Saturday, May 16, 2020

Branko Milanovic review of Literature and Inequality

Branko Milanovic, who is one of the world's leading scholars on the global history of economic inequality, has posted a review here of my new book, Literature and Inequality.

The review lauds my "very skillful analysis" of the societies discussed in the books that feature in my study, and adds that "Shaviro's book could set the tone for a new type of social studies that would combine the usual empirical work with archival research and valuable fiction."

The two main dialogue points he raises in the review pertain to: (1) marriages as potentially unsettling the social order when they are made, not just dynastically, but based on all of the diverse personal elements that can shape it in daily life, and (2) the picture of how great fortunes are made in classic fiction, versus the world of Econ 101 textbooks. As he notes, the books I discuss feature plenty of "swindles, cheats, cronyism, plunder, and bribery," as distinct from acts of productive entrepreneurship. It of course figures that those methods tend to be more fun to write and read about than the meticulous work of building up a successful business. Also, as I note in the book, artistically ambitious fiction writers tend not, as a group, to be enormously fond of business or the business classes. Nonetheless, he concludes that the fictional narratives, given real world parallels, should "give us pause when entertaining a more benevolent view of large fortunes in capitalist societies."

I very much look forward to our further discussing these and other issues during the Zoom session regarding my book that is scheduled for this October.


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