I just did this for my Homo Eco Comedy of Manners class and we eventually had over fifty comments and the conversation is still trickling in. It's an interesting experiment -- but I'll admit my fingers are a bit sore...
We really don't begin for fifteen more minutes, but if you are curious what this ends up looking like (or just want to watch marvelous vids of Kurt Weil interpretations) check out Homo Eco... in Cyberspace!
Since so many of you claim to read my blog I was wondering if any of you had already read this little bit of anti-randroidal viciousness before you took the class...
I hadn't read it but I love it.
I suppose reading it in advance might have been unfairly prejudicial after all...
That's true. And it's easier to laugh about insanely pronounced cheekbones now that we're all in on the joke.
In the "Afterword" to the latest revision of The Affluent Society, Galbraith writes:"Born in a world of poverty and privation, economics as a subject matter has been slow to recognize the difference that is made by wealth."He seems to want to treat this as a consummating expression of the volume's thesis. I agree that his book is often soundest when it is singing this particular tune, but I must admit that I can't agree with him that this is the thesis to which he seems to stick in much of the actual book we read...
This seems to suggest after all that "conventional wisdom" refers to the ethos of political theory pseudo-scientized via Ricardo into political economy. But in much of the book we find ramifying competing conventional wisdoms, associated with schools of economics, sociocultural positionalities, various generations differently benefited from historical circumstances, and so on.
I agree; I find myself getting frustrated with what seems to me to be an overly streamlined depiction of economic thought. I do think Polanyi did a better job addressing the idea that the prevailing economic idea of the market arose out of a particular moment in time that can't necessarily provide the answers for society today.
Further, in that "Afterword" proposes that the concerns that preoccupied him upon re-reading his book forty years later were, first, the way in which insensitivity to our precarious peers makes authority unaccountable and, second, much like Eisenhower, the way in which industry and commerce have become imbricated in a militarism that threatens us with utter destruction while promising protection. Fond though I may personally be of both sentiments, I have to say that they seem to refigure "Affluence" into something more like "Incumbency" (preserving disproportionate prosperity becomes more important than meeting the needs for economic security and equity of our fellow citizens, protecting property from those who might disrespect claims to it becomes more important that meeting the needs for multilateral diplomacy or planetary concerns for the biosphere or about weapons/human trafficking and so on), in a way that makes some of the book make less sense than it otherwise would.
Can lurkers in our cyberspatial salon please announce themselves?
Katie, you're talking so you aren't lurking. Ryan, pipe up! Anything come up for you in Affluent Society that we didn't talk about Tuesday or maybe seemed to get wrong?
I WAS talking. The lurking will most likely commence after this post, because I'm fairly sure I'll be in over my head.
Oh, pish posh!
Btw, did anybody here participate (or do we know of anybody from here still participating) in the protest stuff happening today?
I must say that I found this... striking.
I participated, and it wasn't violent at all. It wasn't even really all that energized, in my opinion.
And UW-Madison has a history similar to Berkeley in terms of protests and activism...
Oh just kidding, it was Milwaukee, not Madison. Hm.
Hey, people, is anybody else here? tap tap tap... Is this thing on?
It is interesting, this book, and I’m angry about the truths Galbraith points to. He shows us what is upsetting and true about the American economic system. And precisely because it is a system, a number crunching, invisible to humanity, process of goods and services being exchanged under the premise that: if the middle class is strong, then somehow, someway, everyone is else must be “ok” as well—that we have stopped considering what would be best for all people, and have chosen to settle for “what is good for the most”. Here, Galbraith discerns the decreased importance of economic inequality as a real concern for the future of economic thought. I found that chapter 2 was most intriguer--Galbraith finds important the conventional wisdom used in structuring the very theory of what is considered a successful economic system. He raises an important question, especially in chapter 2, on Conventional wisdom, what is essential to economic function; production or people?
Two separate but related questions: Do you think it is true that concern for the prospects of the middle class drives contemporary policy discussions? Is the "productivism" of 20C economic discourse in Galbraith's account focused on the middle class?
So I don't entirely know how to articulate my response, but I guess my general feeling about his view of Conventional Wisdom and ideas is that he privileges a particular kind of these two things. His comment that "ideas are inherently conservative" makes me think of Hazlitt's response to the people who speak of the income allegedly 'generated' by the broken window--that we're not seeing what might have been had the window not been broken. But I think they both, in making these points, are looking only at their own conceptions of what constitutes an idea, or 'looking in the long-term', or what have you. I hope I'm on the right track, because I truly have no clue.
The perplexing thing to me with Hazlitt is that while he claims to want to draw our attention to the constructive things we might have done with the money we use to repair a broken window or indulge in war adventuring, by insisting that there is no role for government that he is willing to talk about in any kind of depth at all apart from war preparation and war making he more or less ensures that vast public expenditures will continue to be devoted precisely to window breaking and war adventuring. He advocates for precisely what he claims to deny, while at once claiming that those with whom he disagrees are indulging in denialism themselves on that very topic. To say the least, it feels either rather dishonest or curiously clueless.
But it is true that Galbraith sometimes seems to be battling the conventional wisdom of a school of economic thought with which he disagrees, all the while flogging the pet pieties of the conventional wisdom of the school of economic thought with which he agrees -- which might be called, with justice, Galbraithian, as it happens -- when he sometimes seems to want to be arguing instead against the conventional wisdom or, let's be rhets, ethos of economic thought more generally, in which he might find himself as much trapped as against which he might want to be intervening.
We're closing down shop in a few minutes people, but please be sure to look at the notice about precises I just posted and links to a couple more speeches immediately forthcoming (which might provide material for precises, among other things). Those who find their way here to the party late, by all means add your two cents, I will continue to check in occasionally and add my own comments to yours and welcome everybody else doing the same till we meet again.
I think I've entered the world of 'in over my head', but I also think I agree with the above...What connects Hazlitt and Galbraith for me is that sense of CLAIMING to draw attention to an instance in which 'popular opinion' is of a narrower perspective than the reality (as they see it in each instance). I think neither of them actually succeed in depicting a more inclusive conception of the notions they discuss, but merely privilege their own ideas above others' (in the same way that their opponents do).
Fair enough -- I think Galbraith sets himself up for that especially in shifting from his larger concern with economic discourse to his skirmishing with different economists and policy makers at various historical moments in the various revisions of the book.I'm outtie for now!
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