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The Illusion of Free Markets by [Harcourt, Bernard E.]
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The Illusion of Free Markets Kindle Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Length: 336 pages

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Not only is the "free" market of laissez-faire doctrine not free, it underpins the extravagant unfreedom of our metastasized penal system, argues this provocative intellectual history. Law professor and political scientist Harcourt advances two awkwardly intersecting arguments. The first, supported by his revealing comparison of police regulations governing 18th-century Paris's grain market with the rules of today's Chicago Board of Trade, asserts that even supposedly free markets are saturated with arbitrary and biased regulation. The second, based on insightful readings of free market ideologues from 18th-century Physiocrats to latter-day "law and economics" theorists like Richard Posner, argues that the influential concept of the marketplace as a "natural order" that should remain outside government control implies its obverse: a "neoliberal penality" of harsh state-supervised punishment for criminals who defy the market's ethos. (America, with its market-worshipping politics and swollen prisons, is his main exhibit.) The author mounts an incisive attack on the association of markets with freedom and government with repression, but his linkage of free market theory with the lockdown state is tenuous. The result is a stimulating challenge to conventional wisdom--which sometimes overreaches. (Jan.)
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The Illusion of Free Markets is a beautifully written and well-researched book that addresses two subjects of great contemporary significance: the conceptualization of market exchange as "free" and "natural," and the expansion of the American penal system. The book argues that the way we think about markets has shaped―indeed, distorted―the way we think about criminal justice, and it is time to rethink both. Harcourt's claims will spur lively and much needed debate. (Alice Ristroph, Seton Hall University)

Bernard Harcourt has never had an uninteresting thought, or made an argument that does not provoke or engage or delight or enlighten―or do all of those things simultaneously. (Best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell)

Bernard Harcourt has two urgent lessons to teach. The first is that there are no "free" markets, only markets regulated in different ways and by different means. The second is that libertarian devotion to free markets tends to march in step with authoritarian devotion to coercion, the punitive carceral state. This brilliant book, beautifully written and illustrated with a wealth of fascinating detail -- is a subtle and penetrating study of the origins and development of some of our principal modern illusions. (Robert W. Gordon, Yale University)

Bernard Harcourt's magisterial book makes a strong and persuasive case for the tight connection of the invisible hand of neoliberal 'free' markets and the iron fist of carceral policies. His erudite blend of history, political thought and economic theory lays bare the dark side of neoliberal penality. We ignore his powerful democratic voice and view at our own peril! (Cornel West, author of Democracy Matters and Race Matters)

In this intrepid book, Harcourt excavates the historical genealogy of the twin myths of the 'free market' and the 'diligent police' to illumine the current American predicament of steep social inequality and gargantuan prisons. From Quesnay to Bentham to Ronald Coase and Gary Becker, he reveals that the current idolatry of the market finds its roots in successive declinations of the eighteenth-century notion of 'natural order,' which fosters both minimal government in economic matters and maximal government in law and order. By retracing how market naturalism and penal despotism come to form the two sides of the same conception of the state, The Illusions of Free Markets offers a bracing critique of neoliberal reason that will stimulate wide debate and heated controversy. (Loïc Wacquant, author of Punishing the Poor: The Neoliberal Government of Social Insecurity)

An ambitious and sophisticated exploration of the ideological roots of what might well be the central paradox of modern American culture -- that we insist that we are the leaders of the 'free world' while incarcerating more people per capita than any other country on the planet. (David Cole, Georgetown University)

The Illusion of Free Markets explores the concept of natural order that underlies so much of free market economic thought―particularly the Chicago School. Bernard Harcourt's insights into how our economic rhetoric influences the United States' acceptance of incarceration are particularly rich. This book is a must read for anyone who wants to think seriously about those two natural antagonists: markets and democracy. (Lester Thurow, author of Head to Head, The Future of Capitalism, and The Zero-Sum Society)

Not only is the "free" market of laissez-faire doctrine not free, it underpins the extravagant unfreedom of our metastasized penal system, argues this provocative intellectual history...The author mounts an incisive attack on the association of markets with freedom and government with repression...The result is a stimulating challenge to conventional wisdom. (Publishers Weekly)

Product details

  • File Size: 3236 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; Reprint edition (May 1, 2011)
  • Publication Date: May 1, 2011
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004Z14D6W
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #399,437 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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