On Pieria: Defending Lefty Books

I’m in Pieria, taking a brief look at the (often contentious) debate surrounding three books: The Spirit Level, Chavs, and The Shock Doctrine. It’s split into 3 parts, and you can start here:

Over the past few years, there have been some big hitting books from the left criticising inequality, capitalism and ‘free market’ economics or neoliberalism. Naturally, these books have received a lot of criticism from the right. However, sometimes it seems that this criticism is overzealous: an attempt not merely to question the book, but discredit it entirely, and accuse the authors of various misrepresentations of facts and people along the way. Now, while it’s true that some arguments or ideas are essentially ‘just wrong’, and that some proponents of certain ideas can be intellectually dishonest, the frequency with which these accusations are made is alarming, and I believe they are often mistaken.

These books definitely have their flaws. Jones and Klein are both journalistic accounts, which means that they tend to spin things a certain way (Jones refer to TSL‘s thesis as “irrefutable”, which is obviously an exaggeration’). Wilkinson & Pickett’s case is actually stronger than reading their book would have you believe, and they miss some opportunities to really slam dunk the point home, which I found frustrating. In any case, all 3 books are worth your time and are much better than most of the material dedicated to refuting them.

PS I am now going on holiday for a week, so expect little to no activity.


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