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Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea Hardcover – April 25, 2013

103 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Blyths book is important and informative John M. Legge, Dissent Magazine Blyths analysis provides answers that are as much complex as they are comprehensive. Nevertheless, the book is not particularly hard reading, offering accessible political economy at its best even for non-economists. At times it is indeed polemically entertaining, and I highly recommend reading it. Andreas Botsch, Transfer [a] timely, authoritative account. Peter Geoghegan, Sunday Business Post [a] fascinating account ... among the best and most clear-sighted that I have read on the matter. The Crack [C]lear, simple, and occasionally humorous ... It's a pity the two Eds didn't read this book before they announced that 'we're all Austerians now.' Austin Mitchell, The House Magazine [A]n excellent new book by Mark Blyth The Guardian Blyth writes in the tradition of Keynes, slashing away at orthodoxy and the orthodox, emphasising the power of ideas as well as interests in shaping outcomes, ranging widely over the history of economic and political thought, expressing deep scepticism about financial actors, and rejecting the curtailment of spending as the solution to a period of excess. Lawrence Summers, Financial Times Austerity: The History of Dangerous Ideas is a masterful combination of economic history and intellectual history that puts the current policy debate into a balanced and sophisticated perspective. Anyone who wants to understand what is going on in the world at the moment should read it. Right away. Ha-Joon Chang, Irish Times Austerity is an economic policy strategy, but is also an ideology and an approach to economic management freighted with politics. In this book Mark Blyth uncovers these successive strata. In doing so he wields his spade in a way that shows no patience for fools and foolishness. Barry Eichengreen, Professor of Economics and Political Science University of California, Berkeley, author of 'Exorbitant Privilege'

About the Author

Mark Blyth is Professor of International Political Economy at Brown University. He is the author of Great Transformations: Economic Ideas and Institutional Change in the Twentieth Century.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (April 25, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019982830X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199828302
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 1.1 x 5.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (103 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #199,740 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I am Professor of International Political Economy in the Department of Political Science at Brown University and a Faculty Fellow at Brown's Watson Institute for International Studies. I grew up in Dundee, Scotland. I received my PhD in political science from Columbia University in 1999 and taught at the Johns Hopkins University from 1997 until 2009.

My research interests lie in the of field international political economy. More specifically, my research trespasses several fields and aims to be as interdisciplinary as possible, drawing from political science, economics, sociology, complexity theory and evolutionary theory. My work falls into several related areas: the politics of ideas, how institutions (and disciplines) change, political parties, and the politics of finance.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Metallurgist TOP 1000 REVIEWER on April 20, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I found this to be a very interesting and thought provoking book. The author makes his viewpoint very clear with the book's subtitle "The History of a Dangerous Idea". The essence of the author's argument is that austerity is unfair because it makes workers pay for the mistakes of banks, and even more importantly, dangerous because it does not lead to prosperity, but only to decreased economic growth and increased unemployment. This thesis is backed up by an analysis of the banking crisis of 2008, how it spread from the US to the EU, why the single currency Euro has made the problem worse for the EU and why using austerity to solve the problems will not work. It also discusses the history of the idea of austerity, both in terms of the economic theory that promotes it and the economic history that does not. Conservatives, who find Keynesian economics to be not only wrong, but also the road to economic ruin, will likely be turned off by the book's subtitle and many of the arguments that Professor Blyth utilizes. However, there is a lot of data in this book that they should look at, if only to criticize it. I found this book very enlightening and while I do not agree with all of Professor Blyth's ideas (particularly those of the last chapter), I learned a lot, so for me it was 5-stars.

What is in the book?
The book is divided into 7 chapters, which cover the following:

Chapter 1 - A Primer on Austerity. This is a short chapter that summarizes the main thesis of the book (mentioned above), and sets the stage for the more detailed discussions in subsequent chapters.

Chapter 2 - America: To Big to Fail? This is an excellent chapter that summarizes the origins and unfolding of the 2008-banking crisis in the US.
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44 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Gaetan Lion on April 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Blyth shows how the piling on debt in the US was not due to wasteful profligate policy, but instead associated with the bailing out of the private sector, and the banking and financial system. For another excellent coverage of this period see Mark Zandi's Paying the Price: Ending the Great Recession and Beginning a New American Century.

Mortgage borrowers were defaulting en masse, housing prices were dropping like a rock, and the banks and overall financial system were either heading towards insolvency or in a freeze. Without extension of credit and the associated brutal deleveraging of all sectors at once, an economy not only contracts... it just about dies. If the economy is left to its own devices resulting GDP contraction is very severe and unemployment rate can reach 20%+. You are in a Depression. The solution is for the Government to pick up the slack in Demand and counterbalance the deleveraging and contraction occurring in all other sectors with expansive policies. That's an effective Keynesian response. Blyth advanced that's what the US did and it worked. The US is now undergoing a slow and sustainable recovery and has seen its unemployment rate dropped markedly already (instead of heading towards 20%+).

As the financial crisis contaminated Europe through the conduits of complex misrated housing related securities such as MBS and CDOs Europe faced a banking and sovereign debt crisis of its weak peripheral members of the Euro Zone. After, a short and incomplete Keynesian response, the Euro Zone lead by Germany went on a destructive austerity path. European austerity has already thrown the peripheral countries into a long Depression.
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30 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Ian K. VINE VOICE on April 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The United States seems to be in a constant set of battles about budgets and spending. These battles are relatively new: they didn't exist until we got a Democratic President. Under Republican Presidents budget deficits were OK.

In addition to the existence of a Democratic President, the other factor that has induced the budget battles is current size of the US debt. Republicans constantly portray this debt as the result of government spending gone crazy. Some Republicans claim that President Obama is a socialist, so the spending, by implication must be a massive transfer of government wealth to those "takers" rather than "makers".

At the start of Mark Blyth's book Austerity, he reminds the reader of how the budget reached its current state. It was not a transfer of money to welfare mothers, but a transfer of money to too-big-to-fail banks (welfare bankers). This combined with the war of choice in Iraq, has resulted in trillions of dollars that have been lost to productive economy.

The subtitle of the books Austerity: "A History of a Dangerous Idea" discusses the long history in modern economics of austerity budgets and the roots of Austerity budgets going back to the late seventeenth century. Austerity is a dangerous idea because austerity budgets, when an economy is performing poorly, act against economic growth.

After providing a brief tour of the current fiscal crisis and a longer discussion of economic theories of Austerity, Mark Blyth provides a much briefer discussion of what might be done moving forward. He points out that Greece did not get into its current situation solely as a result of government spending and cheap Euro credits.
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