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Economic Science Fictions

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An innovative new anthology exploring how science fiction can motivate new approaches to economics. From the libertarian economics of Ayn Rand to Aldous Huxley's consumerist dystopias, economics and science fiction have often orbited each other. In Economic Science Fictions, editor William Davies has deliberately merged the two worlds, asking how we might harness the power An innovative new anthology exploring how science fiction can motivate new approaches to economics. From the libertarian economics of Ayn Rand to Aldous Huxley's consumerist dystopias, economics and science fiction have often orbited each other. In Economic Science Fictions, editor William Davies has deliberately merged the two worlds, asking how we might harness the power of the utopian imagination to revitalize economic thinking. Rooted in the sense that our current economic reality is no longer credible or viable, this collection treats our economy as a series of fictions and science fiction as a means of anticipating different economic futures. It asks how science fiction can motivate new approaches to economics and provides surprising new syntheses, merging social science with fiction, design with politics, scholarship with experimental forms. With an opening chapter from Ha-Joon Chang as well as theory, short stories, and reflections on design, this book from Goldsmiths Press challenges and changes the notion that economics and science fiction are worlds apart. The result is a wealth of fresh and unusual perspectives for anyone who believes the economy is too important to be left solely to economists.


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An innovative new anthology exploring how science fiction can motivate new approaches to economics. From the libertarian economics of Ayn Rand to Aldous Huxley's consumerist dystopias, economics and science fiction have often orbited each other. In Economic Science Fictions, editor William Davies has deliberately merged the two worlds, asking how we might harness the power An innovative new anthology exploring how science fiction can motivate new approaches to economics. From the libertarian economics of Ayn Rand to Aldous Huxley's consumerist dystopias, economics and science fiction have often orbited each other. In Economic Science Fictions, editor William Davies has deliberately merged the two worlds, asking how we might harness the power of the utopian imagination to revitalize economic thinking. Rooted in the sense that our current economic reality is no longer credible or viable, this collection treats our economy as a series of fictions and science fiction as a means of anticipating different economic futures. It asks how science fiction can motivate new approaches to economics and provides surprising new syntheses, merging social science with fiction, design with politics, scholarship with experimental forms. With an opening chapter from Ha-Joon Chang as well as theory, short stories, and reflections on design, this book from Goldsmiths Press challenges and changes the notion that economics and science fiction are worlds apart. The result is a wealth of fresh and unusual perspectives for anyone who believes the economy is too important to be left solely to economists.

