Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Back from...

..London this time (again). A meeting at 10.30 then speaking at LSE at 12 for an hour. On the platform as I set out before the train arrives someone calls my name and it turns out to be A, who teaches at the LSE. A is an economist specialising in Eastern Europe, and, not quite incidentally, a friend of Richard Bronk, author of the just published The Romantic Economist, which she read before publication and considers a marvellous, epoch-changing book. One for me to read then.

We chatted through the first leg of the journey from Wymondham to Cambridge. She talked about the key power of metaphor in economics, pointing primarily to the metaphor of balance as derived from Newton, and how that metaphor might give way to what Bronk proposes, a metaphor of dynamics, not far removed, as far as I could judge, from the theories of Deleuze and Guattari. But that's only a guess until I read the book.

Talk drifted, as it would, to the current unofficial strikes, the EU and the economic crisis. She thought it was a great mistake to accuse the strikers of xenophobia. The EU, of which she is I think a great supporter, does have a way, she says, of creating fudge and muddle, and the role of foreign workers working at different rates from indigenous ones is only partly addressed. I asked how far the current economic crisis springs out of the ideas of Hayek. Directly, she said. His mind, she elaborated, worked like an eighteenth century mechanic's. He was so against the closed societies also opposed by Popper, that he failed to see that international business could be as bureaucratic and closed as a one-party state. It's all in John Stuart Mill, she said. He was a genius. And Adam Smith too is easily distorted. He was closer to socialism than tories claim. My guess is that A herself is firmly on the environmentalist left but she doesn't talk slogans, she talks detail, which, to tell the truth, I far prefer.

This is all interesting. I am utterly out of my depth but think I am grasping certain concepts, so I jot the subject of conversation down here so I might return to some of these ideas I later. You can see why economics is called the Dismal Science, she says as we part.

My talk at the LSE goes fine. Afterwards we sit down and talk about Russian poetry, Blok, Akhmatova and Brodsky. The difficulties of translation and of form. The meaning of form. All these things will at some stage emerge as essays or memos. Bits might find their way into the Newcastle lectures.

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