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The opinions expressed on this page are mine alone. Any similarities to the views of my employer are completely coincidental.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Publisher's puff

I wonder how often academic writers are  embarrassed by the puff that publishers more or less force them to have on the back of their books. I'm not naive, I know it is all a game and you are a real party pooper if you refuse to play along, but I guess somewhere along the line my non-conformist upbringing did some severe damage to my nudge, nudge, wink, wink, let's not take all this too seriously chip. I try hard to resist it, but sometimes I just can't help feeling that academics of all people should really be expressing a distaste for bullshit and if they don't then we can't expect what we say to be taken any more seriously than the utterances of anyone else with an axe to grind. In other words, your bullshit is a negative externality for me, and I think that gives me an interest in calling you out.

This rant is inspired by reading Colin Crouch's The Strange Non-Death of Neoliberalism. Let me be clear, I liked the book. It's a decent and in places genuinely insightful  book on the political economy of Western capitalism over the last 30 years or so. The analysis is at a fairly high level of generality, but then again I imagine it is basically pitched at a fairly generalist audience. I've nothing against the book at all, in fact  I  recommend it, it's sort of  a sober and more pessimistic Will Hutton with a slightly more academic style. Please go and read it. But...

And here it is, turn to the back and the first thing you read is a piece of puff from a well known professor of political science. I quote:

"Colin Crouch has produced the most important work on the political economy of modern capitalism since Keynes, Kalecki and Shonfield."

Keynes, Kalecki, Shonfield...Crouch. Come on, let's get real. Don't get me wrong, I've a lot of respect for Colin's work, it's serious stuff, but this sort of hyperbole is so extreme it surely must qualify in the technical Frankfurtian sense as bullshit in  that it is not even meant to be taken seriously. And when you begin to think about it what kind of recommendation is it that signals, don't take me seriously...It's actually not very complimentary.

At least it is a good excuse to listen to some Peter, Paul and Mary.

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