The Essential Hirschman

The Essential Hirschman

Albert O. Hirschman
Edited and with an introduction by Jeremy Adelman
Emma Rothschild
Amartya Sen
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 304
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Essential Hirschman
    Book Description:

    The Essential Hirschman brings together some of the finest essays in the social sciences, written by one of the twentieth century's most influential and provocative thinkers. Albert O. Hirschman was a master essayist, one who possessed the rare ability to blend the precision of economics with the elegance of literary imagination. In an age in which our academic disciplines require ever-greater specialization and narrowness, it is rare to encounter an intellectual who can transform how we think about inequality by writing about traffic, or who can slip in a quote from Flaubert to reveal something surprising about taxes. The essays gathered here span an astonishing range of topics and perspectives, including industrialization in Latin America, imagining reform as more than repair, the relationship between imagination and leadership, routine thinking and the marketplace, and the ways our arguments affect democratic life. Throughout, we find humor, unforgettable metaphors, brilliant analysis, and elegance of style that give Hirschman such a singular voice.

    Featuring an introduction by Jeremy Adelman that places each of these essays in context as well as an insightful afterword by Emma Rothschild and Amartya Sen, The Essential Hirschman is the ideal introduction to Hirschman for a new generation of readers and a must-have collection for anyone seeking his most important writings in one book.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4840-9
    Subjects: Sociology, Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. vii-xx)
    Jeremy Adelman

    Size mattered to albert o. hirschman. If big is supposed to be better—large dams, tall buildings, wide avenues, loud music, big theories, and grand schemes to solve the world’s problems—Hirschman was a dissenter. One of the twentieth century’s most original social scientists, he found beauty in the diminuitive, gained insight from the little. While writing a complicated book about the World Bank in 1966, he confided to his sister Ursula that he felt at odds with those who sought big theories to explain everything. “I very much like the expression that Machiavelli used in one of his letters...

      (pp. 1-34)

      In reflecting on the essays brought together in this volume I noted two principal common characteristics. In the first place, I frequently encounter and stress the political dimensions of economic phenomena just as I like to think in terms of development sequences in which economic and political forces interact. This focus seems to come almost naturally to me in connection with any problem I happen to be attacking and the first part of this introductory essay is an attempt at identifying the central concepts that underlie this “decentralized” activity of building bridges between economics and politics.

      Another pervasive characteristic of...

      (pp. 35-48)

      During a recent visit to a Latin American capital, I wished to resume contact with X, an economic historian who had returned there some time ago after spending several years in Europe. I had been invited for dinner by a sociologist whom I asked whether he knew X; he did indeed, quite well, but did not have X’s telephone number; no doubt, however, he could find it by calling a common friend. Unfortunately the friend was not home. I asked whether there might be a chance that X would be listed in the telephone directory; this suggestion was shrugged off...

      (pp. 49-73)

      Development Economics is a comparatively young area of inquiry. It was born just about a generation ago, as a subdiscipline of economics, with a number of other social sciences looking on both skeptically and jealously from a distance. The forties and especially the fifties saw a remarkable outpouring of fundamental ideas and models which were to dominate the new field and to generate controversies that contributed much to its liveliness. In that eminently “exciting” era, development economics did much better than the object of its study, the economic development of the poorer regions of the world, located primarily in Asia,...

      (pp. 74-101)

      A drastic transvaluation of values is in process in the study of economic and political development. It has been forced upon us by a series of disasters that have occurred in countries in which development seemed to be vigorously under way. The civil war in Nigeria and the bloody falling apart of Pakistan are only the most spectacular instances of such “development disasters.”

      As a result, one reads with increasing frequency pronouncements about the bankruptcy of the “old” development economics, with its accent on growth rates, industrialization, and international assistance, and about the need for a wholly new doctrine that...

      (pp. 102-136)

      Not long ago, industrialization ranked high among the policy prescriptions which were expected to lead Latin America and other underdeveloped areas out of their state of economic, social and political backwardness. In the last few years, however, considerable disenchantment with this particular solution of the development problem has set in. The present paper will survey some characteristics of “import-substituting industrialization” (ISI) in an attempt to appraise its evolution and the principal difficulties it has encountered. Some purely economic aspects of the problem will be discussed, but particular attention has been directed to interrelations with social and political life. The ease...

      (pp. 137-154)

      In a recent issue of this journal, Oran young argued forcefully against the “ collection of empirical materials as an end in itself and without sufficient theoretical analysis to determine appropriate criteria of selection.”¹ The present paper issues a complementary critique of the opposite failing. Its target is the tendency toward compulsive and mindless theorizing—a disease at least as prevalent and debilitating, so it seems to me, as the one described by Oran young.

      While the spread of mindless number-work in the social sciences has been caused largely by the availability of the computer, several factors are responsible for...

      (pp. 155-194)

      The career of development economics in the last twenty-five years illustrates one of the crucial differences between the natural and the social sciences. In the natural sciences, as Thomas Kuhn has shown, the formulation of a new paradigm is followed by an extended period in which the paradigm is fully accepted and the labors of “normal science” are devoted to its verification, application, and further extension. In the social sciences, on the other hand, the enunciation of a new paradigm not only gives rise to similar sympathetic labors, but is often followed almost immediately by a persistent onslaught of qualification,...

