300 episodes

Interviews with Economists about their New Books

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    • Social Sciences

Interviews with Economists about their New Books

    Katharina Pistor, "The Code of Capital: How the Law Creates Wealth and Inequality" (Princeton UP, 2019)

    Katharina Pistor, "The Code of Capital: How the Law Creates Wealth and Inequality" (Princeton UP, 2019)

    "Most lawyers, most actors, most soldiers and sailors, most athletes, most doctors, and most diplomats feel a certain solidarity in the face of outsiders, and, in spite of other differences, they share fragments of a common ethic in their working life, and a kind of moral complicity."
    – Stuart Hampshire, Justice is Conflict.
    There are many more examples of professional solidarity, however fragmented and tentative, sharing the link of a common ethic that helps make systems, and the analysis of them, possible in the larger political economy. Writing from a law professor’s vantage point, Katharina Pistor, in her new book, The Code of Capital: How the Law Creates Wealth and Inequality (Princeton University Press, 2019) explains how even though law is a social good it has been harnessed as a private commodity over time that creates private wealth, and plays a significant role in the increasing disparity of financial outcomes.
    As she points out in this interview, and her chapter ‘Masters of the Code’, it is ‘critical to have lawyers in the room’, and they clearly have the lead role in her well-researched and nuanced thesis centered on the decentralized institution of private law. Professor Pistor builds on Rudden’s ‘feudal calculus’ providing the long view of legal systems in maintaining and creating wealth and draws on historical analogies including the enclosure movements as she interweaves her analysis of capital asset creation with a broader critique of professional and institutional agency. Polanyi and Piketty figure into Pistor’s analysis among many others, as does the help of the state’s coercive backing as she draws on the breadth of her own governance research and analysis of the collapsed socialist regimes in the 1990s, and a research pivot toward western market economies following the 2008 Global Financial Crisis.
    Professor Pistor is a comparative scholar with a keen interdisciplinary eye for the relationship between law, values, and markets, dovetailing larger concepts with detailed descriptions of the coding of ‘stocks, bonds, ideas, and even expectations—assets that exist only in law.’ All of which informs her inquiry into why some legal systems have been more accommodating to capital’s coding cravings and others less so, as she describes the process by which capital is created. She moves beyond legal realism’s less granular critiques, and as reviewers such as Samuel Moyn have suggested – this book ‘deserves to be the essential text of any movement today that concerns itself with law and political economy’.
    Katharina Pistor is the Edwin B. Parker Professor of Comparative Law, and the Director of the Center on Global Legal Transformation at Columbia Law School.
    Keith Krueger lectures at the SHU-UTS Business School in Shanghai.
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    • 1 hr 10 min
    Matt Cook, "Sleight of Mind: 75 Ingenious Paradoxes in Mathematics, Physics, and Philosophy" (MIT Press, 2020)

    Matt Cook, "Sleight of Mind: 75 Ingenious Paradoxes in Mathematics, Physics, and Philosophy" (MIT Press, 2020)

    Paradox is a sophisticated kind of magic trick. A magician's purpose is to create the appearance of impossibility, to pull a rabbit from an empty hat. Yet paradox doesn't require tangibles, like rabbits or hats. Paradox works in the abstract, with words and concepts and symbols, to create the illusion of contradiction. There are no contradictions in reality, but there can appear to be. In Sleight of Mind: 75 Ingenious Paradoxes in Mathematics, Physics, and Philosophy (MIT Press, 2020), Matt Cook and a few collaborators dive deeply into more than 75 paradoxes in mathematics, physics, philosophy, and the social sciences. As each paradox is discussed and resolved, Cook helps readers discover the meaning of knowledge and the proper formation of concepts―and how reason can dispel the illusion of contradiction.
    The journey begins with “a most ingenious paradox” from Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance. Readers will then travel from Ancient Greece to cutting-edge laboratories, encounter infinity and its different sizes, and discover mathematical impossibilities inherent in elections. They will tackle conundrums in probability, induction, geometry, and game theory; perform “supertasks”; build apparent perpetual motion machines; meet twins living in different millennia; explore the strange quantum world―and much more.
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    • 54 min
    Andrew Leigh, "Randomistas: How Radical Researchers Are Changing Our World" (Yale UP, 2018)

    Andrew Leigh, "Randomistas: How Radical Researchers Are Changing Our World" (Yale UP, 2018)

    From the unending quest to turn metal into gold to the major discoveries that reveal how the universe works, experiments have always been a critical part of the hard sciences. In recent decades social scientists have started to catch up and the results are shifting the way we do nearly everything. Randomized control trials, called RCT’s, have a logic so simple that anyone can understand how they work and even run them themselves. It’s simple. You come up with an idea to get something to happen. You take a group of subjects and randomly split it in half. You try your idea on one group and leave the other group alone. The difference in outcomes will tell you if your idea works or not.
    In Randomistas: How Radical Researchers Are Changing Our World (Yale University Press, 2018), Andrew Leigh demonstrated the impact that social scientists are making with this powerful tool. From opportunity experiments to changing your socks, researchers are putting old ideas to the test and finding out what works and what doesn’t. The book reads like a series of interesting examples places beautifully together to shed light on how it is that we can be better at finding out what we do and do not know.
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    • 41 min
    Ahmet T. Kuru, "Islam, Authoritarianism, and Underdevelopment: A Global and Historical Comparison" (Cambridge UP, 2019)

