Just listened to the lecture and read the slides (the book should arrive in Japan in a week or two). Already, however, I have a much more vivid sense of where Keith Hart is coming from, and I like it. Especially that bit about getting into the complex particulars.
Thanks Keith for your helpful response. This tension between households and the market is something that we should definitely explore, and thanks for your helpful suggestions on ways to pursue this.
At the moment, it seems as if the policy makers did not identify this tension as they felt that the interests of households are best served when they become clients in a 'care market'. It seems that the tension that you point to only became an issue later on, once the voucher scheme ended up costing hundreds of millions of Euro's, and once debates developed over legitimate spending.
The Netherlands has a similar voucher scheme for children with learning disabilities. Today, one in five school going children receive some kind of label (hyper activity, dyslexia, dyscalculia, and so on), which entitles them to vouchers with which they can purchase extra care. It literally pays to brand a child as disabled. The school receives extra money and the parents can buy extracurricular programs. Having two school going children myself, this upsets me tremendously, as does many other people in The Netherlands. Educational problems become highly individualized and children receive a stigma for life. Many of these stigmatized kids never enter the labor market because once they have completed school the stigma entitles them to a special grant. Many healthy and skilled kids become socialized into dependency and incapacity. These are mere initial anecdotes which point out why I enjoyed the podcast and look forward to receiving the book.
I particularly appreciated your response to Mathew Engelke's question about Cameron and the BS (Big Society) because this "unwelcome bedfellow" could lead to a mis-reading of your work. In her review Mallika says that you are interested in building a "new institutional economics" and despite having written with Elinor Ostrom I know that you wouldn't be pigeon-holed so easily. I'm really enjoying Ben Fine's treatment of new economic theories of social capital - he says that an imperial economics set free from neo-liberalism is invading the social sciences and instrumentalising the things that anthropologists have been digging up for years - social things for which rational choice and methodological individualism can never account. It is easy to see how the human economy could be lumped with this perhaps more marketable idea.
I also liked your response when "power" got thrown into the mix - "This is not about what to when the heavy mob get involved." But I thought it was such a shame that no "out-and-out" economists asked any questions. Was it that the person taking the questions missed them or that they weren't there?
I must really start by thanking you for feedback, and a great one. May I please respond you with a counter question perhaps for broader discussion that I’ve been asking myself for some time? First, well, to clarify, I did not say that THE is interested in ‘building NIE’ but ‘a new NIE.’ I completely agree with your point that reducing humans to homo economicus is erroneous, and also that instrumentalising the idea of social capital only serves neoliberal neocolonialism. I have not read Fine on this but I found the earlier debate between Putnam and Harriss pretty interesting a start. Having said all this, however, my intention is not to defend my use of the term, and that wasn’t the core of my review in any case.
Now, is it unkosher to link THE with NIE? I do think that the two have a lot in common. Not least among them is their starting point (putting human agency above rational choice theory), and then the direction they take (arguing that the free market is naturally embedded into bigger socio-political systems, and that neoliberalism must accept this both in concept and in practice), and further on, a whole lot of concepts they grapple with (public goods, global economic governance, reciprocity, feminism, solidarity, etc). I am wary however of the clear cut distinction people often make between old and new institutional economics. I believe that the boundaries are blurred especially for NIEers like North, Khan, Harriss-White (ref: Harriss, Hunter and Lewis, 1995). I agree with John Toye when he says that NIE’s departure towards instrumentalism is ‘premature’ and that there is a need to bring NIE back on track. But I don’t believe that this merits as an agenda in itself, and again, that’s not why I bring NIE here.
NIE’s mention, for me, is more about implications for practice. First, well, is there a practice agenda in THE or am I anticipating? If it’s the former, I tend to think that THE’s call for engagement refers to existing theories of embeddedness – Mauss and Polanyi but also Laville and Cattani. I also tend to think that the idea of ‘plural economy’ (feminism, informalism, labour etc) is especially close to institutional economics in their call for a middle path between subjugation and subversion. Economie solidaire is neither pure Marxist utopia nor mob. This is the sense I get from Keith’s earlier reactions to questions on power, informalism, class action, culturalism, etc etc.
On a different front, you asked about ‘out-and-out economists’. I thought, the question on how informality can be brought under regulatory institutions to help trigger economic growth and poverty reduction was not too far from there. I thought Keith’s call for bigger individual freedom across the walls of politics and market was very interesting.
Again, I may be asking all the wrong questions, but, well, this is an open cooperative after all!
Quite an interesting thread developing. On Alexander's question about HE's relevance for formal enterprise like investment banking, I would recommend applying Bourdieu's 'cultural capital' lens to it, which comes up quite a number of times within HE. I think beyond the discussion of networks and solidarity, Bourdieu's concept of 'habitus' does help us further to unpack people's choices on careers and social circles. Clearly, these choices are functions of socio-political configurations and people are not 'free' as sometimes argued to make their choices, but equally, they do struggle with their dispositions and continually adapt to new subjective or objective circumstances.
I am so pleased to see David Seddon here, and would love to hear more about what he thought of Nepal after Egypt! Some seem to argue that the opposition is not yet ready, or invoke the much hyped 'lack of trust' argument. It is true that some of the past first-time-PMs have been made political ploys by the bigger players not too long ago but I think it is too much of a stretch to convince both lays and experts that the current game really against a dictatorial wish. It is much more worrying for the believers of the 'global south' that neighbouring powers would not change their myopic stance for once. Deomocracy sometimes need saving from the democrats.