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Economics of Good and Evil: The Quest for Economic Meaning from Gilgamesh to Wall Street
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Format: Hardcover, 368pp.
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Pub. Date: June 29, 2011
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Item No: 9780199767205
Description and Reviews
From The Publisher:
Tomas Sedlacek has shaken the study of economics as few ever have. Named one of the "Young Guns" and one of the "five hot minds in economics" by the Yale Economic Review, he serves on the National Economic Council in Prague, where his provocative writing has achieved bestseller status. How has he done it? By arguing a simple, almost heretical proposition: economics is ultimately about good and evil.
In The Economics of Good and Evil, Sedlacek radically rethinks his field, challenging our assumptions about the world. Economics is touted as a science, a value-free mathematical inquiry, he writes, but it's actually a cultural phenomenon, a product of our civilization. It began within philosophy--Adam Smith himself not only wrote The Wealth of Nations, but also The Theory of Moral Sentiments--and economics, as Sedlacek shows, is woven out of history, myth, religion, and ethics. "Even the most sophisticated mathematical model," Sedlacek writes, "is, de facto, a story, a parable, our effort to (rationally) grasp the world around us." Economics not only describes the world, but establishes normative standards, identifying ideal conditions. Science, he claims, is a system of beliefs to which we are committed. To grasp the beliefs underlying economics, he breaks out of the field's confines with a tour de force exploration of economic thinking, broadly defined, over the millennia. He ranges from the epic of Gilgamesh and the Old Testament to the emergence of Christianity, from Descartes and Adam Smith to the consumerism in Fight Club. Throughout, he asks searching meta-economic questions: What is the meaning and the point of economics? Can we do ethically all that we can do technically? Does it pay to be good?
Placing the wisdom of philosophers and poets over strict mathematical models of human behavior, Sedlacek's groundbreaking work promises to change the way we calculate economic value.
"Tomas Sedlacek proposes no less than a 'humanomics,' a view of our fate in this world of scarcity that takes account of human stories and philosophies. Economists have crippled themselves by their lack of scholarly breadth, and their 'scientific' disdain for human words. Sedlacek, who ranges from the epic of Gilgamesh to the movie The Matrix, cannot be accused of lack of breadth. What is most impressive, though, is his depth, drilling down into the soul of economics."
—Deirdre McCloskey, author of Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce and The Cult of Statistical Significance
"There has long been a profound moral drive in Czech culture, seeking an ever larger view of the human, and trying to break through conceptual barriers to do so. In this sinewy and marvelous voyage of discovery, Tomas Sedlacek calls us all to think more imaginatively, more fully, and more concretely about economics than we have done for many generations. Many thinkers, including not a few economists, will be stimulated to new explorations by this book."
—Michael Novak, author of The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism
"Economics of Good and Evil is an enchanting tour de force, offering the general public an unusual, erudite, and riveting view of the world. Scientists and scholars can choose how to read this book: either condemn it for its lack of a rigidly and traditionally scientific approach, or accept it as an invigorating elixir providing inspiration and vision for further study. I take it as the latter and I am certain the public will too."
—Jan Svejnar, Professor of Business, Economics and Public Policy, University of Michigan
"A widely admired economist who sits on the National Economic Council in Prague radically rethinks his field, challenging assumptions about the business world in this work, a bestseller in the Czech Republic."
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About the Author
Tomas Sedlacek lectures at Charles University and is a member of the National Economic Council in Prague, where the original version of this book was a national bestseller and was also adapted as a popular theater-piece. He worked as an advisor of Vaclav Havel, the first Czech president after the fall of communism, and is a regular columnist and popular radio and TV commentator.
Table of Contents
|Foreword by Vaclav Havel|
|Acknowledgments and Thanks|
|PART I: Ancient Economics|
|1||The Epic of Gilgamesh: On effectiveness, Immortality and the Economics of Friendship|
|2||The Old Testament: Earthliness and Goodness|
|4||Christianity: Spirituality in the Material World|
|5||Descartes the Mechanic|
|6||Bernard Mandeville's Beehive of Vice|
|7||Adam Smith, Blacksmith of Economics|
|PART II: Blasphemous Thoughts|
|8||Need for Greed - The History of Want|
|9||Progress and Sabbath Economics|
|10||The Axis of Good and Evil and the Bibles of Economics|
|11||The History of the Invisible Hand of the Market and Homo Oeconomicus|
|12||The History of Animal Spirits - the Dream Never Sleeps|
|14||Masters of Truth: Science, Myths and Faith|
|Conclusion: Where the Wild Things Are|
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