Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Seriously? Will These Amazing Scholars Stop Writing Already?

Time is always in short supply. Even more so time for academic reading.

A few months back I was truly excited to start the new semester, seriously getting back to reading and pursuing amazing academic literature. I was optimistic that I would get through a bunch of books while staying on top of my uni work. As it turns out, econometrics and equation-mania was more time-demanding that I thought, and I'm only some 250 pages into McCloskey, slowly getting to the juicy bits!

Not to mention the very ambitious attempt of joining a reading group on Anwar Shaikh; his thousand-page masterpiece and thorough marxian critique of various strands of economic thinking was slightly too much right now. I'm some 200 pages in and have admittedly learned loads already. The curse of the heterodoxy keeps haunting me, I see.

So, the semester is finally winding down, I'm taking a break by visiting some more grand places of this magnificent country, and finally making some steady pace in McCloskey. What happens?

Niall Ferguson decides to hold a lecture in Sydney, which I obviously couldn't resist attending. Of course, the "tiny" little book The Great Degeneration (WSJ review here) didn't look intimidating, so of course I started reading that - only to realize that it was exciting and I had to comment on it.

Yanis Varoufakis comes back to Sydney, and I'm thrown into discussions and more mature leftie reasonings (as oppose to last time he was here...).

And when I finally think I'll have some peace, working down my awfully large backlog of readings, Joel Mokyr publishes his latest work on the industrial revolution: A Culture of Growth: The Origins of the Modern Economy. Admittedly, the argument goes in a very McCloskian direction, but that's still another 400 pages of high-quality historical writings that I'm squeezing in. How am I gonna find the time?!

Don't get me wrong. I love these contributions, I love the absolute avalanche of amazing academic writings that our profession is capable of producing. But could you pause and let me catch up, eh?

Just look at this, from Princeton Uni Press where Mokyr's book is published:
During the late eighteenth century, innovations in Europe triggered the Industrial Revolution and the sustained economic progress that spread across the globe. While much has been made of the details of the Industrial Revolution, what remains a mystery is why it took place at all. Why did this revolution begin in the West and not elsewhere, and why did it continue, leading to today’s unprecedented prosperity? In this groundbreaking book, celebrated economic historian Joel Mokyr argues that a culture of growth specific to early modern Europe and the European Enlightenment laid the foundations for the scientific advances and pioneering inventions that would instigate explosive technological and economic development. Bringing together economics, the history of science and technology, and models of cultural evolution, Mokyr demonstrates that culture—the beliefs, values, and preferences in society that are capable of changing behavior—was a deciding factor in societal transformations.
How can one read this and not instantly wanna ditch life for a few weeks and pour over this treasure instead?

The curse of the heterodoxy becomes an increasingly-apt description of my life these days. I just wish my discipline was better - or I had a few more days every week.

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