30 review for Economic Science Fictions

  1. 5 out of 5

    Trevor

    I’ve read a couple of books by Davies – although, this is an edited collection of essays, and so not really ‘by’ him, if you know what I mean. All the same, I ultimately read this because he was part of the team pulling this together. And then I saw that Ha-Joon Chang was also a contributor… it really doesn’t get much better than this, guys. All the same, I wasn’t totally sure what I was getting myself into before I started reading. In Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism, he says that part of the p I’ve read a couple of books by Davies – although, this is an edited collection of essays, and so not really ‘by’ him, if you know what I mean. All the same, I ultimately read this because he was part of the team pulling this together. And then I saw that Ha-Joon Chang was also a contributor… it really doesn’t get much better than this, guys. All the same, I wasn’t totally sure what I was getting myself into before I started reading. In Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism, he says that part of the problem for the left is that it doesn’t have an alternative vision for society (and therefore for the economy as well) and this hampers change. It also means that the economic system can be brought repeatedly to the brink of disaster, and since there re ‘no alternatives’ we are condemned to repeat the same ‘fixes’. There is a nice point made during this that one of the driving forces for radical free market economics had been the fiction of Ayn Rand – and not just the near legendary connection between Alan Greenspan and Rand. There is a notion that if you want to get somewhere, it is probably a good idea to have some notion of where that somewhere is. And so this book sets out to achieve just that – it is a collection of essays setting out the various problems associated with utopian visions for a better society, and then some science fiction notions of what the future world might look like. Well, that’s what I thought this book was going to be about, anyway – but we will get to that in a minute. I found some of the chapters in this seriously interesting. The chapters I particularly liked either discussed the current economic problems we are facing and the issues associated with us moving away from these problems. For example, there is the problem of money. The people associated with Hayek are called ‘monetarists’ because they see price signals as being the only way truly available to us to understand what people want in society and for capitalists to know how to go about giving them what they want. If an ideal society is to do without money, and the price signals money offers, they it is also necessary to have some other way to learning what people want, so we can adjusting the productive capacity of society towards meeting those wants. Often this alternative mechanism involves highly complex computer systems – something attempted in the Soviet Union and Allende’s Chile according to this book, and with poor results in the Soviet Union and with a US blood-letting coup in Chile. However, today we are living with much more advanced computer technology and computing power is producing a shift that would be difficult to deny. The obsession of the world’s largest corporations to gather as much data on us as is possible can hardly have escaped anyone’s notice. The point of late-stage capitalism isn’t so much to meet the needs and wants of a consumer society – our society produces far too much for it to have the luxury to wait for people to get around to working out what they want – rather it needs to create those wants out of virtually nothing. Big data analysis is about finding increasingly better ways to create desires for products which are then systematically placed in our way both within our direct line of sight, and across our peripheral vision. In fact, heightening desire perhaps works better peripherally. Some of these chapters focused on the economies found to exist in science fiction stories. Many of these worlds are dystopias – and dystopias in ways that are odd in the sense that they do not really exaggerate aspects of our current world or economy so much, as bring back nightmare aspects from past societies – whether feudalism or slavery. Under feudalism everyone had their position fixed at birth – and so science fiction from Huxley’s Brave New World to Gattaca replicate Plato’s Republic with its Bronze, Silver and Gold souled people – each given a role, each fixed in that role. Other science fiction recreates slaves or turns humans into batteries for machines. The economics of these visions is interesting since they don’t really reflect the problems facing people today directly related to capitalist relations between people – for example, gross and increasing inequality and precarity – or between nations, as described, say, in Caliban and the Witch. To be honest, I find the rape of Latin America or an employee working for piecemeal wages on a Uber based platform to be at least as disturbing dystopias as Huxley’s. Some of the chapters in this were works of fiction – and I was particularly surprised by these. I wasn’t surprised that they were included – Critical Race Theory has used fiction as a way to illuminate ideas since at least WEB Du Bois. My problem was that I was expecting these fictions to be more utopia than dystopia – that seemed to be the point of the early ‘theory’ chapters of the book. But virtually none of the fictions presented a vision splendid of our future. Dystopia followed dystopia. I also couldn’t see how you might use any of these to challenge the existing economic structures – which was something I had been led to believe was much of the point of this book. I want to come back to the idea of the role of fiction in presenting a vision for a better world. I’ve been having trouble lately with ideas of ‘consciousness raising’ as a means of changing society. Basically, I don’t think it does nearly as much as we assume it will – much in the same way we often assume education will change the world, and yet never quite seems to. Sure, you can get some men to say ‘chairperson’, but if the person chairing the meeting remains a man, it isn’t clear what has actually changed. I don’t want to say that fiction is incapable of bringing about, or rather, supporting social change. There have been many examples where this has been the case – from Gorki’s Mother, to Tressell’s Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists, to Frank Hardy’s Power Without Glory – although, my only memory of reading Mother is about a single image, that of the main character visualising communism as a child playing in a park with a red ball – I’m not sure how much that would inspire revolutionary action… but it is more than half a lifetime since I read the book. The other two novels do what so many of the stories in this volume also do – that is, point to the horrors of the current society, but not really offering an alternative other than by implication. I think this book is at its best in the chapters that are not fiction. There is an interesting chapter on the architecture of a Moscow suburb where the standardisation of the buildings appears to have been taken to an absurd extent. I can say without a doubt that I would not have wanted to live in such a place, but I wouldn’t want to live in the council high-rises flat built in Melbourne around the same time either. Actually, I’m nearly certain I wouldn’t have wanted to have lived in the 1950s anywhere in the world. As is said repeatedly in this volume, the past is a different country. Look, I don’t really read much science fiction – this book made it clear to me why that is the case. One story I liked was a ‘and what if the Luddites won?’ story. I think there might well be value in thinking about the issues that a future, more humane society would need to face, and that science fiction offers a place for that – but really, the changes we need to make are in the here and now, and if we change the structures and we change the world – if we change ideas and it is possible we change hardly anything at all.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    This is an extremely good book. I quite liked the premise of the book - that science fiction could be used as a device to imagine different economic realities. Obviously, this has happened already in a number of sci-fi works, but the difference with this book is that science fiction is being used as a tool to engineer a different economy. When you think about it, all economies are social constructs. The relationships within those social constructs are defined by our expectations of each other. If This is an extremely good book. I quite liked the premise of the book - that science fiction could be used as a device to imagine different economic realities. Obviously, this has happened already in a number of sci-fi works, but the difference with this book is that science fiction is being used as a tool to engineer a different economy. When you think about it, all economies are social constructs. The relationships within those social constructs are defined by our expectations of each other. If we can use a fictional device to imagine a change in those expectations, then we will arrive at a different outcome. Of course, that leaves the tricky issue of translating the vision into action. This is not unimportant, but we will go further if we set out with some idea of where we want to go. Not all imagined economies are benign. There is an interesting section of dystopian economic fictions. In many ways, I didn't find these too compelling. They seemed to take the current system we are in and then extrapolated forwards into an unpleasant future. There was some imagination about the object of the economy, but very little imagination about how a different construct could emerge. I found that to be unsatisfying. The issue of construct and engineering led naturally to the question of design. I found the section on design to be completely pretentious and off-topic. There were one or two interesting pieces, but I found them to be fairly unrelated to the question of economic science fictions. I know that there is a trend towards design futures, but so far I have seen nothing but top-down bunkum. This book continues that trend, and could quite easily do without the section on design. The section on fumbling for utopia is worth the price of the book. There are four accounts of a utopian economy, each of which has some appeal. Each of which repels in a different way. However, attract or repel, they certainly provide food for thought, and that is what it is all about, in my view. Each of the pieces in this section had elements of a future that I would like to go out and build. As a unitary work, this book has many drawbacks. The ending is weak. The narrative just stops. I felt that it could benefit from a concluding piece, and I am curious why it was omitted. As a collection of works, the styles of the various pieces are quite varied. Some pieces were quite engaging whilst others droned on in a pseudo-academic style. I didn't get much out of those pieces. The good pieces are really good. I was a bit confused about the purpose of the book. Perhaps that could have been made clearer in a stronger introduction? However, the basic idea - to use science fiction as a construct to explore alternative economies - is a good one. This isn't the definitive book on the subject, but it is a good first step towards one.

