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A Southern Perspective on Development Studies

Carlos Mallorquin

Chapter 6. All that is Solid does not necessarily Melt into Air

Texte intégral


  • 1 Danby, C. (2017) The Known Economy: Romantics, Rationalists, and the Making of a World Scale. Routl (...)
  • 2 Anglo-Saxon and/or Eurocentric discourses.

1Scholars looking for a new vision to rethink economics and its evolutionary story may find no better service than Colin Danby’s text The Known Economy: Romantics, Rationalists, and the Making of a World Scale.1 It personifies perhaps one of those rare, unique unprovincial theoretical moments, which disrupts “Western-centrism”2 social science by acknowledging and describing the appearance of “alternative” discourses beyond its traditional language and geography. The angle from which I will undertake the assessment of Danby’s critique of economics reports a theoretical lineage back to Latin America in the 1940s, which is generally designated in English or French academia as “Latin American Structuralism.” The quotations are important given the internal theoretical variations.

2My critique of Danby’s account on the discourse of “modernization” while acknowledging his dazzling seductive and un-submissive tone when demonstrating the unsustainable conceptual conditions of its existence and the images generated thereof by the discursive formation in question (which is beyond reproach) wants to convey that the author’s strategy of exposition may actually hinder, unwittingly, alternative modes of presentation, and thereby constrain radicalizing political strategies to transform the “cruelly unequal” (Danby 2017: 162) world we live in. However, although I imagine sharing significant aspects of the author’s critique of the “European self-imagination” (Danby 2017: 98), my analysis aims to supersede certain of Danby’s positions in various aspects of his story.

  • 3 For an “outline,” see first three chapters.
  • 4 See also Connell (2007) and Lander (2000). Collaterally, the critique includes considering how cert (...)

3The critique of economics that emerged in Latin America in the second half of 1940s relates to a period that runs correlatively to Danby’s own object of analysis in certain sections of his text. The discourse in question challenged Western-centric discourses as inadequate and impertinent to comprehend the “Periphery” as an economic formation (on the term see ahead), and therefore requiring the displacement and reconstruction of the Western-centric economics vocabulary, a process which ultimately culminated in questioning its validity within those very “spaces” (the “Center”)3 from which the discourse surfaced. In other words, Latin American Structuralism was simultaneously rebuffing the indefensible vehement ethnocentricity of the Western-centric economic discourse in question,4 and also its problematical theoretical characteristics for examining the “developed” economic formations (the Center).

  • 5 “Modernity is not just the doctrine that human societies tend to move from a solidaristic, locally (...)

4Therefore, Danby’s “post-colonial” economics experience is an important substratum of his narrative and criticism, but what is certainly singularly distinct is the author’s description of a unique chapter in the history of “economics” highlighting the rationalist/romanticist divide, a “combination of repulsion and attraction,” a “bad- tempered collaboration” (Danby 2017: 9)5 through which the discourse of modernization gets its life and force. Limitations of space will not permit the detailed descriptions whereby the rationalist/romanticist dichotomy allows a stylistic mode of analysis of a great range of authors and periods. The “productive nature of the rationalist/ romantic split” (Danby 2017: 94) can be stabilized by thinking the dichotomy through Max Weber’s category of the “ideal type” with which to understand the counterposed camps and on the other, the modernization discourse as a sort of an “iron cage” (Weber), which should certainly be questioned as an unescapably encompassing force. I share Danby’s profound disbelief of the “fantastic” qualities of Western-centrism’s “European self-imagination,” a fairytale more akin to the likes of Borges or Lewis Carrol.

5What follows this “Introduction” is a section (“Where Does Modernism Come From?”), describing the rise of those conceptual entities constructed by the “rationalist/romanticist” dichotomy of “modernism” in economics and the source of the “household/business” split which explains the income-productive carrousel: the theoretical accounting definitions as the mother of all debates during the 1940s. This is continued by “The diffusion of the ‘European self-imagination’: Western-centric Discourse and the Rise of Development Economics,” which expounds the economics taught in the Western world and the initial efforts to transfer it to the Periphery of the world economy having previously underlined Danby’s own sui generis presentation of the vision “auto-imagination” in question the IS-LM model. The partition (“‘The White Man’s Burden’ Curse”), examines in detail the theoretical and practical consequences and difficulties encountered by succession of economists trained within the “statistical” and “Keynesian” revolution, but whose categories became an obstacle to understand the African plains under its gaze, a horizon dominated by peculiar social relations. The last section (“Mobile Army of Metaphors: Post-Keynesianism and Latin American Structuralism”), is an effort to engage with and transform-radicalize Danby’s own account of “Post-Keynesian” economics by means of Latin American Structuralism’s insistence on converting the study of “power asymmetries” as the object of economics.

6Notwithstanding the above, Danby insisted that the “modernist ideology” “is a poor way of sorting out the complex social world” (Danby 2017: 162), and, in fact, “hides” “much of the world from view” (Danby 2017: 162) (with which I have no “beef”). However, Latin American Structuralism, focuses on the existent power asymmetries as its economic object of economics. In other words, in contrast to Danby it does imply proposing a “political alternative” (Danby 2017: 162) which Danby seems to explicitly eschew, which to some perhaps is not unescapably negative.

  • 6 “Ethical doctrines are vulnerable to ethical critiques. Might it be wiser to avoid the danger of et (...)

7As I hope to show further ahead, to transmute what apparently implies a counterposed theoretical difference, a general notion of power asymmetries of social relations is necessary, compelling a decision on alternative political strategies, in other words ethical foundations are important.6

  • 7 Hence, in my interpretation, the Archeology of Knowledge (Foucault 1972) seems the more profound of (...)

8From a Foucauldian perspective, there seems to be no univocal rule by which categories in certain discursive formations evolved or reconstructed, not univocally “episteme”7 constraining the enunciative modality strategy, in other words, the enunciative modalities and the agents/subjects in question, are in a sense “polymorphous.” Danby recognizes the proliferation of discourses in the modernist conundrum narrative, through the presence of an “obligatory,” “power-knowledge complex” (Danby 2017: 8). Hence, discourses do not possess any necessary unity and/or consistency, a thesis inclusive even when “mainstream” economics is cited. However, the dichotomous and strategically “ideal types” counterparts (“rationalists” and “neo-romantics”) as distinct fields of research in academia storytelling jettison any sort of potential theoretical bridge or trans-disciplinarity, where economics and psychology dominate the former camp and “interpretative social sciences,” the latter. Both mainstream and “heterodox” (Danby 2017: 10) economics suffer from a cultural specificity blind spot syndrome. Therefore, an inescapable ethical obligation seems in order: an engagement and theoretical “disagreement” with “modernist” discourse in a quest for a “non-modernist” and “trans-disciplinary Economics.”

  • 8 According to Berman: “The innate dynamism of the modern economy, and of the culture that grows from (...)

9We intend to question specific conceptual assumptions implicit or explicitly in the “modernization” narrative by radicalizing Danby’s critique put forward in Marx’s classic phrase in the Communist Manifesto of 1848: “All that is solid melts into air”,8 which is simply the zenith of a hegemonic theoretical trend or style of the period (Berman 1988, Said 1978).

10Through the “rationalist/romanticist” protracted counterparts or war of interpretations since the 19th century, Danby explains the proliferation of the “modernization” discourse.

11Here the idea is to assess the possibility of alternative discourses whose logic of evolution may disrupt the dichotomy between rationalist/romanticist divide making the “modernization” narrative superfluous.

  • 9 There is no space here to delve on the category of “ideology” but for what follows, I assume discou (...)

12Danby retraces and appraises, within the field of “economics,” the fantastic! (my term) modernization narrative, simultaneously termed “the modernist template” (Danby 2017: 162), “European self-imagination” (Danby 2017: 98), and “modernist ideology” (Danby 2017: 63).9 The account can be said to have done one better on today’s classic text: Marshall Berman’s All That Is Solid Melts Into Air (1988), which by no means is a small feat. Amongst other objectives of the textbook, one of Danby’s central strategies examines how Post-World War II mainstream “economics” constructed its “object of knowledge” (Danby 2017: 29), by instantaneously running theoretical rings around the dominant vocabulary by showing its elusive and unstable conceptual basis:

What Marshall, Kuznets, Rao, and Gilbert share is the story that the ‘economy’ as an object of knowledge emerges via a modernist split of home from business, a split which in turn lets us divide the world into fully modern (where the split has happened) and non-modern (where it has not happened) (…) It’s a folk theory about mentalities. It’s an assertion that there has occurred a profound shift in how some people think and act, and how they understand themselves, their surroundings (…) It’s the people who have made this shift who are the subjects of economic science. (Danby 2017: 29)

  • 10 Morgan and Bach (2018), Moshe (2018).

13Equally, it is an account that unravels the theoretical conditions of existence of the “love” and “money” divide, the “domesticity” and “work” couple or the “household/business” split implicitly, if not explicitly, linked to the so-called “statistical revolution.”10

14Contrary to what may be believed, L. Robbins’s move towards expelling the “ethical” (Danby 2017: 28) from economics, the theoretical sentimentalizing of households essentially abounds in the literature. Danby’s discussion about the concept of what constitutes “domesticity” unravels its hegemony and proliferation as an “ideological category” (Danby 2017: 28). The problematization of its theoretical consistency, “the folk theory” (Danby 2017: 29) described by Collier and Yanagisako, is actually the flip side of the “modernity” narrative critiqued by Danby:

I question the emergence of economy and find that it has a required opposite in households. The two halves are distinguished not by the kind of work done, but by what is imagined to be in the minds of people doing work. The ‘folk theory’ that Collier and Yanagisako describe corresponds fairly closely to what I am calling (…) modernist ideology. (Danby 2017: 29)

Where Does Modernism Come From?

15Danby’s distaste of the “modernist” narrative is unhesitant:

My beef with modernity is that it reduces this shaggy social world to individuals and nations. Modernists are fascinated with the individual’s psychology, mentality, rationality. And culture. When they recognize larger institutions like firms and households, modernists prefer to theorize them as though they were individuals. Modernists rely on the nation to explain how individuals came to be the way they are. The nation embodies the individual’s ‘culture’. It guarantees and provides the rights that the individual needs to act freely. Its government is called on to provide whatever individuals cannot manage. (…) that humanity exists in discrete societies, (…) by a simple typology: ‘traditional’ societies are face-to-face, solidaristic, and have little functional differentiation; fully ‘modern’ societies are impersonal, bureaucratic, exhibit a sharp functional differentiation, and contain only little islands of face-to-face, personal ties in the form of the nuclear families. (…) all societies start as ‘traditional’ and then move at different speeds towards full modernity, driven either by internal dynamics or competition with other societies. They assume that more ‘modern’ people or societies enjoy some advantage over their ‘traditional’ counterparts, an advantage that more or less explains history. The theory of space and time functions for adherents as a social ontology, which is to say something you assume before you begin to study society. (Danby 2017: 8)

16Hence, ‘modernity’ encompasses “two sub-discourses” (Danby 2017: 9), namely the rationalist and the romantic ones, and their differentiation, “boils down to whether the modernist narrative is told as triumph or tragedy”:

Rationalists are unimpressed with traditional knowledge and are anxious to escape obligations to kin and clan. In their view, full modernity frees us to pursue our disparate ambitions. Modernization theory is a good example. By contrast, romantics are deeply impressed with the psychological integration and deep understanding they attribute to ‘tradition’. In the romantic view, traditional society was solidaristic and attuned to nature. Goods and services bore meanings that expressed the culture everyone shared. (…) intermediate family and church (…) [are] (…) mainly mechanisms by which individuals are taught the single shared culture. (Danby 2017: 9)

17The second difference within the “two sub-discourses” relates to whether you mourn the dying of traditional society or not, reconstructing the demise of cultural “homogeneity” and its “alienating” effects.

18As we can see further ahead, the economy/household distinction is theoretically articulated to the romantic/rationalist dichotomy, although Danby’s questions equally relate to the process by which certain hegemonic discourses were constructed, culminating in a “powerful global apparatus” (Danby 2017: 15). Its dominant status required examining how “nations” were to be defined in accounting terms, through which theoretical experiments could then be enacted, for example in “Palestine and British colonies in Africa where the ‘nation’ of national income accounting did not yet exist” (Danby 2017: 15).

