France, with an extended detour through Haiti. Part II will turn to the US and the Americas, with a special focus on the idea of capitalism during the Age of Slavery and Emancipation, roughly 1830 to 1876. Part III will return to Europe, taking us from 1865 to 1945, with a focus on the idea of capitalism during the rise of fascism and the radical right as a counter to socialism and the left. Part IV will take us across the globe, in the post-1945 era, as we look as the idea of capitalism during the slow ascendancy of neoliberalism as a second counter, or answer, to socialism and the left.
This Raritan essay, on Burke and Smith, reflects some of the ideas I intend to explore in Part I. Among other things, it challenges the widespread notion of Burke the traditionalist as somehow a steadfast critic of the emerging order of the monied man. It is Smith rather than Burke, as we’ll see, who offers the more scathing critique of that emerging order.
Here are some excerpts: [click to continue…]
Daniel Rodgers’ Age of Fracture hasn’t received a lot—really, any—attention around here. That’s a pity because it’s a terrific book. Easily the most comprehensive account of social thought in postwar America, it narrates how our notion of the “social” got steadily broken down across a wide array of disciplines. It’s also a flawed book. My review of it has finally appeared in the London Review of Books. Unfortunately, it’s behind the paywall, but I’ve liberated some of it for your consideration here. Some people might feel uncomfortable commenting on the review without having read all of it—here’s my pitch for you to subscribe to the LRB—but I doubt that’ll ultimately prove to be much of an impediment.