  3. 4 out of 5

    N.T. Narbutovskih

    This is an academic reference text, so approach it as such. The ideas and concepts of money, credit, and economic theory were a great crash course in what money really is, how it works, and for me the "why does science fiction matter" came through best in the discussions of sociology and how money frames a language. The vision of science fiction, letting people experience alternate futures, is strongest here. I'd you're looking for top notch storytelling you might be disappointed, but for ideas This is an academic reference text, so approach it as such. The ideas and concepts of money, credit, and economic theory were a great crash course in what money really is, how it works, and for me the "why does science fiction matter" came through best in the discussions of sociology and how money frames a language. The vision of science fiction, letting people experience alternate futures, is strongest here. I'd you're looking for top notch storytelling you might be disappointed, but for ideas that get your gears going, I highly recommend this one!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Zsombor

    This is an intriguing collection of essays, fiction, and even the occasional 'essay-fiction' exploring imagined economic futures. The seventeen pieces it comprises are of an uneven quality, which is to be expected. More importantly though, one wonders whether the thread connecting the writings could have been made stronger. Perhaps the intention of the editor, William Davies, was to make the volume as inter-disciplinary as possible, and this is why we get not merely essays on economics and scien This is an intriguing collection of essays, fiction, and even the occasional 'essay-fiction' exploring imagined economic futures. The seventeen pieces it comprises are of an uneven quality, which is to be expected. More importantly though, one wonders whether the thread connecting the writings could have been made stronger. Perhaps the intention of the editor, William Davies, was to make the volume as inter-disciplinary as possible, and this is why we get not merely essays on economics and science fiction, but also one on soviet prefab architecture, fictional interviews in a post-Brexit Britain, or even a poem. This is all very perspective-widening, entertaining, or sometimes even endearing, but it seems doubtful that it can really reach many people outside a very narrow circle of people. This circle probably excludes most practicing economists, including economists who are drawn to science fiction (I can not speak for humanists/science fiction writers, but I have doubts regardings their interests as well). Being diffuse as it is, an attempt which could have kickstarted a genuine and rigorous reflection on how science fiction can inspire or guide econo-political imagination - a question of some urgency for a civilization on the brink of ecological collapse - will instead probably fade into the background noise. It is a real shame. Some commendable highlights: - I found the book to contain an interesting collection of recommendations for sci-fi literature reflection on economic systems/organizations, especially in the first segment of the book. - My favorite texts were: --10. Prefabricating communism: Mass production and the Soviet city, by Owen Hatherley; --2. Future incorporated?, by Laura Horn; --13. Valuing utopia in speculative and critical design, by Tobias Revell, Justin Pickard, and Georgina Voss. --14. Shooting the bridge: Liminality and the end of capitalism, by Tim Jackson. --4. Automating economic revolution: Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Brian Williams. If you happen own the book: 1. Leave it on your coffee table. 2. Wait for a guest to find and inquire about it. 3. Do not let go of the thread of the ensuing conversation, even as you sail away from the actual texts.

