Economics and philosophy

Brad DeLong is thinking about a course in economics and philosophy, soliciting ideas for a reading list, leading to a number of comments. Some of the commenters argue that Marx should be on the list, but I wonder if not something history-oriented, would serve better. My chief quibble is the lack of a technology perspective on the list – so here are my two cents’ worth of additions:


  • Landes, D. S. (1998). The Wealth and Poverty of Nations. New York, Abacus. Best explanation of the linking between government policy, culture and economic development I have read (but see below)

  • Diamond, J. (1998). Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies. New York, Norton. Preparation for Landes, interesting argument about technology evolution and how technology evolves both as cause and consequence of changes in society.

  • Hobsbawm, E. (1994). The Age of Extremes. New York, Vintage Books. (or, though much of that is covered in Landes, Hobsbawm’s The Age of Revolution or The Age of Capital may be referenced as well. “Extremes” is very good in its analysis of communism’s promise and failures, however, making the point that communism was really designed for German society, not Russia – and underscoring its historical context.

  • Bolter, J. D. (1984). Turing’s Man: Western Culture in the Computer Age. Old Woking, Surrey, UK, Unwin Brothers Ltd. Discusses the evolving concept of man as a consequence of evolving technology – humans have always pictured themselves in terms of the technology of the times.

  • Utterback, J. M. (1994). Mastering the Dynamics of Innovation. Boston, MA, Harvard Business School Press. Excellent on the mechanisms of technology evolution and how it affects markets, the historical backdrop to Christensen’s Innovator’s Dilemma.

  • Beniger, J. R. (1986). The Control Revolution: Technological and Economic Origins of the Information Society. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press. Excellent on how technology has evolved to allow us to have more control – and hence, larger and more structured organizations. This is definitely a book to read before you start thinking about why mobile phones are popular and what their impact on society will be, for instance.


Oh well, is this economics and philosophy? Maybe I am just adding books I like and think everyone should read…..

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