It’s been a tough decision this year – the longlist was both long and excellent. So it has taken me a while to select a winner. But it is…
Republic of Beliefs – Kaushik Basu (my review here)
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The punchline, as summarized in my review, is: “Outcomes can come about either through formal legislation or through informal social sanctions, although the law might help bring about the self-sustaining edifice of beliefs more readily. But laws that do not direct the economy to one of many possible equilibrium points will not be observed. Hence in societies where there is a good deal of corruption, the law is trying to enforce behaviour among law enforcers that is not in their interests, and so will fail.” It’s a compelling and important book, and very readable.
I can’t resist adding tthree runners up, not least because they probably won’t feature in the usual annual round-ups of books.
Exact Thinking in Demented Times – Karl Sigmund (my review here) – about the intellectual ferment of logical positivism in Vienna, an absorbing intellectual history of a time and place, whose legacy is with us still.
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No Ordinary Woman – Angela Penrose (my review here)
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I knew too little about Edith Penrose before I read this excellent biography. It sent me to reading some of her work for the first time.
Accounting for Slavery – Caitlin Rosenthal (my review here)
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A book I picked up by chance, really, and a fascinating – if disturbing – account of the accounts of the US slaveowning economy, and how the large scale plantations paved the way for manufacturing to operate at scale in the US as well.