  5. 4 out of 5

    fivestarbookreview

    Can science fictions affect real-world economics? What can economics illuminate about fictional worlds? Economic Science Fictions, a brilliant new collection edited by William Davies presents a convincing argument that economics and scientific futures are intimately intertwined. Including both academic articles and short fictions, from more obvious examples (#aynrand) to relatively obscure fictional works, the academic articles parse how fictional accounts can provide insight into modern economi Can science fictions affect real-world economics? What can economics illuminate about fictional worlds? Economic Science Fictions, a brilliant new collection edited by William Davies presents a convincing argument that economics and scientific futures are intimately intertwined. Including both academic articles and short fictions, from more obvious examples (#aynrand) to relatively obscure fictional works, the academic articles parse how fictional accounts can provide insight into modern economic theory. The fictional entries however, are the shining moments. Standouts include “Fatberg and the Sinkholes: A Report on the Findings of a Journey into the United Regions of England by PostRational” by Dan Gavshon Brady and James Pockson and the incendiary “Public Money and Democracy” by Jo Lindsay Walton. Each gradually reveals an alternate future in which the economics of our world have been altered radically, though in which the roots of the change are already deeply embedded in our present economies.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nick Klagge

    I love the idea of this collection, but it consistently didn't work for me. I thought most of the essays/stories were not very well written, and skipped a couple because of that. I think a better way to engage with the idea of "economic science fictions" may be just to read/watch sci-fi where the economics are an important part of the story. "The Dispossessed" and "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress" come to mind. I love the idea of this collection, but it consistently didn't work for me. I thought most of the essays/stories were not very well written, and skipped a couple because of that. I think a better way to engage with the idea of "economic science fictions" may be just to read/watch sci-fi where the economics are an important part of the story. "The Dispossessed" and "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress" come to mind.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    An interesting idea and a superbly varying blend of perpectives, fiction and non-, it never really lives up to its promise. The fiction is stilted and the essays are semi-interesting but never really penetrate or achieve great insight. The proposals are inane insights from futurists and a few hints that aren't developed fully. I wanted to like it but never felt I got much out of it other than its premise to think outside the box and hoping that others are doing that job better. An interesting idea and a superbly varying blend of perpectives, fiction and non-, it never really lives up to its promise. The fiction is stilted and the essays are semi-interesting but never really penetrate or achieve great insight. The proposals are inane insights from futurists and a few hints that aren't developed fully. I wanted to like it but never felt I got much out of it other than its premise to think outside the box and hoping that others are doing that job better.

  8. 5 out of 5

    August Bourré

    The essays are generally good, although a few of the scholars are not great writers and the copy editing left something to be desired. The fiction, with maybe two exceptions, was mostly quite bad. The AUDINT piece was was the worst. It was legitimately painful to read—trite, unconvincing, and very badly written.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Joe Bambridge

    Some chapters require familiarity with the films/novels being referred to in order to get anything out of them. Davies’ introduction is very useful. Chang, Horn, Brady & Pockson, Hatherley, Johnson offered the most interesting chapters in my opinion.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nachtreich

    In realtà pure una stella, onesto.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Santi

    Very uneven. The fiction chapters do not work well. The best bits are the essays of the first part and the essay on the representation of post-scarcity in video games.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Perdana

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

  14. 4 out of 5

    Steve

  15. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Kuhn

  16. 5 out of 5

    Adam

  17. 4 out of 5

    Alexis

  18. 4 out of 5

    Gooddoggy

  19. 4 out of 5

    Deryn

  20. 5 out of 5

    Heather Bloor

  21. 5 out of 5

    Katelyn

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lawrence

  23. 5 out of 5

    dirty sacred

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Wenig

  25. 4 out of 5

    Georgina Voss

  26. 5 out of 5

    rera

  27. 4 out of 5

    Faustas

  28. 5 out of 5

    Raphael

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mark

  30. 4 out of 5

    Michael

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