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Explorations in Political Economy: Essays in Criticism.

Edited by Rajani K. Kanth and E. K. Hunt. Savage, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 1990. Pp. xviii, 355. $46.50.

The contributors to this volume are all either members of the economics department of the University of Utah or are closely related to the department in some way. The contributions represent a cross section of heterodox, leftwing thought. This collection of essays comes out at an ideal time. It is a gift of fresh air to the inmates of an airtight, neoclassical prison. The economics profession is under criticism, particularly the Ph.D. granting departments that form the heart of the economics discipline. The criticism is justified, for the doctoral departments have become wastelands of competitive conformity turning out idiot savants in mathematics who know virtually nothing of practical policy, institutional reality, or historical change. However, this volume proves that the Utah economics department has dared to be different. Their daring is commendable and one of its products is the interesting volume under review.

The volume includes 17 separate essays written by 13 different contributors, as well as an introduction by E. K. Hunt (former Utah student, former department chair and current economics professor at Utah) and a postscript by Rajani K. Kanth (economics professor at Utah). A set of selected readings is also included for each of the book's 7 parts. In short, it is an extensive collection and an impressive work. I cannot review each of the essays in this space. But several interesting features of the collection can be discussed and a few remarks about particular essays can be fit into my review.

One feature of this collection immediately gets the reader's attention--historical and institutional details matter of many of the contributors. Several of the essays are excellent case studies of interesting historical episodes or of important economic institutions. The great plains Indian tribes' use and trading of horse is explored in one such case study, while the use of Chinese men and white women in 19th century California manufacturing is explored in another. Institutionalized racial discrimination in the U.S. labor market is explored in a third, and the effect of super power rivalry on war in the third world is explored in a fourth. The case studies employ historical, empirical, and statistical methods appropriate to their subjects, rather than the other way around. (In the other way around, the subject to be studied is chosen according to the method to be used.)

A second outstanding feature of this collection is the statistical sophistication of many of the articles. Leftwing and heterodox economists, myself included, are usually not this statistically sophisticated. But the level of quantitative analysis used in many of the empirical works goes far beyond standard econometrics. For example, in an essay by Gail Blattenberger and Frank Lad, Bayesian operational-subjective theory is used to compare the standard neoclassical model of U.S. productivity growth to the Weisskopf-Bowles-Gintis social model of U. S. productivity growth. The social model is found to be superior to the neoclassical model. In a second essay, by Gail Blattenberger and Stephan Michelson, the reverse regression technique for analyzing wage discrimination is carefully critiqued.

A third outstanding feature of this collection is the theoretical sophistication of several of the Marxian essays. E. K. Hunt's two articles relating Marxian theory to neoclassical theory and to history itself are quite interesting. Furthermore, several interesting essays explore bureaucratic theory and the theory of the state. Allen M. Sievers explores Karl Polanyi's theory of the "great transformation" and compares Polanyi's dialectic with Marx's. Rajani K. Kanth contributes a number of theoretical explorations of Max Weber, Karl Marx, and David Ricardo. He also makes a number of interesting observations about the ideological role of social theory and of development theory.

This is a rich and diverse set of essays, well worth reading. The book contains an index and a biographical sketch of each of the contributors. William M. Dugger DePaul University
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Author:Dugger, William M.
Publication:Southern Economic Journal
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Apr 1, 1992
Words:654
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