    Ahmet T. Kuru, "Islam, Authoritarianism, and Underdevelopment: A Global and Historical Comparison" (Cambridge UP, 2019)

    Ahmet T. Kuru’s new book Islam, Authoritarianism and Underdevelopment, A Global and Historical Comparison (Cambridge University Press, 2019) is a ground-breaking history and analysis of the evolution of the state in Muslim countries. Thoroughly researched and accessibly written, Kuru’s work traces the template of the modern-day state in many Muslim-majority countries to fundamental political, social and economic changes in the 11th century. That was when Islamic scholars who until then had by and large refused to surrender their independence to the state were co-opted by Muslim rulers. It was a time when the merchant class lost its economic clout as the Muslim world moved from a mercantile to a feudal economy. Religious and other scholars were often themselves merchants or funded by merchants.
    The transition coincided with the rise of the military state legitimized by religious scholars who had little choice but to go into its employ. They helped the state develop a forced Sunni Muslim orthodoxy based on text rather than reason- or tradition based interpretation of Islam with the founding of madrassahs or religious seminaries that were designed to counter the rise of Shiite states in North Africa and counter less or unorthodox strands of the faith. Kuru’s history could hardly be more relevant. It lays bare the roots of modern-day, illiberal, authoritarian or autocratic states in the Muslim world that are characterized by some form of often rent-driven state capitalism and frequently expansionary in their effort to ensure regime survival and increase rents.
    These states feature education systems that fail to develop critical thinking and religious establishments that are subservient to their rulers. Kuru’s book also in effect describes one of the original sources of the civilizational state that has become a fixture in the struggle to shape a new world order. With his book, Kuru has made an invaluable contribution to the understanding of the stagnation as well as the turmoil that has swept the Middle East and North Africa as well as the wider Islamic world.
    James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies and the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute.
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    • 1 hr 1 min
    Amr Khafagy, "The Economics of Financial Cooperatives" (Routledge, 2019)

    Amr Khafagy, "The Economics of Financial Cooperatives" (Routledge, 2019)

    I spoke with Dr. Amr Khafagy about his recent book The Economics of Financial Cooperatives (Routledge, 2019). Amr is Research Assistant at the Countryside and Community Research Institute of the University of Gloucestershire.
    Building on theories of finance and distribution, and the political economy of finance, this book explains the influence of financial cooperatives on wealth and income distribution, and institutional factors that determine the development of financial cooperatives. The book discusses the dynamics of income and wealth distribution with and without financial cooperatives, and defines the economic objective for financial cooperatives. Through explaining the influence of political institutions and regulations on the development of financial cooperatives, this book examines why financial cooperatives grew in some emerging economies and not in other similar ones.
    Amr's current main research interests include rural finance and agricultural productivity, financial markets and distribution, income inequality, and the political economy of the Middle East. His previously worked in microfinance in Egypt and India, where he was involved in designing and evaluating rural finance projects, and worked with a range of stakeholders, including farmers and rural households, government representatives/ministry officials, as well as central bank of Egypt and financial institutions.
    The book is a useful contribution to the study of a typology of firm that is more important in our markets than generally believed. The empirical work by Amr is very original and helpful because it observed the relationship between the presence of financial cooperatives and income inequality in our economies.
    Andrea Bernardi is Senior Lecturer in Employment and Organization Studies at Oxford Brookes University in the UK. He holds a doctorate in Organization Theory from the University of Milan, Bicocca. He has held teaching and research positions in Italy, China and the UK. Among his research interests are the use of history in management studies, the co-operative sector, and Chinese co-operatives. His latest project is looking at health care in rural China. He is the co-convener of the EAEPE’s permanent track on Critical Management Studies.
     
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    • 31 min
    Megan T. Neely and Ken Hou-Lin, "Divested: Inequality in the Age of Finance" (Oxford UP, 2020)

    Megan T. Neely and Ken Hou-Lin, "Divested: Inequality in the Age of Finance" (Oxford UP, 2020)

    Megan Tobias Neely and Ken Hou-Lin's new book Divested: Inequality in the Age of Finance (Oxford University Press, 2020) explores the rise of finance in American life over the last forty years and its implications for American workers, families, and economies. The authors argue that finance has transformed from a servant to the economy to its master - from a means of creating a prosperous society to an end in itself. The consequences of this shift are profound: the authors identify the many ways finance is implicated in the yawning growth in inequality in the US and how a financialized society redistributes resources from working people to owners, executives, and financial professionals. Using historical analysis, quantitative and qualitative data, the book offers a clear, comprehensive, and compelling account of one of the most important economic developments of our time.
    Patrick Sheenan is a graduate student in the Department of Sociology at the University of Texas, Austin.
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    • 50 min

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