19Genealogically the idea of romanticism is traced to back to Herder in Danby’s narrative. The romanticist discourse explanation seemingly appears to be opposing the role and function of GDP data construction as the fountain head to represent the well-being or lack thereof by citizens. Given that national accounts do not represent certain types of “well-being” and were not elaborated to represent them, this aspect is exemplified by the exclusion of the female “unpaid” labor role in the household. The household/economy distinction was constructed by establishing distinct roles for the gender born “body.”

20For Danby the rationalist/romanticist modernist divide plays a decisive role in the intellectual history of the last two and a half centuries, although I must retort, within the “Western-centric” intellectual gaze. The rationalists/ romantics disputes, or “war of interpretations,” on notions of markets, trade, consumption, and commodification made “plausible,” simultaneously, the “economic ideas” in “the modernist theory of history” (Danby 2017: 9).

21The consequence of the “experience of modernity” that Danby described:

confined to a quintessentially modernist debate, holding the national unit sacred, [was] committed to the idea that the world is divided into discrete social units that are closer to or farther from full modernity, and confirming itself to a stereotyped back-and-forth between (rationalist) modernizationists and (romantic) traditionalists. The back-and-forth works for everyone: rationalists economists get to create new measures; romantic traditionalists get to keep their permanent grievance against economists; politicians get to empathize with suffering citizens. These performances license both earnestness and cynicism about statistical representation. (Danby 2017: 7)

22The rationalist/romanticist divide established the symbolical or theoretical conditions of existence for a series of practices in the contested realm of measuring and comparing the promotion of certain policies. The romantic thinkers would praise those critiques that relativize the importance of the category of “price” as a medium to evaluate “quality of life” within those partaking similar geography, language or “nation.” The realm of commercial transactions of all species cannot be the basis of a consistent privileged unit of “value” to gauge “objects” or the cultural hierarchy; however, romantics deny and conflate (consciously), distinct notions of “value” when using the category, which results in non-ending debates as to which values “should” be primal, as well as the incumbent “costs” of reaching them.

23The “national unit” is the sacred entity: a world divided by a diverse set of these groupings exhibit their distance from or “vicinity” to the modernist conundrum in two “spaces”: on the one hand, an internal configuration within and between their own “subjects,” and on the other, that which relates to other (dis) similar totalities.

24The author insists that the produce, distribution, and services reflect activities in “varied institutional contexts” (Danby 2017: 8), which can include households, “kingship networks,” small firms, large firms, governments. In turn, these imply “markets” with distinct characteristics, such as competitive, oligopolistic, monopolist, regulated, unregulated, “financial systems” and “legal systems” (Danby 2017: 8), which hinder or empower “different kinds of production,” distribution, and consumption.

25“Different kinds of institutions interpenetrate. (…) Institutions that undergird economic activity typically exclude some people in order to include others” (Danby 2017: 8) Hence, the “material world” is “messier and more variegated” (Danby 2017: 8), a phenomenon that Latin American Structuralism reconstructed with a more general category called “heterogeneity.”

26According to Danby the “national economy” and the “world economy” distinction implies an economic/non-economic differentiation as well as the bonding of economic parts into a representable national ensemble, which in turn refers to a superior totality: a “world economy” in which the national compartments are to be found. Equally, the distinction between economy and household is theoretically articulated to the dichotomy between romantic and rationalist. The analysis of the hegemonic discourses that culminated in a “powerful global apparatus” (Danby 2017: 15), entailed examining how “nations” were to be defined in accounting terms.

  • 11 See also Tribe (2008).

27Chronologically, the inception of the narrative regarding the divide between household and business advances the seemingly deceptive traditional figure of A. Smith in political economy. I said “deceptive” because Danby’s reading contradicts most of the deliberations espoused by “neoliberalism” as its intellectual hero.11

28In contrast to Smith, J. S. Mill “fences” off a specific area for “business,” deconstructing Smith’s “holistic” idea of a unified field of action for the agents in question. Political economy is reconstructed on a “narrower” and “easy” ground:

a sentimental division between a loving and self-sacrificing household sphere, and a competitive and rational business sphere. For 20th Century modernists, this division became not just a background assumption, but an imperative: once you accepted household/business as an essential divide, as a condition of civilization, then you had to take care lest either compartment contaminate the other. (…) Exclusion of housework from contemporary measures of national output is often regarded as a scandal. (Danby 2017: 17, my emphasis)

29Danby argues that the “exclusion of love is the constitutive taboo upon which a visible ‘economy’ has been brought into being” (Danby 2017: 17). The taboo in its Levy-Strauss’s or Freudian genealogy, necessarily implies a ratification of a universal principle reinforced or materialized by means of distinct and particular cultural-historical configuration.

30Although for A. Smith it was senseless to assume an autonomous, separate, “market psychology” to understand agents’ behavior, Mill’s critique in the context of the recent emergence of “modern political economy” (Danby 2017: 18), is met in turn with an audacious repellent diatribe by the “romantic” prose, and although too “disparate” to be “easily summarized” (Danby 2017: 18), rejects notions of “self-interest,” which is perceived as cultures’ foe or the collective will of the nation.

31Mill’s countered with the traditional move: first, he mocked Coleridge and company’s incomprehension of Political Economy’s object, giving way to theorize the object despite its aberrant quality: “With respect to those parts of human conduct of which wealth is not even the principal object, to these Political Economy does not pretend that its conclusions are applicable” (Danby 2017: 19).

32Mill inaugurated the modernist discourse: “a society divided into separate compartments with distinct rationalities and distinct sciences” (Danby 2017: 20). Danby then assisted the story with the participation of Marshall as his most important “successor” (Danby 2017: 20). Marshall historicized the rise of the differentiation of the economy from distinct aspects of the social. The “primitive” and “modern” divide presupposes a teleological movement by which an “emancipation from custom” materializes in the quintessential mentality of modern “industrial life”: family life becomes more “intense” and therefore the traditional “neighbors/family” congeries are relocated, in which “neighbors” and “strangers” now conform the “distant” positioning with respect to the secluded family. Modern configuration of society exhibits a double “virtuosity”; “thoughtful planning in businesses” and “loving self-sacrifice in families”:

Marshall presented a more sophisticated and confident response to the romantics. Instead of conceding loyalty and love, Marshall argued that the romantics were wrong about both the household and the business spheres. And rather than conceding that the business sphere was governed by the selfish desire for wealth, Marshall contended that the core principle of business was thoughtful and deliberate rationality. (Danby 2017: 22)

33A social ontology guided by “separate” and diverse motivations presupposes the demise of traditional society, but Marshall vetoed as impertinent “romantics’ ethical valuation” as exclusive to the household. The economic ensemble is the consequence of “motivated” acts, “feelings and sentiments,” but whose distinct rationality were to be specialized: “love” was to rule in the household and business “deliberateness” within the firm. Hence, Marshall’s opposition to women’s remuneration exhibited a clear militant modernist project in which gender politics implied the salvaging of the “family” by disallowing women’s incorporation into the educational structure precisely because they were as “capable” as their “male” counterparts of the household.

  • 12 Mitchell’s and Kuznets’s “perspective” was sidelined by the new Keynesianism, to say the least. Roc (...)

34The advent of debates to “measure national income,” which were initially a scholarly individual effort, gets supplanted by a clear state-run strategy by the 1930s. Early in the 20th century, an evenly divided field among scholars was perceived arguing in favor or against “inclusion” of “housework in national income” (Danby 2017: 22); “unpaid domestic work” estimates in some countries may well show a 20 to 25 percent augment in “total national output”; “disagreements” did not arise just from the apparent technical inconvenience of its monetary representation.12 Danby highlighted the theoretical episode among its participants, aiming to offer an explanation through which to comprehend why quite important scholars, like Kuznets, for example, repudiated the existence of a highly antagonistic theoretical field with regard to whether “cleaning, child bearing, child minding and the like” (Danby 2017: 23) should be considered as “economic activity.”

35Danby contended that these postures represent an “ideological, boundary-policing” mechanism:

  • 13 Notwithstanding the consistent substantive narrative of the taboo in question, a construction of “w (...)

These economists were operating from the same ethical and social template as Marshall, in which the exclusion of the loving household made economy possible and conceptualizable. In different language, the taboo on housework was a productive taboo, because it licensed a particular vision of economy: large-scale, rational, and impersonal. Hence any suggestion of including housework in the measured economy had to be ruled out” (Danby 2017: 23).13

  • 14 But anticipating my doubts, not all agents are individuals or “people,” and furthermore, those very (...)

36The economy is made up of agents whose aim is to make “a living” vis-à-vis those destined to make “profits,” respectively “households” and businesses, and, therefore, it is “motivated by forces of quite different nature” and it has an “approach to income as an appraisal concept” (Danby 2017: 23, my emphasis). In other words, national accounting categories can be viewed as a representation of “appraisals” and “motives.”14 We must not forget the contested instability of the theoretical space of the measurable power complex space by those elaborating the national income categories.

37Economists Kuznets and Mitchell, considered “institutionalists” in their days, were central in the statistical construction of the national income accounts and, therefore, can be easily conjoined to the German “historical school” and “romantic nationalism,” and thus be made unwittingly into the heirs of Herder’s relativism. In the U.S., they commanded the central data gathering machine without parallel, displaced-defeated (take your pick) by Keynes’s hegemonizing alternative project, which jettisoned those potentially specific “historical” aspects to construct data in terms of income, placing his proposals in a better standing to “generalize” data gathering across the world. Those “relativist” assumptions of the institutionalist school which aimed to highlight specific historical processes appeared as a deficit in the struggle for a general perspective on data gathering.

  • 15 However, as we will see ahead, the same could be said of the alternative Keynesian victorious disco (...)

38Hence, Kuznets’s distinction between “business” and “household” in “highly developed” economies intended to “draw a line between economic activity and economic goods” and “active life,” a distinction which would “not be easy to formulate” for both “primitive tribes” and “nations of North America and Western Europe” (Danby 2017: 24).15

39For Kuznets, the “fundamental institutional fact” (Danby 2017: 25), and social diversity is presented as the question that “underlays” (Danby 2017: 25) the categories through which to measure the economies and endorse the “exclusion of housewives’ services” because these activities are “motivated largely by non-economic considerations and form much more a part of life in general than of professional economic life proper” (Kuznets in Danby 2017: 25).

40In Danby’s reckoning, Kuznets’s “economy” was an entity “outside” households, whose role was the provision of a “flow of good and useful things” (Danby 2017: 25). These objects of desire became the potential entities to be measured. The stream of flowing objects “desired” by households simultaneously explains Kuznets’s understanding on the basis on which to exclude “criminal enterprises” as conforming an aspect of “national income” output: “their illegality was a societal judgement of the badness of their output. The excluded household, therefore, stood outside the ‘economy’ in order to provide the ethical standpoint from which to measure it” (Danby 2017: 25).

41The calculating procedure and its ethical categorial underpinnings to measure national income were, according to Danby the source of Kuznets’s “welfare approach.” National income accounts can actually be quite diverse in their modes of “partitioning of a common, underlying” (Danby 2017: 32) entity which is being measured, and the “list of ‘evils’” necessary “to make a living, could be potentially very long” (Danby 2017: 25) to estimate “net services” to the individuals and households. Quoting Beckerman, who worked under M. Gilbert, Danby underlines the practical consequences:

  • 16 See note 21 in Danby (2017: 32).

the whole economy would be included inside the productive sector. Even the household sector would be included, since it would be simply one more industry converting inputs of food, clothing, shelter, and recreation and so on, into another intermediate product, labor, which would be inputs into the other productive sector. (Beckerman in Danby 2017: 32)16

42Therefore, the theoretical existence of the “household” was substantiated by differentiating an inside/outside divide, a specific cultural distinction (love/money) that enabled a measurable flow. Kuznets’s measures of estimates of individuals’ “welfare,” by means of the monetary unit, could be translated as comparing so-called “valuable” objects of production and simultaneously as the preferred elected “valuable” in terms of a pre-established ordinal scale. The “valuable” intervenes as a monetary and/or “ethical” entity. Hence, a “tight focus on benefits to households” (Danby 2017: 26) limits clarity in the estimations, since countless activities may be helpful to increase livelihood (“welfare”).

