Stephen A. Marglin – USA

Professor Stephen Marglin holds the Walter S Barker Chair in the Department of Economics at Harvard University. Over a career that now spans more than four decades, he has contributed to various aspects of economic theory, including benefit-cost analysis, economic development, the organization of work, and the relationship between growth and distribution. One theme running through this distinguished career has been a concern with development economics. Beginning with his work in the 60s as an advisor to the Indian Planning Commission, Marglin has questioned the assumption that development equates to nothing more than growth of GNP. More broadly, Marglin’s professional life has been an attempt to change the way economists think about economics – to get economists to see the whole enterprise of economics as one way of seeing the world rather than the way of seeing the world. His latest effort towards this goal is the forthcoming book: The Dismal Science: How Thinking like an Economist Undermines Community. (text source).

And with other new members he is newly-elected Chair of the Executive Committee of the World Future Council.

Listen to his video, 3.42 min., from World Future Council.

Stephen A- Marglin - USA.jpg

Stephen A. Marglin – USA

Read: Radical Interpretation of Economic History (what do bosses do?), part one, 28 pages; same, part two, 19 pages.

Read: Science, Technology, and International Development.

Read: Rethinking the Western Model of Modernity.

He asks:

  • ”Why Is So Little Left Of The Left?
  • How did Britain manage to rule the vast South Asian sub-continent with a handful of administrators, troops, and technicians? How are we to understand not only the confidence of the rulers, but the accommodation of the ruled? Why, half a century after the demise of European colonialism, has no alternative model of development taken hold?
  • How is it that in the so called First World the larger part of our vast production of goods and services takes place under work arrangements which offer the worker nothing but a paycheck at the end of the week? How are we to understand that people quietly accept work devoid of all other meaning?
  • Why, in the early years of the Soviet regime, did millions not only accept but enthusiastically embrace regimentation, murderous collectivization, and worse? How was this possible?
  • Finally, how is that with all our knowledge, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Bhopal are household words?” (full long text).

His current research focuses on the foundational assumptions of economics, asking to what extent these assumptions are a reflection of the culture and history of the Modern West rather than a set of facts about a universal human nature, and what difference this makes. (wikipedia).

There was another course I taught jointly, with Stephen Marglin and Prasanta Pattanaik (who too had come to Harvard), which was concerned with development as well as Policy making. This nicely supplemented my involvements in pure social choice theory (in fact, Marglin and Pattanaik were both very interested in examining the connection between social choice theory and other areas in economics). (Amartya Sen, Autobiography for Nobel Prize 1998).

Reviews of his books:

  • The Dismal Science, How Thinking Like an Economist Undermines Community, by Stephen A. Marglin, a review: Economists celebrate the market as a device for regulating human interaction without acknowledging that their enthusiasm depends on a set of half-truths: that individuals are autonomous, self-interested, and rational calculators with unlimited wants and that the only community that matters is the nation-state. However, as Stephen Marglin argues, market relationships erode community. In the past, for example, when a farm family experienced a setback – say the barn burned down – neighbors pitched in. Now a farmer whose barn burns down turns, not to his neighbors, but to his insurance company. Insurance may be a more efficient way to organize resources than a community barn raising, but the deep social and human ties that are constitutive of community are weakened by the shift from reciprocity to market relations. (full text of this review);
  • Decolonizing Knowledge, From Development to Dialogue, by Frédérique Apffel-Marglin & Stephen A. Marglin, 398 pages: Read the complete book by becoming a member. Choose a membership plan to an academic-level library with more than 67,000 full-text books, 1.5 million articles, an entire reference set with a dictionary, encyclopedia, thesaurus plus a collection of digital tools to organize your information; The Wealth of Nations: The economics of ‘development’ goes back hardly a generation. It emerged with the dissolution of the European empires following World War II, and was given stimulus by cold war politics and claims made for the Marshall Plan in reconstructing Western Europe. On the pattern of the Marshall Plan, relatively small amounts of aid over a short period, it was thought, would set the ‘newly emergent nations’ firmly on a course toward material prosperity without the necessity for social and economic revolution. The task of development economics was to chart that course”. (see text);
  • Institutionalised Greed, reviewed by Prabhu Guptara.

His publications:
on Google Scholar;
on alibris;
on amazon;
on BestBookBuys;
on Oxford Univ.Press.

His contact at Harvard, and a short-bio.


Thoughts on Economics;

A bizzare piece from the Economist;

Hinduism and Ecology Bibliography;

Keynes Without Nominal Rigidities;

ECON-711, Macro Political Economy;

The secret history of the dismal science.

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