Above all, the book is historically inaccurate – Deirdre McCloskey is the latest of many people to point this out in her new book, Bourgeois Equality. So if one reads it, it needs to be from a history of thought perspective. Secondly, it’s about social relations and culture, so not central for economics students even though I wholeheartedly agree that economists in general need more hinterland in other areas of social science and history.
It’s also a dense read, and there are better books to recommend to students to introduce them to the social context of markets. I’d say the original Albert Hirschman books have aged better – Exit, Voice and Loyalty for one – and aren’t marred by inaccuracies like The Great Transformation. Of more recent vintage, I think John McMillan’s Reinventing the Bazaar, James Scott’s Seeing Like A State and Michael Sandel’s What Money Can’t Buy cover the territory better.The Enlightened Economist
Better than (Karl) Polanyi
Diane Coyle | freelance economist and a former advisor to the UK Treasury. She is a member of the UK Competition Commission and is acting Chairman of the BBC Trust, the governing body of the British Broadcasting Corporation