Book Bits | 13 February 2016

Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future
By Paul Mason
Review via The Guardian
Mason, like Marx, believes that capitalism will collapse under the weight of its own internal contradictions. These include unsustainable levels of debt on the part of both individuals and nations (“2008 was the tremor in advance of the earthquake”). In addition, the rise of information technology will corrode market mechanisms, erode property rights and destroy the relationship between wages, property and work. All this, plus burgeoning inequality, the inevitability of climate change and continued population growth, will open up the possibility of a brave new world. The alternative, warns the author, is chaos.

The Age of Stagnation: Why Perpetual Growth is Unattainable and the Global Economy is in Peril
By Satyajit Das
Summary via publisher (Prometheus Books)
The global economy is entering an era of protracted stagnation, similar to what Japan has experienced for over two decades. That is the message of this brilliant and controversial summary of our current economic predicament from an internationally respected consultant and commentator on financial markets, who predicted the Global Financial Crisis of 2008. Satyajit Das challenges the assumption that growth can be perpetual and questions the ability of political leaders to enact the tough structural changes needed. He is particularly critical of the “easy money” approach to dealing with the Great Recession, citing the dangers of excessive debt and deep-seated fundamental imbalances. The fallout of these poor policies, he argues, will affect not only the business sector but also the lifestyles and prosperity of average citizens and future generations. Das concludes with a thought experiment illustrating the large-scale changes that will be necessary to restore economic, financial, and social sustainability. This experiment has already been tried in Iceland, which went bankrupt in the wake of the 2008 crisis, and now, after a painful adjustment, is on the road to recovery.

Capitalism: Competition, Conflict, Crises
By Anwar Shaikh
Summary via publisher (Oxford University Press)
Orthodox economics operates within a hypothesized world of perfect competition in which perfect consumers and firms act to bring about supposedly optimal outcomes. The discrepancies between this model and the reality it claims to address are then attributed to particular imperfections in reality itself. Most heterodox economists seize on this fact and insist that the world is characterized by imperfect competition. But this only ties them to the notion of perfect competition, which remains as their point of departure and base of comparison. There is no imperfection without perfection. In Capitalism, Anwar Shaikh takes a different approach. He demonstrates that most of the central propositions of economic analysis can be derived without any reference to standard devices such as hyperrationality, optimization, perfect competition, perfect information, representative agents, or so-called rational expectations

How to Have a Good Day: Harness the Power of Behavioral Science to Transform Your Working Life
By Caroline Webb
Interview with author via Yahoo Finance
We all want to be more productive at work. An overwhelming schedule of answering a steady stream of emails, meeting deadlines, tending to colleagues, and sitting through endless meetings can make any worker want to crawl under her desk. A new book by economist and former McKinsey partner Caroline Webb attempts to address the stress so many of us feel with an aim to make us feel more fulfilled. Her book, “How to Have a Good Day,” uses recent findings from behavioral economics, psychology and neuroscience to offer practical strategies to achieve what we all want: a good day at work and beyond.