43However, despite Kuznets’s frustration, the household/business divide remained “foundational.” It persisted under the veil privileged by so-called “economic” qualities, which excluded the “love” side of the equation, a move which was accomplished through the reintroduction of the figure of Marshall via the work of Robbins. Danby’s reservations about Robbins economics as a mechanism to calculate “scarce means to alternative uses,” derives from the absence of an “obvious criterion for excluding household production” (Danby 2017: 26) since “laundering, cooking, cleaning, and child-minding consume scarce time and energy” (Danby 2017: 26).

44When Rao’s work is being discussed, “ideology is powerful” (Danby 2017: 26), housewives’ “services” (“non-economic motives”) should be excluded from the national income ledger and given the characteristics in question could not be conceptualized in terms of choices between “scarce resources” a la Robbins; but significantly Rao did not dismiss the probability of considering those “household” chores in a forthcoming society. In the time being, American economist Milton Gilbert enrolled under Keynes’s model of national income accounting, reinstating worldwide the modernist household/economy divide:

  • 17 “The household emerges as a space of leisure, of non-work. Rao’s and Gilbert’s descriptions of what (...)

The precise difference between economic and non-economic activity is not that one is useful and the other is not, but that the effort spent in non-economic activity is not available for an alternative use in economic sphere. (…) knitting a garment, (…) helping with the children (…) Neither of these activities should be included in the national product. (…) one or the other does not affect the supply of scarce factors of production. (Gilbert and Kravis in Danby 2017: 27)17

45The household/business couple split, “lets us divide the world into fully modern (where the split has happened) and non-modern (where it has not happened)” (Danby 2017: 29), which enables the notion of a “heteronormative theory of gender” (ibid.) without specifying the features of the agents and practices which apparently must be institutionalized. Hence, the household is posited as the unitary agent, necessarily run by individual human beings, but it must be advanced, that kids need not be “raised” necessarily in the traditional “household” unit, it could be an “extended” space where distinct “families,” like the school, leave their offspring to be cared for.

46But most significantly, Danby perseveres with the idea that modernity does not relate necessarily to the presence of “urban” or industrial images. The ideological narrative, its folk theory, is about “mentalities”:

It is an assertion that there has occurred a profound shift in how some people think and act, and in how they understand themselves, their surroundings, and their opportunities. It is the people who have made this shift who are the subjects of economic science. (Danby 2017: 29)

The Diffusion of the “European Self-Imagination”: Western-centric Discourse and the Rise of Development Economics

47The evolution of the history of economics within the Western-centric vision often describes as an interregnum period that which relates to studying “backwards” areas, which became dominant after World War II: it underscores the existence of “economies” whose features seem singularly out of place within economics’ vocabulary. But Danby tends to displace the centrality of the latter narrative by examining theoretical alternatives through the “instituted” “romanticist/rationalist” dichotomy, as the guiding thread to understand the discursive evolution on “economics.” Escorting the reader to the period underscoring the unique manner by which those theoretical obstacles are encountered through the Western-centric imaginary, it is important to mention that Latin American Structuralism engendered its own species of economics during the 1950s. With hindsight, it is easy to display the conceptual transformations which bore fruit the so-called “economics for development” worldwide during the period, as well as its demise with the return of “neoclassical” thought during the 1980s, but generally the rise and revolt of alternative discourses is mostly forgotten including Latin America’s own brand of “Marxism,” a principal theoretical adversary of the region’s “Latin American Structuralism.”

48Before depicting the theoretical transition, the “European self-imagination” needs to be described. Therefore, a “messy social world” (Danby 2017: 50) was reorganized theoretically into “households” and “businesses,” entities which “interacted” with each other through their respective “flows”:

the monetary flows (…) must equal each other over any span of time: all payments to the business sector produce incomes for somebody, which are spent on output (…) it is customary to specify two ways of looking at the same flow of output from businesses to households: as expenditure on output, from the household point of view, and as production of output, from the business point of view. (Danby 2017: 50)

  • 18 Bach (2018).

49Hitherto, national income estimations had been a sporadic and private endeavor. Income, expenditure, and output were targeted individually. The period that Danby described refers to alternative efforts to “measure all three” (Danby 2017: 51) and “check them against each other” (Danby 2017: 51).18 What counted “as national income/output” (Danby 2017: 51) entailed excluding “domestic production,” “goods/services,” childcaring and cooking meals, activities inside the household. Danby underlines the theoretical discussions arising from those perspectives that lost out to Keynes’s disciples, concentrating on “capital goods” and “government.”

  • 19 See also Chapters 5 and 7 in Peden (2000 and 2004).
  • 20 Income (Y); Consumption (C); Investment (I), Government (G); Saving (S); Taxes (T).

50The first formal “appearance” (Danby 2017: 69) of the “framework” Y = C + I + G was in Keynes’s 1940 text How to Pay for War, which had previously undergone a sustained theoretical dispute, to say the least, vis-à-vis the then denominated “Treasury View.”19 The identities Y = C + I + G and Y = C + S + T20 describe the consumption/productive carrousel: the circular nature of the flows from households as payments for business firms’ goods, and businesses generating income through their payments to households.

51The inclusion of the “government purchases” and its potential role in generating inflation were central to Keynes’s whole view of the economy, in which “Keynesian national income accounting shines an especially bright light on what governments do -it brightly illuminates government’s taxing and spending and borrowing” (Danby 2017: 54), a legacy asserted and enforced by the IMF’s discourse. Hence the impulse by “international bureaucrats” to standardize the Keynesian “national income accounting” to scrutinize “national governments.”

52Keynes had “imagined a new thing, a national economy linked by money flows and guided by financial markets” (Danby 2017: 56), which was turned into the IS-LM “workhorse” contraption, losing, perhaps, the most interesting theoretical aspects of what Keynes “really meant” (Danby 2017: 56), although “easily-shared representation” which in turn the Newlyn-Phillips machine sought to upstage (as we will examine ahead).

  • 21 “Gresham’s Law” is represented by Fisher’s (1916, pp. 105, 116, 119, 128) as water-gold-silver rese (...)

53Danby illustrates the IS-LM into an “image”: “the body visible,” through a “hydraulic computer” (Danby 2017: 56). In 1949, William Phillips and Walter Newlyn developed a “physical model” of a “two-equation” model of a national economy, which should serve for teaching purposes, aiming to enlighten the circular nature of income and expenses flows, through a pipe connection with a series of valves which would open or close depending on the water level of the tanks, which in turn would automatically reach some sort of equilibrium level, generating a signal for a control mechanism to action initiating the opening once again of the chambers of the tanks permitting the flow of water.21

54Danby’s description of the Newlyn-Phillips machine explains all but one of the impulsion processes, and just to get an idea of the picture exhibited as the “body” by the water flows lets quote Danby:

The top flow (…) represents the flow of production of a good. The tank represents the total unsold stock of that good in the shops. The lower flow represents consumer purchases of that good. A rise in unsold stocks causes mechanisms to reduce the market price; if stocks fall merchants raise market price. (Danby 2017: 59)

  • 22 Paradoxically, the metaphor itself, of the machine or the body displays a visibility previously ine (...)

55Hence the fantastic “European self-imagination,” and its general approach to measure and compare economies can also be represented by a mechanical contraption. The quote underlines one of the criticisms which can be generalized to all the “mechanical” representations still implicit if not explicit in economics, where an antagonistic contingent event like “price making” is exemplified as a simple “pressure” point between counteracting “physical forces,” or alternatively as analogies/metaphors to a body or a machine22 ignoring the fact that those “machines” require a “first push” so to speak, to initiate the flow to transfer the liquid upwards and in a circular fashion during its downward phase. In other words, it entails a mechanism “outside” of the machine, a “switch,” or someone to initiate its dynamic process.

56According to Danby the “model” is a:

physical analogue of a social institution. It is a model of how a competitive market in a single good might function, with a single market price equilibrating two flows. The idea for a ‘micro’ (just one market) model of this kind was not original to Newlyn and Phillips. Their originality was in recognizing that you could construct a ‘macro’ (national economy) model incorporating multiple adjustment mechanisms of this kind within a larger circular flow (…) Other relations hypothesized in Keynesian theory, such as the idea that consumption spending was a stable function of income, could be turned into physical connections between flows. You could set the machine up to simulate a particular set of theoretical assumptions plus policy variables, turn it on, and let it ‘solve’ the system: when it did this it was essentially computing multiple simultaneous differential equations. (Danby 2017: 59)

  • 23 “The physical model dramatizes the process of finding equilibrium: the plumbing apparatus will not (...)

57Danby’s daring compactness narrative of the working “machine,” as a veritable example for what “Keynesian” (“hydraulic”) economics post-World War II stood for (De Vroey and Hoover 2004), corresponds to the amazing Western-centrism “self-imagination” (Danby 2017: 98). Rather, what should be assessed more critically is the discursive tone of note number 15: since notwithstanding Danby’s affirmation, the so-called “dramatic” “process of finding equilibrium”23 (Danby 2017: 65) might be impertinent if one proceeds from the apparently smooth “mechanical” movements presumed by the “physical model” (Danby 2017: 65), or the machine, but Danby’s “institutional” presumptions have surreptitiously intervened, since we owe to “women/men” those “dramatic” antagonistic actions of “price setting.”

58We will return to certain negative theoretical consequences when the analogy “body/machine” is presented, although in the last instance, Danby actually acknowledges that the ploy in question is more akin to a Borgesian “fantastic” story.

59Keynes’s theoretical adversaries had in the new “Keynesian” categories:

“a machine in which all markets self-equilibrate: the labor market, the market in loanable funds, and all markets in goods and services.” (Danby 2017, pp. 59-60), and therefore, contrary to Keynes, government could not fix the appropriate levels in the “national economy”: “internally self-regulated differently” (Danby 2017: 60).

  • 24 For an alternative and equally wonderful critique see Pilkington (2016) and previous chapter for my (...)
  • 25 It is difficult, after Mirowski’s (1989) book, and certainly not least Naredo’s (1987), to find a b (...)
  • 26 Danby’s “confession,” if I may be permitted the term, speaks not just volumes -again pardon the exp (...)

60But the “Newlyn-Phillips machine was a way of demonstrating those different internal connections and working out how a national economy would behave under Keynesian assumptions” (Danby 2017: 60), or any other for that matter, if delimited with alternative theoretical assumptions (Danby 2017: 65). Notwithstanding Danby’s subtleties, in his majestically didactic exhibition of the Keynesian “workhorse” (IS-LM),24 he echoes a disengagement from the discourse in question. If you “listen” closely to Danby’s analogy to a “machine,” “law governed,” it does not necessarily imply to its author any theoretical recognition of the consistency of the categories and “Keynesian” perspective: if students “learn classical mechanics” (Danby 2017: 61) through their lab bench “experiments” (Danby 2017: 61) they may be able to “see what the equations describe” (Danby 2017: 61), which amounts to saying that familiarity with “Newtonian mechanics” facilitates understanding the “Newlyn-Phillips” machine as a “law governed,” but most significantly, they acquire the skill to comprehend the role of “habits of analogy” (Danby 2017: 61, my emphasis), without which the representation of a “national economy” becomes irresolvable. In other words, Danby’s narrative is surfing from one analogy or metaphor to another: it does not state, nor corroborate the theoretical consistency of the “workhorse,” it is an account, among others,25 devoted to the task of assembling the very “being” of the theoretical object.26

61Anticipating my critique, certain aspects of Danby’s theoretical strategy, involve dodging (I hope unwittingly) the construction of an alternative political-pedagogical strategy, since notions of the body-machine tend to generate anthropomorphisms, which hide those contingent antagonistic moments (“economic processes”), a stance fortunately superseded in other parts of Danby’s book:

Haunting the physics is just a little of the old Newtonian alchemy, because the machine is also readable as a living thing, a struggling organism with its own will. Numerous observers have commented on its body-like qualities. Phillips dyed the water red for visibility, and the machine resembles a stylized model of a body’s circulatory system. More interestingly it did not behave like a simple machine (say, a kitchen appliance) in which changes to controls cause direct changes in the machine’s behavior. Rather, you changed a control and then watched a series of adjustments, over 5 or 10 minutes, as the machine gurgled its way toward a new equilibrium. Such adjustments are called homeostatic in biology: an example is your body’s ability to regulate its internal temperature. The circular flow is a powerful metaphor. It is founded, let us remember, on the sentimental household/business split (…) mapping the interaction between these two spheres and signifying their complementarity. It is elaborated by Keynes to highlight capital investment, government, and the financial sector, producing a circulatory anatomy useful for certain policy questions. But it had an aesthetic extension, producing visual confirmation of the integrity of the nation, its beating heart and coursing arteries and veins. The national economy became a body with organs. (Danby 20018: 61, first and last emphasis are mine)

  • 27 I disagree about the feasibility of a general consistent, non-circular, representation of the being (...)

