Sunday, 6 January 2019

Some interesting books...

It's been a while since I've actually written anything resembling a blog post, as opposed to some sort of publicity for an event or publication I'm involved in. So, I thought I'd do one today!

Since it's the start of a new year, and everyone else seems to do this sort of thing round about now, I thought I'd create a short listicle of interesting (academic) books I've read over the last year (although my memory is a little hazy so it might end up being the last two years).

- Mariana Mazzucato (2018) The Value of Everything: it's nice to see a book like this come out and receive serious mainstream attention, since it touches on a range of issues that'll come more to the fore in coming years (not that they've been missing, just under-appreciated) - this includes, problems with tech monopolies, accounting standards, financial logics, rentiership, etc.

- Philip Mirowski & Edward Nik-Khah (2017) The Knowledge We Have Lost in Information: this is a really fascinating intellectual history of the way 'knowledge' has been conceptualized in economics (& in different, contrasting ways to book), stretching back to Hayek's original formulation of the "Problem of knowledge" (1945). It's relevant across a range of topics, but I find it most interesting when trying to think through some of the current issues with social media and the way we can 'game' the system - see this classic example here, "The Shed in Dulwich". Basically, knowledge is often treated as an unreconstructed object, rather than a reflexive and dynamic interplay between social actors who are always reinterpreting what each other claims. Great read.

- Aaron Perzanowski & Jason Schultz (2016) The End of Ownership: an in-depth look at how personal property is changing in contemporary, technoscientific capitalism - & the implications of this. It examines changing digital property relations when it comes to intellectual property as well as copying, cloud and streaming platforms, digital rights management, internet of things, and so on. I'd describe it as an eye-opener for anyone interested in where we might all end up.

- Jonathan Haskel & Stian Westlake (2018) Capitalism without Capital: this book delves in all the issues I'm currently interested in; intangibles, their valuation, accounting practices, investment dynamics, etc., etc. It also deals with the consequences of the 'rise of the intangibles economy' - their sub-title - such as monopoly (again!), inequality, productivity collapse, rent-seeking, etc.

None of these books is, by any standards, perfect, or without flaws, but they all offer a useful addition to the literature about contemporary, technoscientific capitalism - how we got here, what are the implications, how we might mitigate the worse effects, and so on.

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