The Dismal Science: How Thinking Like an Economist Undermines Community by Stephen A. MarglinThe Dismal Science: How Thinking Like an Economist Undermines Community by Stephen A. Marglin

The Dismal Science: How Thinking Like an Economist Undermines Community

byStephen A. Marglin

Paperback | May 10, 2010

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Economists celebrate the market as a device for regulating human interaction without acknowledging that their enthusiasm depends on a set of half-truths: that individuals are autonomous, self-interested, and rational calculators with unlimited wants and that the only community that matters is the nation-state. However, as Stephen Marglin argues, market relationships erode community. In the past, for example, when a farm family experienced a setback--say the barn burned down--neighbors pitched in. Now a farmer whose barn burns down turns, not to his neighbors, but to his insurance company. Insurance may be a more efficient way to organize resources than a community barn raising, but the deep social and human ties that are constitutive of community are weakened by the shift from reciprocity to market relations.

Marglin dissects the ways in which the foundational assumptions of economics justify a world in which individuals are isolated from one another and social connections are impoverished as people define themselves in terms of how much they can afford to consume. Over the last four centuries, this economic ideology has become the dominant ideology in much of the world. Marglin presents an account of how this happened and an argument for righting the imbalance in our lives that this ideology has fostered.

Stephen A. Marglin is Walter Barker Professor of Economics at Harvard University.
Title:The Dismal Science: How Thinking Like an Economist Undermines CommunityFormat:PaperbackDimensions:384 pagesPublished:May 10, 2010Publisher:HarvardLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0674047222

ISBN - 13:9780674047228


Editorial Reviews

This is an exceptionally learned, uncompromisingly contrarian critique ofmarkets and economics by a member of the Department of Economics at Harvard University. Stephen Marglin emphasizes the costs of market transactions and blames economics for supplying the associated frame of reference. The Dismal Science is patently the result of a lifetime of reading and cogitating about conceptual issues related to market exchanges and economists’ approaches to them. Some historical background is given but what is mainly offered is extended commentary on the history of thought and on everyday practice.