62The machine is a “physical analogue of the IS-LM model” (Danby 2017: 56), since it can change its movements and/or speed, but Danby’s metaphorical depiction is a simile of his own unbearable role, as a “ventriloquist”: a narrator bringing to life an important theoretical episode in economics and policies. Danby’s “distance” from the problematic discussed opens the ground for an undecidable commitment on his part whether to corroborate, or dispute the narrative, which depicts an astonishing story in which the “social” and the contingent antagonistic moments of any necessary exchange or productive moment have been abolished. And as such, we have come more than “full circle” as Danby would retort. The moment of a decision is left, so to speak to the “reader”: on the one hand, if the decision taken implies changing and repudiating the direction of the narrative (power/knowledge), it is the “romantic” ingredient of the narrative which has gained the discursive upper hand, but on the other, taking passively for granted what comes to pass as the calling of a necessary economic evolution, prefiguring a rational mechanism, then it is the “rationalist” antinomy which has gobbled our “being” bringing politics to an end. The route and mechanisms by which to deconstruct the power asymmetries, whose “logic” generates the plural ensemble of the heterogenous agents,27 can be questioned by an alternative political discourse.

63Keynes displays ambiguous romantic characteristics, but the discursive “instability” in question might actually obey, simultaneously, the cultural elements of the age, and the unfounded notion of the unity of the “modernist” discourse:

the romantic elements are always discursively contained, allowed to run briefly and then reined back. But regardless of his underlying views, it is remarkable how much of the positive romantic doctrine of economy shows up in Keynes’s mid-1930s writings: economy is a matter of communication and shared knowledge; national economy can create national sympathy and solidarity; the nation is the appropriate unit for shared knowledge and common culture; these virtues exist at a wider level than individual freedom and initiative and in certain balances outweigh them. As with the contemporaneous development of a Jewish economy in Palestine (…) romantic ideas breathed life and purpose into mathematical abstractions. In these moments, romanticism was not the antagonist of rationalism, but its complement. (Danby 2017: 62)

  • 28 “In a nutshell, a set of international organizations emerged after WWII that needed standardized na (...)

64The Keynesian national income accounting “conquer[ed] the world,”28 the “choice” meant highlighting the household/business split, a product of “modernist ideology” (Danby 2017: 63), a view of the productive process into “two categories” distinguished by “the state of mind of the people doing that activity” (Danby 2017: 63), monetary spending, households and businessmen/ government, which alternatively can be differentiated by regrouping into one single flow “of disparate ‘real’ goods and services” (Danby 2017: 63) with money as the underlying “unit,” or neglecting the “real” products and services, and “treat money as important in itself, as a financial asset with its own properties” (Danby 2017: 63).

  • 29 Foreigners purchase domestic financial assets, which can be considered as gross foreign savings, bu (...)

65Therefore, in Danby’s description, the economy can be perceived as a “discrete body with linked organs” (Danby 2017: 74), implying a government and organs with certain tasks, a central bank, a business sector, which borrows from financial entities, and “savers,” who buy “domestic financial assets,” in other words, simultaneously, we can assume a closed model, separate “from the rest of world,” and the procedure by which economies are articulated. Those entities enclosed can then be considered without reconsidering or rethinking the “national” institutions. (Danby 2017: 74).29

66Thus, this narrative assumes the existence of flows between different borders, although in certain economic formations, the absence of a formal set of assets framework, is contradicted by IMF’s International Financial Statistics:

two assumptions are not only built into globally-applied national income accounting, but actively advertised and promoted by the published data: that every country is in the same way integral and complete with similar institutions, and that the relations between national economies are relatively thin and inconsequential. (Danby 2017: 74)


“accounts begin by imagining a self-sustaining, self-contained national economy, and add the foreign flows later. The Newlyn-Phillips machine is a wonderful representation of this, built (as a teaching tool) to operate on its own, a visual and mechanical metaphor for the self-containedness, the institutional self-sufficiency, of this national economy (Danby 2017: 74, second emphasis is mine).

68Therefore, national accounting data misses the “dependent” character between and among different economic formations. No “data concept” (Danby 2017: 75) can symbolize this “relation.” Danby questions the appearance of national units as discrete entities, relinquished through the concept of an:

abstract global space of goods and financial flows without power or politics, without alliances, antagonisms, or spheres of influence. And it appears as though it had the same internal institutional structure. (Danby 2017: 75)

69The “accounts hold up a mirror in which” certain countries see “themselves as discrete” (Danby 2017: 75) nations, which internally, via the distribution policies, help reconstruct their “national” coherence and “self-knowledge” and/or “integrity,” aspects which are reflected in the “data” “embra[cing] the interconnection of its fractious parts” (Danby 2017: 75).

70The international economy can be portrayed by several interconnected, self-sufficient “Newlyn-Phillips” machines:

  • 30 See photo in Danby (2017: 76). See chapter on Furtado and his encounter with Mead in 1957.

But to model and international economy, two mirror-image machines were built, linked so that the exports of one were the imports of the other, [with] an interstitial space connecting them, a ‘space of flows.’ That near-empty space through which Meade strides is the space of the international economy, the space the IMF would later invest with its own spirit. (Danby 2017: 75)30

71Therefore, the model facilitates a bilateral or multilateral surveillance, through which monetary or counter-cyclical policies can be scrutinized. But the “linking” together of two machines allows resurrecting a theoretical “lack” mentioned previously, when examining the single case: Who or what initiates the machine so that it pumps the water up and down. This problematical aspect is mentioned in note number 22, on page 81, where the precise characteristic nature of the “creature” (Danby 2017: 81) is problematized, by distinguishing the linkage as being “mechanical” “instead of hydraulic” (Danby 2017: 81).

72Before touching Danby’s “mathematical” exposition of the interlocking “machines,” the story exhibits (surreptitiously) a wonderful double parable of Foucault’s “representation” of “The Meninas” painting: in Danby’s book the photograph (Danby 2017: 76) exhibits the “gaze” of the “students” on the interlocking machines (world economy), followed by an invitation to the reader to “gaze” on those staring at the students in the photograph, who “are being trained to see the world economy” (Danby 2017: 77).

  • 31 The nation equation mi = ρi σ´i xw + ai ; mi and xw are national imports and world exports, respect (...)

73The mathematical model was drawn from Jacques Polak (who became a long-standing IMF employee). It starts from a simple single-country, self-contained “autonomous factors” (Danby 2017: 77) described in three chapters, through which the national income and imports are determined, and then proceeding to a “world” model in “less than a page” (Danby 2017: 77). By plugging together both imports and exports equations of the countries into a “single world equation,”31 it exhibits “imports as a function of exports” (Danby 2017: 77):

Each national economy is treated like any other in its internal structure. Each one interacts not with other particular economies, but with a composite entity called ‘world trade’ (Polak 1954: 16). The ‘autonomous factors’ that affect a country’s income and import behavior are internal to that country; no re-specification of the isolated national model is made once the country is imagined as part of the world. This is a world without international power, and without any institution aside from ‘world trade’ that spans multiple nations – no transmigrants of families resident in multiple countries, no transnational unions or transnational businesses or border-crossing financial systems. (Danby 2017: 77)

  • 32 Danby writes: “close relations between any particular export sector and particular foreign buyers a (...)

74Danby underlines the “illegibility” of power and institutional specificities generated by the Keynesian categories and national income accounting.32

75The “world model” posed by Polak:

simply reduces the national model to a single equation for each country and sums them all up to produce a world equation. This is how the world is made! Each national economy is treated like any other national economy in its internal structure. Each one interacts not with other specific economies, but with a composite entity ‘world trade’ (Polak 1954: 16) (…). There is no category – no conceptual category, no measurable thing – in which the structure of international financial system might appear. In this way, the international market is conceptualized as a space of pure flows, a space without people or institutions, who are all tucked away inside national economies (…) markets, as efficient, anonymous, smoothly adjusting mechanisms to facilitate flow of goods and services and exchanges of assets. (Danby 2017: 77)

76The world’s cartography was defined by a series of “discontinuous empires” in which “power,” or international power, was at plain sight, “post-WWII international organizations, dividing the world’s population into national cells and spotlighting their condition by means of statistics-gathering” (Danby 2017: 78).

77The diffusion of Western-centric governmentality discourse (government and governed) is transmuted into a three-layer governmentality: “households and firms,” “self-governing units” (“people-goods”), and national governments, which are responsible for the latter’s surveillance, which are in turn “gazed” upon by a top layer of “international organizations” (Danby 2017: 78).

78The description above is perhaps one of the best illustrations of the problematical nature of those aspects needing replacement by the evolution of “developmentalism” in economics and hence Prebisch’s insistence on the power asymmetry of the “Center-Periphery” worldwide or within regions.

  • 33 “Discovering Economies in British Africa,” Chapter 5.

79At the pinnacle of Danby’s argument, the narrative suddenly pivots, aiming to exhibit33 the description of the difficulties uncovered in the British colonies, under the “rule” of the newly nascent national accounting categories. In the “Center” countries, even before the dust of the theoretical debates on the accounting categories was dissipated, Keynes was sponsoring their “transference” to colonial territories, with which to generate reliable data despite the presence of peculiar social relations where “production” and “distribution” are apparently associated by “non-market” mechanisms.

80The author’s description of the epoch is admirable. For example, the representation of an “economy in Palestine” in the 1940s (A Jewish Economy in Palestine), had to theoretically supersede social relations absolutely out of “touch” with contrasting and violently contested notions of “sovereignty” with regard as to which “community” (Arabs/Jewish-Zionism) should “govern” the geographic perimeters of the economy in question; these characteristics mystified evermore the “gaze” and discourses from which the construction and estimate of the data and income account were to be undertaken.

81If “national income accounting” refers to some pre-existing geographical perimeter or to the existence of a “nation,” the existence of a heterogenous horizon, both in economic and cultural terms, turns problematic the “translation” of the Western-centric economic categories into a whole set of apparently ontologically incongruent social relations. But it seems that the overlapping of Jewish and non-Jewish economies can be made to evolve simultaneously within the same territory, especially if it is imprinted by the then ruling British Empire until 1948, by means of a League of Nation command through the “Jewish Agency for Palestine”:

its economists separated, the most finely grained possible, the available data on production, consumption, investment, and so forth into Jewish and non-Jewish parts – down to markets in individual vegetables” (…) not merely trying to persuade foreign supporters and the British government of the plausibility of a Jewish economy (and ultimately Jewish state) in Palestine. It was also persuading Jewish settlers in Palestine to act as though they were part of an integrated and distinct ‘economy, ’ (…) The Jewish Agency’s work is a token of a shift in the 1930s in many parts of the world toward the idea that the national economy is a coherent whole whose behavior might be influenced by government policy. (Danby 2017: 34-35)

82The Keynesian crusade is conveyed to represent the “national economy” by which a discourse on a Palestine economy emerges exhibiting those very theoretical categories embedded in the romantic/rationalist genealogical trap. Zionist thought and policy aim initially to recover the loss of a unified entity called “agrarian ethos” as the founding source for its colonization crusade in Palestine:

close interpenetration of romantic and rationalist conceptions of economy, melding a romantic ‘agrarian ethos’ that emphasized the spiritual benefits of farming with a rationalist ‘ethos of rapid development’ which held that Jewish economic activity was distinctly modern, efficient, rational, and dynamic. (Danby 2017: 35)

83Ruppin’s complaints to the effect that for “two thousand years we had had practically no contact with agricultural work,” entails a “way back to it spiritually” (Ruppin in Danby 2017: 36), resembling those theoretical tropes that critiqued “urban life,” the “wholesomeness of rural life” (Danby 2017: 36) “sweat” “soil and spirit,” while instantaneously, dodging the necessary self-closeness of the romantic discourse by examining “investment,” “growth” and “efficiency”:

repeatedly contrasted the rationality and dynamism of the Jewish farming with the capital-poor traditional farming of the Arab fellahin. The combination of romantic and rationalist modernization is one of the most noticeable features of this literature. (Danby 2017: 36)

84It is through the figure of Horowitz, director in 1935 of the economic department of the Jewish Agency, that we encounter the scorn directed to the above assumptions of the “agrarian ethos” (Danby 2017: 37), and yet embellishing, in a “precociously Keynesian” way, the “potential dynamism of a multi-sector Jewish economy” (Danby 2017: 37).