    • THE CONCEPT OF INTEREST: From Euphemism to Tautology
      (pp. 195-213)

      “Interest” or “interests” is one of the most central and controversial concepts in economics and, more generally, in social science and history. It is also extremely versatile, not to say ambiguous, and its meaning has been shifting a great deal. Since coming into widespread use, in various European countries around the latter part of the sixteenth century as essentially the same Latin-derived word (intérêt, intéresse, etc.), the concept has stood for the fundamental forces, based on the drive for self-preservation and self-aggrandizement, that motivate or should motivate the actions of the prince or the state, of the individual, and, later,...

      (pp. 214-247)

      Once upon a time, not all that long ago, the social, political, and economic order under which men and women were living was taken for granted. Among the people of those idyllic times many of course were poor, sick, or oppressed, and consequently unhappy; no doubt, others managed to feel unhappy for seemingly less cogent reasons; but most tended to attribute their unhappiness either to concrete and fortuitous happenings—ill luck, ill health, the machinations of enemies, an unjust master, lord or ruler—or to remote, general, and unchangeable causes, such as human nature or the will of God. The...

    • AGAINST PARSIMONY: Three Easy Ways of Complicating Some Categories of Economic Discourse
      (pp. 248-264)

      Economics as a science of human behavior has been grounded in a remarkably parsimonious postulate: that of the self-interested, isolated individual who chooses freely and rationally among alternative courses of action after computing their prospective costs and benefits. In recent decades, a group of economists has shown considerable industry and ingenuity in applying this way of interpreting the social world to a series of ostensibly noneconomic phenomena, from crime to the family, and from collective action to democracy. The “economic” or “rational-actor” approach has yielded some important insights, but its onward sweep has also revealed some of its intrinsic weaknesses....

      (pp. 265-283)

      We have recently been taught by several works of large-scale historical interpretation that a group of competing states—such as France, Spain, and the other European powers that emerged after the Middle Ages—may acquire, augment, and maintain its collective influence over outlying areas precisely because of its divisions and interstate conflicts, because, that is, the group is not integrated into an imperial unit.¹

      If this conjecture has merit, some of our most hackneyed phrases and proverbs will have to be revised and inverted to read “be divided and rule!” or “La désunion fait la force” (Disunity makes for strength),...

      (pp. 284-292)

      When economists focus on the quality of life, their minds turn to ingredients of human satisfaction other than the bundles of consumer goods and services that have traditionally been the main subject of economic analysis. In recent decades we have rediscovered that man does not live by bread, nor even by GNP, alone, and have realized that a number of heretofore neglected items must be incorporated into individual utility functions: examples are reasonably clean air, feelings of participation and community, and an atmosphere of security and trust within and among nations. While being nondivisible, difficult to measure, and public, such...

      (pp. 293-308)

      In a famous 1949 lecture on the “development of citizenship” in the West, the English sociologist T. H. Marshall distinguished among the civil, political, and social dimensions of citizenship and then proceeded to explain, very much in the spirit of the Whig interpretation of history, how the more enlightened human societies had tackled these three dimensions one after another, conveniently allocating about a century to each. According to his scheme, the eighteenth century witnessed the major battles for the institution of civil citizenship, from freedom of speech, thought, and religion to the right to evenhanded justice—in other words, for...

      (pp. 309-330)

      There are two main types of activist reactions to discontent with organizations to which one belongs or with which one does business: either to voice one’s complaints, while continuing as a member or customer, in the hope of improving matters; or to exit from the organization, to take one’s business elsewhere. Exit, Voice, and Loyalty¹ was built on this dichotomy.

      One of my main contentions was that economists, with their emphasis on the virtues of competition (i.e., exit), had disregarded the possible contributions of voice just as political scientists, with their interest in political participation and protest, had neglected the...

      (pp. 331-344)

      What is the role of moral considerations and concerns in economics? More generally, what can be said about the “problem of morality in the social sciences”? In commenting on these questions—the second was the subject of a conference I attended not long ago—I shall first give some reasons why this sort of topic does not come easily to the social scientist; only later shall I show why there is today an increased concern with moral values, even in economics—that rock of positivist solidity. In conclusion, I shall suggest some ways of reconciling the traditional posture of the...

      (pp. 345-362)

      The question “how much community spirit (Gemeinsinn) Does Liberal Society Require?” made me go back to a well-known tale of Tolstoy with a similar sounding title, namely, “How Much Land Does a Man Require?” This is the story, you may remember, of a peasant called Pakhom who becomes obsessed by the passion for acquiring more and more land. Giving in to temptation he subjects himself at one point to an excessive exertion that is supposed to bring him riches but actually leads to physical exhaustion and death. At this stage, of course, Pakhom needs only the small area of land...

  7. Afterword
    (pp. 363-368)
    Emma Rothschild and Amartya Sen

    Albert Hirschman had an exceptional capacity, as these essays make so clear, to understand the shifting worlds in which he lived. His work will endure for two dissimilar reasons. One is his “world-view”: a skeptical optimism, in Fernando Henrique Cardoso’s description, endlessly unconvinced by universal prescriptions, simple accounts of individual lives, and general laws of the social world, and endlessly open to possibilities for change. The other is a series of ideas, including explanatory arguments, that are themselves simple enough: exit and voice, or passions and interests, or obstacles and development.¹ This contrast between the observation of complicated lives and...

  8. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 369-372)
  9. Index
    (pp. 373-384)