David Reisman

Reclaiming Political Economy

in Theoria
Raphael de Kadt

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David Reisman has written a book of extraordinary scope, depth and subtlety. It is at once both an impressive tour d’horizon, and a work of great insight and expository control. The ostensible subject of the book is the contribution of five seminal thinkers to political economy and, for want of a better term, ‘sociological economics’. While each writer’s contribution is portrayed in a rich, deeply informed, evenhanded and judicious manner, Reisman’s real achievement goes well beyond deft exposition and exegetical acumen. He succeeds in showing both the richness and the complexity of the thinking of the five, as well as in portraying the complexity of the substantive issues with which they deal. He succeeds, too, in situating their thought in the broader historical context both of its genesis and its reception. Thus, in addition to the accounts of the principal subjects of his study, he skillfully weaves accounts of the contributions of ‘notable others’ into the text. Thus Downs, Pareto, Hobhouse, Bosanquet, Green and Crosland are—among others—each given important, illuminating, ‘walk on’ parts. Their contributions constitute significant reference points for the engagement with the contributions of the ‘principals’.

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