85Horowitz’s notion of an integrated Jewish economy within the Palestinian’ territory implied a dynamic multi-sector, with goods and labor shifting between the distinct “economies” in question. But given “that markets were unreliable engines of national integration,” Horowitz and Hinden drew on alternative vocabularies to make the idea of a “distinct and unified Jewish economy plausible” (Danby 2017: 38), among them, imagining non-Jewish Palestinians as “feudal,” “precapitalist,” or alternatively pointing to the “European” heritage of the Jewish settlers, “bearers of Western civilization” (Danby 2017: 39), and not inconsistently exhibiting a disastrous ambiguity when “comparing” Jews and non-Jews, or refusing the operation in question. Therefore, difference “inheres in their bodies” with respect to “Western civilization” (Danby 2017: 40).

86According to Danby Gaathon’s analytical role in developing a “double-entry” model producing a “detailed input-output matrix for a two-community economy (Arab and Jewish)” (Danby 2017: 41), reveals links to the “structuralist” position and to Dudley Seers.

87Unfortunately, the narrative in process by Danby is recovered only within the contours of the Notes section of the book, unwittingly, and unfortunately, disguising the theoretical evolution of the idea that national economic accounting and “development” economics became the “flip” side of each other: in two distinct senses a) the examination of the power asymmetries among and between agents (individuals, firms, corporations, “nations,” and hence “Center-Periphery” antagonisms -Prebisch), and b), the obligation and hence the risk to undertake a theoretical transformation by displacing Keynesian and macroeconomic discourse (“European self-imagination”).

  • 34 Indeed, geographical provenance and language are not necessarily a limitation to ethical and theore (...)
  • 35 Seers would use the term “special case.”

88In other words, during the 1950s, the narrative on “developmentalism” with its two lanes cleft imagination (a) and (b) above, denied the pertinence of the Western-centric economic categories, granting certain features of those economies “in development” (Periphery) as “sui generis,” and simultaneously, maintaining a partisan approach which anticipated teleologically the coming into being of a “development” process. In Latin America, the dominance and “authority” of Western-centric discourses were circumvented by the unconventional move of transforming Western-centric categories for all “economies,” through which an alternative “other” can be constructed via the transformation of the power asymmetries (R. Prebisch, C. Furtado, D. Seers34, for example). Accordingly, it is during this period when a distinctive theoretical line was drawn between an “economics”35 for “integrated” industrial economies (Center) and those areas which apparently required alternative categories (Center-Periphery), an absence which was to be “patched up” and reconstructed by a sort of “second best” theoretical formulations (Guillen 2018, Alacevich and Boianosvky 2018). Currently, economics has blurred the legacy of the period’s war of interpretations and hence P. Mirowski’s admirable struggle to reconstruct the “history of economic” thought.

89The theoretical limitations of the hegemonic economic discourses, the war of interpretations in course during the following years of the 1940s and 1950s, took on a singular stratagem early in the 1980s with the so-called “fall” of development economics: overnight, all the attributes of the social relations of production and distribution ensemble of the “industrial” nations had magically resurfaced all over the world.

  • 36 Said (1978).
  • 37 “Nonetheless, the views he [Crossman] ascribes to Horowitz are consistent with Hashomer Hatzair’s i (...)
  • 38 “Rather than being a group of experts, the Anglo-American Committee was a sort of jury, made up of (...)

90In the 1940s, South African economist Herbert Frankel, also pre-eminent in pioneering experiments on national income accounting straightforwardly negated the Keynesian categories as pertinent to the African continent, “too culturally different from Europeans to make the accounts meaningful” (Danby 2017: 42). Equally, the “economic theory” and Palestine encounter that Danby described also considers, simultaneously, the romantic undercurrents engendering the discourse. In other words, the “racism” of the “white man’s burden” curse36 (see further ahead). Significantly, Danby’s description of the “caged” discourses amplifies significantly the “East and West” ongoing pigeonholing, and effectively naming “names” for the period of economic theory discussed, topped with experts’ portrayal of the Palestinian economy. In this case, Horowitz’s “unconscious” Anti-Semitism (Danby 2017: 47),37 as well as the absentee voices of “non-Jewish Palestinians” (Danby 2017: 45) in the narrative “speaks” volumes (pun intended!): the Anglo-American Committee’s38 “documents” and testimonies, are presented as necessarily superior to the “weak” and “ill-prepared” Arab Case:

“Over the course of the mid-20th Century, economic rationality became the dominant way of differentiating the deserving from the undeserving, the haves from the have-nots. Poverty became evidence of some more fundamental lack, a lack to be addressed with discipline and dispossession (Ravela, 2013)”. (Danby 2017: 45)

91Having acknowledged Keynes as the intellectual hero of the “national income categories” design, economic theorizing made no sense without data to face and guide the “body of the nation,” but mainly the economy had to be assimilated to a “machine”; but paradoxically, Danby’s discursive tone, during the wonderful description of the Keynesian “work-horse” contraption (IS-LM) seen above, although an excellent academic “didactic” strategy, may actually wither away, in gargantuan fashion, those very conditions and social forces which could make the economic ensemble more understandable, silenced by mainstream economics: power asymmetries.

92The extraction of “exact” knowledge and enhancing power within those territories governed by the British Empire entails the sine qua non idea of “surveillance” or “rational administration,” shouldered on Kipling’s “white man’s burden” curse.

93This sort of “bilateral surveillance” will be generalized into a “multilateral surveillance” with the “global” diffusion of the national accounts categories whereby a “technocrat” could simultaneously “gaze” various countries and “national policies” (Danby 2017: 50).

‘The White Man’s Burden’ Curse39

  • 39 Kipling’s expression represents a truly power discursive regime par excellence a la Foucault.

94Summoned by “technical” accounting conundrums, theoretical disputes were obligatory to describe and generate alternative vocabularies to explain the specificities of those peripheral “nations.” Danby’s bewildering moves to send the crucial conceptual specificities and “war of interpretations” to the “Notes” section (Danby 2017: 99-102), should incense many readers. Western-centric discourses’ differentiation between love and money had to be submitted to the test in Africa’s “stormy” social relations while instantaneously courting with the statistic indicators by modernizing the contours. Alternative strategic discursive possibilities can be observed if Frankel’s and Seers’s legacy is observed, despite their displacement: “Frankel’s romantic view that Africans had a fundamentally different notion of economy from Europeans” (Danby 2017: 83), drove him out of economics, and “Seers’s preference for country-specific analyses sensitive to linkages to the outside world fell on deaf ears” because they denied an “easily replicable statistical practice” (Danby 2017: 83).

95The African overview displays the national income accounts “estimations” through a series of authors. Africa’s “explorations” by the Western-centric auto-imagination intended to comply with the trinity knowledge-surveillance-surveying a “promise” requiring construction. Scarcely “anthropologists” prevailed when Keynes’s earnest researchers arrived at the African plains.

96The process in no way means “exactness”: “crude” estimates can be produced and checked with each other if we have a slice of the picture, by finding out via the residual, the absent element. If A + B = C, then, ignorance of B, is established by simply pirouetting one of the elements across the equal sign B = C - A.

97The war on statistical dearth was a struggle assumed by all parties involved in the “metropole,” hence “national income accountants became expert scavengers” (Danby 2017: 84), Danby quotes an early appreciation of African accounts:

A national accounts calculation cannot be started in a vacuum, although many statisticians must have felt that this was what they were doing! But once a minimum amount of information is available, more will probably be gained by fitting it together crudely to provide some over-all picture of the economy than by improvements in the coverage of any particular sector. (Lury in Danby 2017: 84)

98Early incursions in the field of income estimations by skilled technicians are exhibited as heroic figures (Doblin in Danby 2017: 85). Retrospectively, aspects of the war of interpretations of “collecting data” gets confused:

An example is unpaid household labor. Given an adequate system of household surveys, estimating unpaid household labor is easy – or at least, no harder than estimating many things currently included in standard measures of national output. But because it is excluded, uniform standards are lacking, and there is little official support for household surveys. After seven decades it becomes easy to attribute the exclusion to the poor quality of available data, but the causality is the other way around. (Danby 2017: 85)

  • 40 It is ironic that models of truth a la Davidson, in which the “translation” of stories between dive (...)

99Africa’s savannahs were open for the taking by “junior economists, some barely out of their twenties” (Danby 2017: 86). However vigilant the “curator” of its “representations,” it is their will to power that hegemonizes conversation given the power asymmetries.40

  • 41 Deane (1989, 1965).
  • 42 For example, Seers and Dudley (1962, 1963).

100In retrospect, those names that Danby mentioned, by their “pioneering” efforts to build Africa’s colonial accounts, Phyllis Deane41 and especially Dudley Seers (who worked at ECLAC in Santiago de Chile) were noteworthy in the following years, especially if gazed from a Latin American perspective, but for distinct reasons: Deane’s historical account of the process of the “industrial revolution” and the description of the evolution of economic ideas, unwittingly became a powerful theoretical ally to Latin American Structuralist’s development ideas, while Seers may have undergone a “soul-searching” process, “renewing” himself into quite a different theoretical kettle of fish, among the Western-centric economic community, by his parallel “pioneering” work within “Latin American Structuralism,”42 despite allegedly “recanting,” according to Toye (2017: 283).

101Deane’s appointment in 1941 for the task in Africa is considered a profound act of lucidity, like Meade’s and Stone’s appointment in the second part of the 1940s. Robinson’s words to that effect are: “At that time there were hardly any statistics for a colonial territory (…) We were lucky enough to recruit Phyllis Deane to do the work” (Robinson in Danby 2017: 86).

102Deane’s own story corroborates the account (no pun intended!):

I was invited to go down to join the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (…) asked to do a project inspired by Keynes and by Richard Stone and James Meade, who had just set up a system of social accounts for the UK national income accounting. And what they wanted to do was to apply it – what Keynes wanted to happen – was to apply this particular system to a completely different economy than the UK and they thought they would apply it to colonial territories (…) to work out a national income for Northern Rhodesia and Jamaica. (Danby 2017: 86)

103Deane’s arrival to a hitherto “distant economy” and the theoretical controversies in process show an uncanny similar historical parallel with the rise of Latin American Structuralism. In contrast to Deane’s previous efforts in Jamaica, the generation of national accounts required an active presence in the territory to understand “the soil and economic structure of Central African peoples” (Danby 2017: 87). Such aspects pertain to production and exchanges unsoiled by “monetized” categories which obstructed accessibility to “measurement.”

104Given the power asymmetries, the perspective charted the vocabulary heard in the Palestinian studies in a consistent manner. “African studies” start with the “racial division”:

Data for income, output, and expenditure were split between European, Asiatic (traders of South Asian descent), and African sectors. Deane made no division of that kind for Jamaica. This reflected British colonial policy that aimed to keep, or make, Africans rural and tribal (Mamdani in Danby 2017: 87)

105Deane was encircled by a young group of “British social anthropologists” in Northern Rhodesia whose “knowledge” was a prerequisite to “administer her surveys” (Danby 2017: 87). Her monograph in 1953 Colonial Social Accounting can be read as a description, a “record” (Danby 2017: 87) of the dialog between the economists and anthropologists. The elaborate and extensive “survey methodology” of rural Central Africa, exhibits Deane’s theoretical nightmare in the “estimate” process of agricultural output:

when the range of crops planted was large and harvests were continuous. She also acknowledged the difficulties of valuation, in cases in which there was only a very limited local market that could be consulted for the prices by which quantities of production could be turned into money-measured output. But she regarded these as data-gathering challenges rather than conceptual conundrums. Much more troubling to Deane were the problems of drawing the production boundary between economy and household and sorting out households from each other. Households were fluid: ‘the sleeping household, the eating household, the income household, the producing household, and the spending household all represented different combinations and permutations within one wide family group’. (Deane in Danby 2017: 87, my emphasis)

  • 43 See note 34 in Danby (2017: 102).

