My book, Creating economy: Enterprise, intellectual property, and the valuation of goods, with Barbara Townley and Nicola Searle receives favourable reviews in Journal of Cultural Economy and The Law Teacher. Rimi Kahn’s review essay in JCE calls the book ‘a timely and lucid analysis of the social and institutional processes through which the translations from text to product take place…an astute and empirically grounded study’. Kahn concludes that the book is ‘vital reading for those interested in the complexities of neoliberal cultural economy’, and that ‘it offers a generative new approach for examining questions of cultural production ownership and value.’ Ruth Soetendorp, writing in The Law Teacher, praises the book’s interest in theorizing intellectual property beyond the confines of the law school, and calls it a source of ‘invaluable insights’ for those interested in using the book as a pedagogic resource.
Hot on the heels of my last review – of Ilana Gershon’s Down and Out in the New Economy – here’s a second offering for the THE on the subject of labour relations. This, from the esteemed philosopher Elizabeth Anderson, takes aim at the expansion of market logic into the private realm of firms, and the subsequent ceding of almost all power on the part of employees. In pursuit of a free-market, employers can hire – and fire – at will, and the results are quite shocking. Once again, Brexiteers beware: your much hoped for low-regulation world may have you, quite literally, pissing your pants at work. Here’s a taster:
“Elizabeth Anderson is a philosopher on the warpath. Her Tanner Lectures, published in this volume with comments and a response, take aim at the unelected, arbitrary and dictatorial power that employers, particularly in the US where labour laws are flimsy, hold over their work-forces. She calls it “private government”, in the sense that those governed – that’s us, by the way – are shut out of the governing process.
The book is littered with examples of firms that make employees’ lives a misery. The usual suspects are here and worse: I was shocked to discover that the right to visit the toilet during working hours has been a contentious and ongoing battle of American labour relations for many decades, and that it is not uncommon to be forced to wear nappies on the production line or urinate in one’s clothes…”
Read the rest here
A recent review, for THE, of Ilana Gershon’s troubling Down and Out in the New Economy. It’s one of two books on labour relations in the United States I’ve reviewed of late – the other coming soon – and believe me, some of the material is shocking. Those of us subject to European labour regulations have no idea how lucky we have been (up till now, at least). Here’s the first couple of paragraphs:
‘Imagine a world without stable or secure jobs. A world where job seekers are told to embrace risk, to be flexible and upbeat, where the engine of the economy is powered by passion and lubricated by uncertainty. Such is the world of new-economy employment skilfully documented by Ilana Gershon’s sympathetic and wide ranging study.
For much of the 20th century, employment has been understood in Lockean terms of self-as-property with the worker renting her bodily efforts and skills for a prearranged period of time. Such a metaphor implies boundaries between work and personal life, and squabbles over such boundaries have been codified in labour law. In the new economy, says Gershon, we have come to talk about our jobs in a very different way. Interactions around work – job seeking, hiring, firing and quitting – are structured by a distinctive new metaphor that posits employment as business-to-business relationship. To be a business is to be a bundle of skills, assets and relationships, arriving at a new employer ready to deliver a particular service on a short-term, contractual basis. When we buy a service from a business we do not expect to invest in training or to have a long-term obligation once the service is being delivered. Gershon, a linguistic anthropologist, suggests that the change in metaphor underpins an important and unwelcome change in economic organization….’
