History of the Rhode Island Supreme Court highlights the interaction between economic growth, distribution, and institutional change. I enjoyed the discussion of how the rise of the textile towns led (or did not lead to) changes in political representation in the state.
Glenn Gould wikipedia entry. One of the new graduate students in our department (hi Luke!) knows too much about non-economics stuff and has recently introduced me to Gould's academic writings on art. Gould has done some amazing interpretations of classical pieces including two very striking renditions of Bach's Goldberg Variations. Start listening to the 1955 version here. 1981 version here. Gould felt that the best strategy for classical player is to come up with completely new and innovative interpretations of existing pieces, not necessarily striving for what the composer may or may not have intended (who could really know that?) but instead trying to make something that is internally consistent and sounds beautiful.
A truly excellent Lapham's Quarterly history of financial speculation. The story they tell is how financial speculation is a tale of how we as humans fall in love with our ideas and creations but in the end how we're fallible. Some really remarkable quotes in a well-written piece. Here's one that comes at the end of the article: Speaking about the technologies that in part drove the financial boom and eventual bust:
Nearly fifty years ago, Marshall McLuhan wrote about our tendency to become fascinated by our inventions, which are, ultimately, extensions of ourselves. As McLuhan tells it, the death of Narcissus had to do not only with his reflection but with his inability to see himself in it. Just as the words “narcosis” and “narcotics” derive from his name, Narcissus was numb; he treated his image as an object of courtship, and he willingly became its slave. McLuhan, ever alert to the perverse urge to lose our uncomfortable selves, described how Narcissus died so that we could live. We court an exquisite ruin whenever we succumb to a pretty face that we fail to recognize as our own.Somewhat of an "oldie", this article from Daron Acemoglu outlines (in an extremely broad sense of the word "outline") the tasks of institutional economics as economic theorists move forward. As some of you may know, Acemoglu has been a real leader in this field and his works are absolutely recommended (though maybe, you can skip some of the math!). If you want to see where some of his work is headed, check out page 23 of his Political Economy Lecture Notes, "Towards a Framework".
There has been way, way too much aimless debate over Corey Robin's book The Reactionary Mind. To the point of pure frustration of people like me, who understand exactly where Robin is coming from. While engaging in the debates somewhat peripherally over at Rortybomb, I began to realize that people just don't understand the terms in which a classical conservative would make his or her point. Liberals are either too elitist to think that conservatives could be making an intellectual argument (though it's hard to blame them on that front), or their minds are too ingrained into a narrow view of politics that sees the "Republican-Democrat" division as the universal axis of all politics. let's get something straight: classical conservatives understand power and politics and class much better than any progressive Apple-loving Obama-revering hippie. It's not their fault that conservatives live in a different world. No, I take that back -- it is their fault, and that's part of the reason why America is in such a bad shape today. In short, Robin is the only one who really makes sense of modern politics and it's too bad that mainstream liberals can't own up to that fact.
The Chronicle of Higher Education exposes some of the intellectual roots of the beautiful movement that is #OWS.