106My emphasis above aims to portray the ambiguous and undecided nature of the theoretical conundrum in Deane, the riddle can only be solved theoretically by radicalizing the notion of the agent, it required reconstructing the then dominant vocabulary of economics.43

  • 44 Hence recovering Danby’s own questioning of the notion of a “universal” notion of Kinship. (Danby 2 (...)

107Danby’s notion of the agency clearly requires the modern “household/ family” and economy split reiterated in his narrative, which needs reconstruction. This move implies that “households” and thus the “agents” are the product of a more diverse set of social relations: relations and alliances within and between households44 and those who labor, and trade/ exchange under specific conditions: a heterogenous set of conditions of existence between and among heterogenous agents. In conceptual terms, we are dealing with a simultaneous double movement: agents have no complete or guaranteed closure of those contingent conditions that constitute them, which in turn are equally heterogenous and transient.

108Theoretically, Deane had to consider that the agents in question, namely “families,” occupied the “social horizon,” by which one must understand an entity with a recognition mechanism and decision-making capacity. Although human individuals, they are organized through a specific mouthpiece, as “representatives” of an instituted “collective” decision, in which “kinship” relations, or “polygamous groups and young bachelors with ties to multiple households” (Danby 2017: 88), turn out to be the “real” agents.

109Limited understanding on Deane’s part, as recorded by Danby is associated with the difficulty to incorporate the social tissue or social relations then dominant into some form of statistical order, it relates to the heterogeneity of the agents and their social relations to one another, a conceptual hurdle which can be overcome by displacing the economy/family split privileged by Danby’s argument as well as the notion of “opposed mentalities” (Danby 2017: 88) (see further ahead).

110The story insists on the inadequacy of Deane’s perspective to understand and “measure” output. Measuring the “national economy” encounters the “intimate” and the “commercial” (Danby 2017: 100) divide, unsettling the clear-cut household/commerce boundaries. But a “logical solution” (Danby 2017: 88) seems in order, in which women’s participation is “integrally” included in output/income circle, independently of the “activities” traced (i.e. “prostitution”) as the source of the monetary income, or alternatively taking into account “villages” as “large households” (Danby 2017: 88). The exhibition of the unsolved and contradictory categories in the narrative in question examines the “non-marketed” familial or communal “output” bringing to light the curse and nightmare of Deane’s perspective. To cope “theoretically” with the distinction above, related to the approach to examine those heterogenous characteristics of the agents and their conditions of existence, Deane advanced the term “transitional” to explain the nature of the economies in question, presupposing a teleological process culminating in a fully-fledged market society, and hence, the importance, more than ever, of data recollection and policy construction.

111Deane’s difficulties are the product of replicating Kuznets’s conceptual “boundaries”; “output,” “products retained by producers”:

The conceptual boundary she uses is essentially the same as that used by Kuznets (1941), who includes in his definition of output ‘products retained by producers for their own consumption (especially important farmers)’, while excluding domestic services (Kuznets 1941: 9.) (…) Another way to put it is that the ‘line of difference between economic and non-economic areas existing in real life’ (Kuznets 1933: 209) is no longer a parameter to be respected (‘shifting’) but something to be shifted via colonial modernization. (Danby 2017: 100)

112Parallel to the theoretical enigma in process that Danby described, between those activities, which can be considered either economic or non-economic, or “non-marketed,” the narrative seemingly changes course, since Deane is also “deeply” (Danby 2017: 88) aware that the distinction above is linked to “what was in the mind of the person doing it” (Danby 2017: 88). Consequently, Deane’s theoretical demon reappeared within the “modernist ideology” version as a folk theory: the money/love split (economy/household).

113In other words, Danby perseveres with his standpoint to explain Deane’s theoretical nightmare: these are questions related to the form whereby family needs and “satisfactions” were resolved. These contravene a money-trade driven “motivation,” given the series of cultural hegemonic practices whose explanations by the locals (in return for “such-and-such a good or service”) implied several social obligations.

  • 45 According to Deane, “we have still to establish firm conclusions of the mainsprings of economic beh (...)

114Deane’s accounts, according to Danby apparently corroborate the “economy/family” split repudiated by those gazed upon (surveyed) in Africa. Therefore, the “economy/family” divide is transformed into an enigma of “imputing motivation” (Danby 2017: 89), inducing the next theoretical step by introducing the “modernist” narrative, the romantic presumptions. Nevertheless, we must not lose sight of the opportunity to build certain boundaries in the categories, with the aim to materialize certain productive or income “measurements,” in which the category of “motivation”45 might be theoretically superfluous. Danby’s account of Deane submits conceivable (logical) alternatives: what is integrally included or not within the house/ business divide may receive a wild free card by which to flee from the modernist (iron cage), but then the category of the agent and its conditions of existence needs to be posed differently and in more general terms, the agents may be polymorphous: distinct forces and diverse objectives: not only does the notion of the “household” organization become problematic, whether “nuclear” or otherwise, but also the agents’ horizon’s configuration (productive/not marketed), can be described independently of their own “explanations.” Notwithstanding the Keynesian watershed distinction money/love, productive/non- productive and the exclusion of women as a non-paid activity, we can always “impute” a certain value to their activities.

  • 46 Frankel, reviewing Deane’s 1948 study, praised her scruple: ‘No author could be at greater pains to (...)

115Even if we concede Danby’s idea, which implies Deane as anticipating “the romantic view” that Herbert Frankel propounded,46 the “modernist” entrapment is not compulsory. Deane’s perspective (according to Danby) allows her to question the “motivations” assumed in developed economies which might not wholly differ in “degree” with some of the “ideological” choices perceived in “primitive cultures.” But Danby is not prepared to indict the theoretical wavering as “Eurocentric”, in the last instance:

she was not ready to simply align primitive and advanced communities, because she found Africans inscrutable: ‘the accounting problem is not simply that of the acute scarcity of quantitative data… It is also a qualitative problem that brings into question the fundamental validity for primitive communities of the social accounting concept itself (Deane 1953: 115). Without a thorough knowledge of the motives for economic behavior in the semi-subsistence economy and of the fundamental theories of value which colour the African outlook on economic matters it would not be profitable to do more than recognize the qualification and accept the limitation on the possible economic analysis. Certainly, our knowledge of the African economic outlook is not sufficient to permit a more precise analysis. (Deane in Danby 2017: 89, my emphasis)

116The “three-way conversation” (Danby 2017: 89) (Deane, anthropologists, and Africans) that Danby highlighted to depict Deane’s surveys and procedure, culminates with the “postcolonial point” (Danby 2017: 90), which “presume[s] [a] self-clarity of the European economy,” but which, in turn, is “itself a fabrication” (Danby 2017: 90). As Danby portrayed, Deane appears as a “tormented bricoleur” rather than the “skilled bricoleur” (Danby 2017: 90). However, her theoretical nightmare in Africa can, in hindsight, be pointed as leaving an indelible sign on her future work on economics and in the deceptive “universality” of the categories, which can be made to occupy theoretical positions, perhaps unwittingly, close to the Latin American Structuralism camp.

117Danby’s “logical solution” (Danby 2017: 90) could have solved the problematical nature of the rural communities, portrayed as undefined boundaries between households and businesses; this option meant treating these communities as “large households” (Danby 2017: 90) lacking “market” activities and hence “excluding rural villages entirely from the measured economy” (Danby 2017: 90), a posture that Deane rebuffed, as well as the alternative: businesses “with no household” (Danby 2017: 90).

118On the other hand, Prest and Stewart tackled theoretically the polymorphous nature of kinships, the social relations, and the obligatory rules, by converting each “household” into an “individual”, positing every good and service, received by the individual, “no matter how close” (Danby 2017: 90). Hence, Nigeria was all business, with the wife’s “bride-prices” setting the values as “services to husbands.” This posture received a “unanimous condemnation” (Danby 2017: 91): “farcical” in Frankel’s or Gilbert’s words, since it refuses to accept certain activities within the household as “economic activity” (Danby 2017: 91), but “far-fetched” (Danby 2017: 91) according to Peacokand Dossers, or “notorious” (Lury in Danby 2017: 91). But the critiques, especially those made by Gilbert and Deane, obey alternative theoretical logics. Again, the essence of the dispute seems to be mislaid, since the “problem” is related to the way we define the agent or units in question.

  • 47 In Deane’s words: “The strange reasoning whereby they embrace such activities as childrearing, chil (...)

119In what sense can we establish a monetary relation, or establish a “mercantile” or “commodity transaction,” between and within agents or “production units-activities?” We have already observed that certain unpaid activities “internal” to the household can be “measured” in monetary terms. The critique conveys certain reasons through which these activities were excluded,47 since, as Danby brilliantly illustrates, there are no univocal “technical” accountability obstacles for their exclusion.

120Other evaluations assumed that “subsistence output” should be included in “total production” (Danby 2017: 91). “Activities” such as output and services can be valued:

On Prest’s argument the reason why all intra-household activity (including services) should be treated as a part of the gross domestic product of countries like Nigeria is that the relationship between the members of the family is closer to a commercial one in Nigeria than that to which we are accustomed in the West. This led him to the dubious but amusing exercise of estimating services by reference to the number of wives and the average bride price. It is doubtful whether this would have made sense to a Nigerian in 1950; it certainly does not make sense today. (Okigbo in Danby 2017: 91)

121On the other hand, Eke wrote that Prest:

included the output of practically all agents or factors whose activities are remotely economic (…) illegal, imputed value to intra-household services, and placed monetary value on child bearing. This excursion by Prest could easily be dismissed as ludicrous, but (…) Prest seems to have gone into all this needless trouble not just because of his stated reason (the family life is more commercialized in Nigeria than in the West which of course is an illusion) but also because of his stated objective. He wanted to measure the level of economic welfare. He seemed to have failed to realize that no matter how widely he may define his output the omission of services and products which affect people’s welfare is unavoidable. (Eke in Danby 2017: 91-92)

122It is no wonder that Danby defines these episodes on “accounting” and economic categories in Africa as a “fascinating moment” (Danby 2017: 92), an era inscribed in a procrustean bed of redefinitions, of theoretical transformations, mirrored in the respective will to power and war of interpretations between and within Center-Periphery development policies debates, during which pos-colonial economics emerged.

123But articulated by the economy/family split modernist problematic and however eccentric, the vocabulary is “irreplaceable”:

There was nothing logically wrong with what Prest and Stewart did. Nor was their use of bride-prices to estimate wives’ services, however outlandish it can be made to appear, outside the practice of bricolage described (…) opportunistically using any available data to estimate different sectors of an economy. What made it ‘strange, ’ ‘farcical, ’ ‘ludicrous, ’ ‘dubious, ’ and ‘notorious’ was its taboo-breaking challenge to the foundational assumptions about the economy as Marshall had framed it. Marshall’s argument, (…) was that a modern distinction between love and commerce allowed each to flourish in its own sphere. Thus, the modern society was superior in both respects to the traditional society in which these things were mingled. Okigbo’s and Eze’s rebukes to Prest and Stewart can be set alongside V.K. R. V. Rao’s defense of the separateness and non-economic nature of Indian households (…). All these authors recognized the implicit insult of regarding the domestic arrangements of their native countries as commercial and calculating, as falling short of fully self-sacrificing love. In the overarching modernist context, the only way to rescue love was to adopt the same conventions British national income accounts followed. But what is interesting is not just that Rao, Okigbo, and Eke disputed the idea that their native countries were deficient in love, but that British and American economists led the charge. An economist like Milton Gilbert probably had little interest in Nigerian family life as such, but he had a large stake in the universal applicability of standardized national accounting. Okigbo and Eke spoke his language and supported his project; Prest and Stewart challenged it. (Danby 2017: 92, last but one emphasis are mine)

124Two aspects of the quotation are significant, especially if we are to recover Foucault’s notion of power/knowledge couple: “taboo-breaking” strategies imply a struggle, a search for an alternative strategic hegemonic move, in which Prest and Stewart’s demise was profound: they were “silenced.” But in contrast to Danby’s appreciation of the strategy, Gilbert was obliged to spearhead “the charge,” given what was at stake in the struggle, and “own up” the posture. The antagonistic “noises” of the war of interpretation in question are actually deafening: the hegemonic struggle implies precisely, simultaneously a “taboo-breaking” drive (victor or vanquished can only be “instituted” in hindsight) and a “charge,” and as the case above proves, and it was not just chance that those institutionally powerful swayed the day.