You can read the rest on the THE website here
It seems strange to call a book about self-improvement “Peak”. Perhaps the publishers balked at “Uphill Struggle”, though that would have been much more fitting for a tome in which Anders Ericsson – the psychologist behind Malcom Gladwell’s “10,000 hour rule” – and science writer Robert Pool channel the Calvinist spirit to insist that greatness is possible for everyone. So long, that is, as we work at it…
This review appeared in Times Higher Education, 9-15 June 2016
Out online, my review of Martijn Konings’ The emotional logic of capitalism (Stanford University Press, 2015). Here’s an extract:
‘Certain questions dog progressive thought: why, in view of the manifest failures of financial capitalism, is its hold on our society stronger than ever? Why, despite the empirical evidence of foreclosures, vacant building lots and food banks are people unable to see the catastrophic consequences of current economic arrangements? How has neoliberalism emerged from calamity ever stronger (Mirowski, 2013)? Why, as Crouch (2011) puts it, will neoliberalism simply not die? With this slim book Martijn Konings, a scholar of political economy at the University of Sydney, sketches out an answer: that progressive understandings of capitalism have neglected its emotional logics – its therapeutic, traumatic-redemptive, even theological qualities – and failed to recognise our emotional investment in money, our belief in the social role of credit as an ordering, regulatory mechanism, and our need for the redemptive promise of austere, well-disciplined economy… ‘
You can read the rest here
Just a quick update: my short review of Gerard Hanlon’s ‘The Dark Side of Management: A Secret History of Management Theory’ newly published in Times Higher Education. Hanlon wants us to rethink the old Frederick Taylor bad/Elton Mayo good divide. Taylor, of course, invented scientific management and worked to increase the efficiency of production by cheapening labour as much as possible, taking the need for skill or judgement from the workers and passing it to a new class of managers. Mayo, on the other hand, is often seen as being on the workers’ side, his interviews and coaching designed to help people identify with their job and become happier in it. For Hanlon, scientific management and the Mayo’s new human relations movement are just two sides of the same coin: it’s all about making more money for capital. The historical material in Hanlon’s book is interesting enough (though Harry Braverman’s seminal 1974 account of Taylorism as the bedrock of the labour process is strangely absent). But I think there are some more compelling stories about exploitation in the twenty-first century begging to be told. Well, here’s the review if you’re interested.
21 February: Article scan available here OHanlon THE 030115.
I was delighted to review Paul Vigna and Michael Casey’ entertaining biography of bitcoin (other brands of cyber currency are of course available) Cryptocurrency: How Bitcoin and Digital Money are Challenging the Global Economic Order, for the March issue of the Literary Review. And, as you can see, the good people at the magazine even put my name on the cover. You can read the review here: Literary Review March 2015
The 1995 publication of The State We’re In, Will Hutton’s polemic against dismal Tory rule and the neoliberal destruction of Britain, was a pivotal moment in British politics. The book gave an intellectual focus to the Blair movement and became part of the swelling of support that ushered in New Labour. It looked forward to a new future things, and in 1997, when we sat up late to see Blair sweep to power, we all agreed with the tartan trouser-wearing not-then-Professor Brian Cox, who sang that things could only get better. Only they haven’t. Now Hutton is pillar of the left-wing establishment and principal of an Oxford college. So it was with some trepidation that I came to review his new book, How Good We Can Be, a twenty year reprisal of his vision for Britain and a condemnation, not just of Tory rule, but of New Labour too. Hutton is still angry – angrier than ever – and his critique spot on. I’m just not sure about his vision for the future. You can read my review here or download it here PDF: Will Hutton’s How Good We Can Be
The German translation of my book – ‘Rechnet Sich Das?’ – appeared on 25 August, so I’m keeping a note of media coverage, as and when I hear about it.
Radio station WDR5 produced a short online review and a few minutes of broadcast discussion, which you can find here.
The title says it all! I’ve been shortlisted for the Deutscher Wirtschaftsbuchpreis, an award for non-fiction books on topics related to business, economics and markets, and sponsored by Handelsblatt, the German business daily, and Goldman Sachs. It’s a big deal, presided over by a jury of ten luminaries from the German business world. I’m on the list of ten finalists with, inter alia, Michael Lewis, for Flash Boys, and Thomas Piketty… That’s company!
Here’s the full listing and press release: Wirtschaftsbuchpreis press release
Postscript: Michael Lewis won the prize, and here he is discussing he book at the evening presentation which took place at the Frankfurt Book Fair on 9 October. Take a look at the books on the table, and I’m second from the right.
Photo from the Handelsblatt website, http://www.handelsblatt.com/panorama/kultur-literatur/wirtschaftsbuchpreis/zehn-klassiker-von-morgen-wirtschaftsbuchpreis-2014-so-wurde-der-sieger-gefeiert/10819918.html?slp=false&p=10&a=false#image