Book Bits | 26 January 2019

Retail Therapy: Why the Retail Industry is Broken–and What Can Be Done to Fix It
By Mark Pilkington
Review via The Times
If you feel mildly guilty that your Amazon habit has helped to turn many high streets and shopping centres from vibrant places of commerce and human contact into wastelands, Retail Therapy risks turning your discomfort into a source of deep shame and anxiety.
Mark Pilkington’s book, based on evidence from the UK and the US, will force you to confront the awkward truth that buying stuff online from your sofa or office desk threatens not only town centres, but also the jobs of the seven million people who work in shops and the industries that depend on them. Worldwide, about 192 million jobs — most of them held by women — may be in jeopardy. Retail Therapy bristles with alarming numbers.

The Identity Trade: Selling Privacy and Reputation Online
By Nora A. Drape
Review via Publishers Weekly
Draper, a University of New Hampshire assistant communications professor, examines the intersection of privacy and identity in the digital age in this investigative work. Featuring interviews with such industry figures as Fred Davis, founder of the identity management company Lumeria, and Josh Galper, general counsel for the online data vault provider Personal, the book brings to light the cultural and economic ramifications of the public’s desire for online privacy. Draper’s analysis of existing consumer protections is comprehensive; however, her scholarly tone may not be ideally suited to the average consumer, despite the study’s relevance. Instead, readers already well-versed in communication and technology issues will find this book most useful for increasing their depth of knowledge about issues such as digital visibility and government regulation of online platforms.

How China is Reshaping the Global Economy: Development Impacts in Africa and Latin America
By Rhys Jenkins
Summary via publisher (Oxford University Press)
China’s growing economic involvement in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America has been a source of major controversy. The official Chinese position maintains that the growth of bilateral relations is of mutual benefit and provides a good example of South-South cooperation. Critics on the other hand see the economic relations between China and other developing countries as highly unequal with most of the benefits accruing to China and a few local elites. They also point to negative socio-economic, political, and environmental consequences.

The Debt System: A History of Sovereign Debts and Their Repudiation
By Éric Toussaint
Summary via publisher (Haymarket Books)
This compelling, provocative, and accessible volume offers a rejoinder to the prevailing wisdom that views debt as holy writ. For as long as there have been rich nations and poor nations, debt has been a powerful force for maintaining the unequal relations between them. Treated as sacrosanct, immutable, and eternally binding, it has become the yoke of choice for imperial powers in the post-colonial world to enforce their subservience over the global south. In this ground-breaking history, renowned economist Éric Toussaint argues for a radical reversal of this balance of accounts through the repudiation of sovereign debt.

Investing in the Homeland: Migration, Social Ties, and Foreign Firms
By Benjamin A.T. Graham
Summary via publisher (University of Michigan Press)
Once viewed as a “brain drain,” migrants are increasingly viewed as a resource for promoting economic development back in their home countries. In Investing in the Homeland, Benjamin Graham finds that diasporans—migrants and their descendants—play a critical role in linking foreign firms to social networks in developing countries, allowing firms to flourish even in challenging political environments most foreign investors shun.

Reproducible Econometrics Using R
By Jeffrey S. Racine
Summary via publisher (Oxford University Press)
Across the social sciences there has been increasing focus on reproducibility, i.e., the ability to examine a study’s data and methods to ensure accuracy by reproducing the study. Reproducible Econometrics Using R combines an overview of key issues and methods with an introduction to how to use them using open source software (R) and recently developed tools (R Markdown and bookdown) that allow the reader to engage in reproducible econometric research.

Common: On Revolution in the 21st Century
By Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval
Summary via publisher (Bloomsbury)
Around the globe, contemporary protest movements are contesting the oligarchic appropriation of natural resources, public services, and shared networks of knowledge and communication. These struggles raise the same fundamental demand and rest on the same irreducible principle: the common. Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval show how the common has become the defining principle of alternative political movements in the 21st century. In societies deeply shaped by neoliberal rationality, the common is increasingly invoked as the operative concept of practical struggles creating new forms of democratic governance. In a feat of analytic clarity, Dardot and Laval dissect and synthesize a vast repository on the concept of the commons, from the fields of philosophy, political theory, economics, legal theory, history, theology, and sociology.