125Equally displaced and silenced was Herbert Frankel’s critique and appreciation of the “data” collection-research and accounting vocabulary, but for alternative reasons, his liberalism and anti-government perspective placed his work, independently of the categories, outside of what was then becoming “development” mainstream discourse. To top it all, his opposition to Apartheid in South Africa made his academic and political life difficult, and in 1946 he left for Oxford: “He believed that Africans were fundamentally culturally different from Europeans, and on that basis, he became a leading critic of extension of national income accounting to Africa” (Danby 2017: 92). His “cultural relativism” (Danby 2017: 102), hence his “praise” (Danby 2017: 102) for Gaathon, the Palestine analysis, and for positive evaluations of so-called “economic dualism,” resembled the “welfare approach” to national income, which is reminiscent of Kuznets:

National income accounting’s project should be to measure the sum of good things flowing to people (…) he had to address ethical questions of what counted as good (…) what Africans considered good was fundamentally different from what Europeans considered good. (Danby 2017: 93, my emphasis)

126Danby discloses these debates in a consistent manner to incorporate them into an “underlying romanticism”:

Just as German or British romantics described the ideal village economy as a rich, society-making process whose purpose was as much to maintain dense social interactions as to produce goods: they hunted not because they wanted meat but because they liked hunting; they made large work parties for farming not because it was efficient but because it was social. (Danby 2017: 93)

127Simultaneously, Danby’s story aims to dissipate the idea that he is imposing on Frankel’s work a sort of “future anterior” (L. Althusser) effect: reading his earlier “romanticist” presumptions by way of later theoretical resonances, which is “difficult to demonstrate” but “an equally plausible source might simply be the common colonialist’s view that natives are incorrigibly native” (Danby 2017: 102).

128Frankel’s “disinterest” for the “Keynesian” and Deane’s “theoretical armature” (Danby 2017: 93), and/or “modernization” projects is not necessarily, as Danby contends, lack of “sympathy”, rather it is “liberalism” that underlines Frankel’s opposition to “development economics”:

in terms of the logical choices presented by the Marshallian definition, which are to regard African economies as falling entirely under the sphere of business, or somewhere in between, we could slot Frankel into the ‘all household’ camp, Prest and Stewart into the ‘all business’ camp, and Deane somewhere in between. This explains the difference between Frankel’s polite skepticism toward Deane and open hostility toward Prest and Stewart. Frankel also dissented from Deane’s view that non-marketed African activity was poised to enter the market and should. He was hostile to ‘development’ Economics as it gathered steam after WWII, assailing ‘dualist’ models like that of Arthur Lewis that foresaw the rapid modernization of the ‘traditional’ sector of a nation’s economy. (Danby 2017: 93)

129Frankel’s works in 1952 and 1953 “eloquently” (Danby 2017: 101) developed this theme:

The activity and the income are inseparable and are both embedded together in the customs and ways of thought which mould the social life of the community as a whole. To endeavour to assess and compare ‘welfare’ merely by comparing national income aggregates for societies with different laws, rules conventions, hopes, and ideal is as fallacious as to try to assess the pleasure which a pair of players derive from playing dominoes, and then compare it with that yielded to another pair engaged in playing chess, by comparing the points scored by the players in each game. (Frankel in Danby 2017: 93)

130But Frankel’s arguments were seldom taken seriously, according to Danby. Subsequently, later, academia recovered these ideas in the “formalist-substantivist” debates in the 1960s within the anthropologist camp. Dalton “approvingly quoted” both Deane’s “doubts about applying economic analysis to African settings” (Danby 2017: 94) and Frankel’s work:

If the categories we use to describe output disposition are to be analytically revealing they must be derived from the special characteristics of indigenous African economies. We follow therefore the African emphasis on the social obligations to pay and to give, and the rights to receive goods and services, built into social situations. (Dalton in Danby 2017: 94)

  • 48 “The marginalization of Frankel and Seers suggest that one requirement for being a mainstream econo (...)

131But Danby seems to be turning the table on Dalton, questioning his apparent premise in which “mainstream academic Economics” seemingly appears as the appropriate “self-understanding” (Danby 2017: 94) of the West and aberrantly out of line in Africa. The interpretation of Dalton’s appreciations, in Danby’s terms, follows the “romantic trope of the cultural unit,” which “must be understood on its own terms” and not through an “alien and universal logic” (Danby 2017: 94).48

  • 49 Herskovits’s “cross-disciplinary attack on the problems of economic growth” (Danby 2017: 94) and th (...)

132My beef on this occasion refers to the suggestion that turns the “productive nature of the rationalist/romantic split” (Danby 2017: 94) as the necessary origin of the “substantive” categories developed in Dalton’s narrative: although “Western-centric” discourses are not the adequate substratum to explain the African plains (with which I coincide), Dalton’s argument should be analyzed and evaluated on its own terms, without conferring a “free pass to ignore culture” (Danby 2017: 94) when examining Dalton’s specific categories and arguments.49

133According to Danby the theoretical conceptual problems above, seem to be the product of the potential “comparability” of distinct economic formations and the “data-gathering estimation apparatus,” that is, two distinct theoretical moments that must be separated. The former conundrum (“comparability”) and the latter (“categories for data gathering”) presuppose a conceptual bridge, which merge, however “real” or “unreal,” the process in question (love/money dichotomy, non-payment of activities) within the household.

  • 50 Frankel’s theoretical admonition to keep away from “economists” (“warning to other anthropologists (...)

134Indeed, however “eccentric” Frankel’s political and theoretical posture may be as a “liberal,” when push comes to shove, outright rejection of “Keynesianism” becomes the norm; “Romanticism” per se does not imply any unique necessary set of social relations, which in turn is open to an alternative analysis. The “Western-centric” vision, both explicit and implicit in Frankel’s discourse, only illuminates the theoretical limitations, and does not preclude an alternative theoretical strategy, but rather mandates an ethical imperative to do so.50

135For his part, Seers’s was everything that Frankel’s theoretical and ethical posture was not!! He consciously struggled against the specter of “the white man’s burden” curse that haunted him all his life, aware of the undecidable explicit and implicit ethical guidelines of most economic narratives, but especially in neoclassical thought.

136Seers’s “two significant” pieces about national income estimates, one of them about current Ghana and the other one dedicated to an “underdeveloped” area, underlined limitations, and “sketchiness” of national income in colonial Africa, which was countered by Seers by an alternative proposal, taking into consideration a heterogenous “national economy,” “distinct sectors,” unstably assembled. Seers’s main object examines an export sector of a primary product (cocoa), the domestic agricultural sector and diverse non-agricultural production. The problematic described is reminiscent of Ferguson’s critique of “Lesotho,” a dependent entity of South Africa: but in this case the dependent colonial economy in question managed somehow to steer clear of the consequences of the relatively asymmetric price movements with respect to their international realm, despite the unintegrated domestic nature of its “economy”: Lesotho was simply an appendix to the South African economy, a labor reserve area.

137Hitherto data gathering in developing nations meant relying on gathering all sorts of alternative data, and hence was prone to large “errors” (Danby 2017: 96), which made it difficult to compare among countries or “even for the same country in different years” (Danby 2017: 96). Hence Seers’s insistence on the foolishness of aiming to build a model as an internally “coherent” stable “creature” (Danby 2017: 96) analogous to a “mechanical clock” (Danby 2017: 96), relying on how its parts can be assembled but contradicted by a “changing institutional structure” (Danby 2017: 96).

138Seers’s argument points to the inadequacies of the terms used:

The very words ‘mechanism’ or ‘model’ convey the mental picture of a great piece of machinery. It is not at all certain whether this is the most useful mental picture even for a developed economy, since it suggests a misleading stability of structure… Such ‘models’ are in any case hardly needed to explain economic developments. (Seers in Danby 2017: 96)

139Cycle studies or fluctuations displayed in the trading context of the primary product countries (Periphery) are more complex if examined from the peripheral economic formation’s perspective, in contrast to “world commodity prices, [which] are much simpler” (Danby 2017: 96) as customers in the Center portrayed them. Foreign trade statistics introduced in the Periphery exhibit an instability which must be contrasted with the “national income estimates,” presumed stable and “coheren [t]” (Danby 2017: 96). Equally important is the theoretical challenge of aspects that are not necessarily associated with the “estimates” themselves:

The approach implies that as a first priority, instead of trying to fill the gaps in the ‘national income, ’ statistical resources should be devoted to strengthening and extending foreign trade statistics – particularly to improving valuation and classification. Since an underdeveloped country ipso facto relies on the proceeds of exports for much of its income, and on imports for most consumer goods (other than food) and for nearly all capital goods, the trade returns supply much of the information which must taken elsewhere from tax statistics (on sources of income), from censuses of production and distribution, or the statistics collected by trade associations and retailers (on supplies to the home market). (Seers in Danby 2017: 97)

140According to Danby it is not univocally just a problem of national income data gathering. A more profound theoretical hurdle is present at the same time, namely, the notion of the totality in question:

Keynesian national income accounting starts by assuming a coherent and self-sufficient closed economy with a complete set of institutions, and then only grudgingly opens the borders to allow goods and finance to trickle across them – but without reimagining the institutions that structure the national economy. Seers is calling on us to start with the international linkages, and then build our picture of the ‘national economy’ out of those. (Danby 2017: 97, my emphasis)

141The description of Prest’s critique of Seers’s reflection highlights this aspect:

Prest evaded Seers’s main arguments and focused on minor estimation points. Prest never questioned the existence, coherence, or stability of the thing he was measuring, and read Seers only as a series of quibbles over how that should be measured. These were the same tactics used against Frankel: to translate all fundamental critiques into technical quibbles, and then argue that the technical quibbles are resolvable with more technical work. (Danby 2017: 97)

142Significant in Danby’s description of the “quibble” in question, it relates to the apparent source of the ambiguity as if it was a “technical” debate, independently of the theoretical aspects of the social relations of the object examined. On certain occasions, the story portrayed the similarity of “tactics” (Danby 2017: 97) used equally against Frankel and Seers despite their divergent theoretical differences depicted by the “social” in question as well as the historical specificities of the agents that they emphasized in those African societies: for Frankel, the markets at the time were undergoing a process of evolutionary emergence. That was the benchmark to be observed as the necessary and appropriate mechanism to think production/distribution, but which Seers problematized.

143It may well be claimed that they share the “modernist” split, but what seems theoretically and politically important is the presence of a counterposed strategy in the making, aiming to displace the Western “imagination.” However, in certain parts of Danby’s story, the “iron cage” of the modernist discourse seems devoid of alternatives, free from the contested and potential struggle.

Mobile Army of Metaphors: Post-Keynesianism and Latin American Structuralism

144Danby’s own description transfers this problematic into a “similar” “dialog” (Danby 2017: 97) in the “Latin American ‘structuralist-monetarist’ debate: ”

in which Seers was also a participant. The structuralist side, which included even more radical figures, such as Celso Furtado and Juan Noyola, understood Latin American economies as theaters of political/ economic conflict between different groups, not all of which were national. Depending on the country in question, those groups might include agricultural exporters whose interests and economic lives were much more closely tied up to foreign markets and finance than domestic institutions. (…) A standardized Economics that understood national economies as bounded, uniform organisms had no place for these insights. (Danby 2017: 97)

145Key theoretical aspects are associated to the notion of agents, and the economic formation or “totality” constructed. The technical aspects of measuring and the data gathering techniques may seem marginal, but Danby argues that these debates generated about “national economies” as entities in themselves with little overlapping “of foreign influences” (Danby 2017: 98), which were thought in the “Marshallian sense” (Danby 2017: 98), aimed at making a clear cut divide between household and business “sectors,” thus turning “problems of making the distinction” into a “merely technical” (Danby 2017: 98) issue.

146Rather, a theoretical “disagreement” is required for turning those distinctions thinkable and, hence, for assuming the heterogenous nature of the agents (humans, sectors, households) in question. The fantastic Western-centric “auto-imagination” considered by Seers’s critique on the importance of the “unintegrated” characteristics of the national unit and its external networks were simply unimportant.

147On the one hand, we must merit Danby’s perseverant attitude to reject as plausible and sufficient the explanation, which assumes that the “ideological” dominion of romanticist modernism is simply an effect of the ethno-centric prejudices in question, but on the other, the theoretical mechanism whereby he questions those sharing the predispositions are close to circular: to neutralize those explanations Danby argues that these stories proceed from the presumption of the existence of a “bounded” and “coherent” entity or totality (the “West”), which means that the enunciative modality or agency, and its statements, are assumed to be necessarily “consistent.” However, if agents or the enunciative modality are not necessarily fully in control of their conditions of existence (hence their “heterogenous” characteristics), the agency or the entity has no privileged and “plenitude” “self-understanding” or knowledge. Furthermore, the “Western-centric” indictment presupposes that those discourses are a coherent set of statements, but which only slip up when they leave the “space” to which those categories were supposedly constructed (the Center).

148Danby instantaneously denied both the agency’s unity of the West and the alleged implicit or explicit notion that Western-centric discourses are coherent in themselves. However, the latter’s repudiation is not grounded, in Danby’s narrative, on denying the theoretical consistency of the former:

I see no good reason to believe that any Economics, either orthodox or heterodox, deeply comprehended everyday material life in places like Western Europe or the United States of America. What is going on is not the exporting of an autochthonous ‘European’ perspective, but the construction of a European self-imagination. (Danby 2017: 98)

149There could be no better unsullied manner to describe how “Western-centric” discourse constructs its fantastic “self-imagination” (Danby 2017: 98) and yet Danby is well aware that the means of representation are not innocent verbal mechanisms exempted from the power asymmetries. Therefore, both the presumptions of a continental unity which seemingly generates these discourses and their (in) competence to describe appropriately its own form of “being,” have a role in the war of interpretations, but then indictments on the enunciative modality as “Western-centric” are not necessarily out of order and can certainly be posed as a first theoretical strategy to overpower (pun intended!) the hurdle in the theoretical reconstruction of those categories themselves.

150In other words, what must be examined are those conditions of existence of the conceptual entities in question, which transcend the traditional knowledge/being relationship: both sides do not conform into a general form of representation, nor a unitary form of being.

  • 51 “All the characteristics of modernist political economy noted (…) are shared by two contending moie (...)

151Discourses should be examined as forming part of the war of interpretations. Danby could counter by pointing to the “productive nature of the rationalist/romantic split” (Danby 2017: 94) as the creation of political economy, and modernist discourse, as a “combination of repulsion and attraction,” a “bad-tempered collaboration” (Danby 2017: 9) between romantics and rationalists.51 But then, the category of “ideological” has no important role to explain the logic of the arguments or the source of substantive concepts.

152Danby’s narrative implies a “thickly cultural understanding of economy” (Danby 2017: 119) but his theoretical aims to elucidate “uncritical descriptions of the economy,” compels him to define those categories. Notwithstanding the dazzling, profound and nuanced historical depiction of the evolution of political economy, in certain occasions the book tends to nullify questions related to taking on the “social” (Wade Hands 2005).

153If “romanticism” is conceived as a well-organized discursive totality (an “iron cage”), it is practically and discursively hopeless to suggest or construct distinct and alternative discourses, which is what happens, unwittingly or not, according to Danby’s argument:

  • 52 “First, romantics are concerned with shared knowledge and understanding, not just feelings. (…) att (...)

At the foundation of romantic social thought is the idea that society is built out of and depends on common understanding and shared meanings. Just as (sic) we expect coreligionists to share common understandings via texts, images, songs, and rituals, so a romantic social analyst looks for the shared core of ideas and understandings in society in general, and then asks how they are shared. This is why art is so vital to the romantics: it is how communities develop and share meanings. (…) Moreover, the romantic model of knowledge comes from the practice of art and the scholarship of art, which are bodies of common knowledge and tradition learned with difficulty and discipline. While romantics praise individual geniuses in the arts, they are always geniuses at accessing collective truth and communicating it back to the collective. (…) if human society rests on knowing, on interpretation, on shared meaning, and if every interaction affects those shared meanings, then we can ask about the social and moral implications of buying a sandwich. How odd, a romantic would say, to think that the paid work that shapes our lives (…) are nothing but technical solutions to technical problems. (Danby 2017: 121-122)52

154Therefore, meanings and “economic transactions” (Danby 2017: 121) circulate simultaneously via a series of reiterations and habits (Hodgson 2004, 2006, 2007), although the former are conceived as a more “existentially” loaded event, since it “knits” together social relations (society), aspects not related necessarily to whether the products are “expensive.”

155On the one hand, Danby’s critique seems to follow my own theoretical demons: “There are no [universal] historical actors. Neither gender, race, nor sexuality operates on large scales” (Danby 2017: 147), but then the encompassing modernist discursive formation cannot be presumed as a self-enclosed cohesive unified “episteme,” but rather as a potentially antagonistic ensemble through which the theoretical transformations and distinct enunciative modalities are reconfigured. But on the other hand, the crucial concept of “scale,”, which Danby introduces into the soul of political economy, implies an alternative and more general and radicalized (antagonistic) concept of the agent (heterogenous) and its conditions of existence, which is implicitly a prerequisite to uphold a “multi-scalar” (Giampietro et. al. 2011) perspective of the “social” complex, or the Center-Periphery perspective for that matter.

156However, if the agent is not necessarily an individual human being (differing scales and entities), the story may displace the central role accorded to the examination of “motives in question” without much theoretical cost. More so significant is the examination of the power asymmetries, which constitute the agents and their conditions of existence: the possession in separation of certain of the prerequisites for their actual subsistence, whether organized/distributed traditionally or “culturally,” elements that Danby highlighted.

  • 53 According to Danby, “romantic anti-globalizers” find “finance opaque, malign, and violent; and we k (...)

157At the same time, he tackles the limitations of those romantic apocalyptic discursive modes,53 not only because they offer little substance or understanding regarding the financial ensembles and instruments discussed, but also because it leaves their “practitioners defenseless” to the IMF’s own contention on the inexistence of political and/or explicative alternatives to “global markets,” which allegedly is a product of a “single powerful force” (Danby 2017: 157).

158The incorporation of people and capital movement across boundaries and their conditions of existence, absent in mainstream economics, makes theoretically prominent the notions of scales of the “national” or “global,” since these “spaces” are not “natural,” but rather “conjured into existence” (Danby 2017: 161). Whether one thinks of them as a product of the concept of the family/business split, vis-à-vis the economy, with opposed ethical features, love/money characteristics or the creativity which the forced migrations exhibit through a vast series of associations (Delgado and Marquez 2006, Aragones 2015, Guha 1998), “scale making” requires conceptual justification. The “world scale” perspective implies an intercommunicating process between “families” and (national) economies (Center-Periphery), in which the concept of the mechanical financial “flows” of goods and finance is unsatisfactory in orthodox narratives.

159The heterogeneity and power asymmetries’ characteristics of the “world,” “the modernist template” (Danby 2017: 162), defined as “untidy, loosely structured and cruelly unequal” (Danby 2017: 162), reveals Danby’s ambiguity with respect to certain potential political alternatives within the individual/ collective antagonistic divide: showing that the “modernist template” “limits our ability to understand the world” (Danby 2017: 161), it actually restricts the “political choices” (Danby 2017: 162). But the explanation whereby the “modernist” discourse “hides” the world tends to complicate and obscure his own posture on these crucial ethical-political decisions, since, notwithstanding the above declarations, he does display “alternatives” which he calls “Post-Keynesian Economics,” and/or the “heterodox” literature.

160Ontologically speaking, despite the “material” and “cultural” coalescence of the world (“what it is”), it seems unequivocally no “better or nicer.” This singular and undecidable form of posing the examination of the social relations (individual/collective antagonistic divide) which are to be assessed is a tortuous episode which although hesitantly, is seemingly disavowed.

161By means of the perspective mentioned, Danby proposed to understand “monetary and capitalist relations and multiple scales” (Danby 2017: 162), firstly criticizing the modernist narrative which “carves up” (Danby 2017: 162) economic formations (Danby’s term is “society”), in “two opposed principles of loving households and competitive markets” (Danby 2017: 162) (“antagonistic markets,” my term). I believe the theoretical distinctions are important and they support his argument.

162The outcome of Danby’s examination of the modernist “ontological” discourse depiction of the “loving households versus competitive markets” culminates indicting as “poor” (Danby 2017: 162) ways to understand and divide the “complex social world” (Danby 2017: 161). On the one hand, even if the notion of “face to face” social relations are theoretically possible, the realm of “solidaristic” kinships is not inevitably required. On the other hand, the “impersonal” qualities of finance and business activities cannot be fully understood as unescapable offshoots of “competitive markets” (Danby 2017: 162). Instead, for what follows, the latter expression can be replaced by “antagonistic markets” which follows Danby’s own theoretical leap. Before radicalizing these aspects, whose sources can equally be found in Latin American Structuralism, and common to Post-Keynesian political economy, let us examine Danby’s text:

In post-Keynesian theory, business and finance may be heterogenous in institutional terms. Some markets are competitive, some are oligopolistic, some are monopolistic, and some are regulated by the government. Large and small firms may be very different creatures. Firms are often linked in enduring ways. Key prices like interest rates, exchange rates, and wages may be as much a product of political as market forces. This framework may incorporate productive activity that goes on under the name of household and kinship and may work out its complex interactions with activity under other names. By starting from concepts of time and fundamental uncertainty that stretch across institutionally heterogenous kinds of production, we can avoid presuming modernist ontology. Moreover, a theory of this kind is better able to understand patterns of dispossession, exclusion, and abjection that are ignored by a social ontology that boils down to loving families, plus impersonal markets on which anyone can buy and sell. (Danby 2017: 162)

  • 54 On heterogeneity, see further ahead.
  • 55 Hence, M. Kalecki’s unhesitant definition of these power asymmetries (a relative notion) with the t (...)
  • 56 Hence, “classes” can be specified according to those “entities” possessed in separation (tangible o (...)
  • 57 Units of productive (agents), whose conditions of existence are of their “own” so to speak, may coa (...)

163First of all, the concept of “markets”: are they an ensemble of distinct geographical spaces in which we localize a series of goods that can be bought, or is the category the means by which we aim to theorize the “antagonistic” intensity of diverse and heterogenous agents,54 or alternatively, is it the locus of the power asymmetries in question ?55 So-called “competitive,” “oligopolistic,” “monopolistic” characteristics on occasions, appear to refer to “markets” in the general sense presumed by the existence or otherwise, of a broader set of producers, but then those entities’ “markets” are not “agents,” since they don’t exhibit a mechanism through which a unitary calculus decision/choice is present. Agents’ internal/external antagonistic mechanism is specific: a principal source may be wage levels, vis-à-vis the procedural “price” calculus decision/choice moment of its administrative management (corporate or otherwise), which in turn is a construct, a practice, a habit institutionally established under certain antagonistic set of diverse-heterogenous conditions of existence. It is in this sense that agents are heterogenous, significantly so because they possess in separation only certain specific and distinct set of those conditions of their existence, which generates the “heterogeneity” in question, a product of the power asymmetries.56 Notice must be taken that the term “competition,” as contrary to “monopoly,” or degrees thereof, is plainly insufficient and theoretically impertinent, to think power asymmetries: the concept of “antagonism” has a “horizontal,” relational embeddedness characteristic among and between agents, which displaces the architectural base and superstructure analogies”: “downward or upward reconstitutive causation.” Therefore, both economic formations and agents present no necessary unified form of being and/or causality/determination. Markets, as localities to buy “stuff,” a specific realm where goods are bought and sold as such are not “agents,” they lack a mechanism of recognition to undertake choice-decisions (unless distinct agents/traders coalesce into a unit-whole).57 However, the presence of “markets” presupposes those “social relations” through which to think the articulation of a specific set of the conditions of existence of the agents in question, which are possessed in separation from each other. The agents’ choice-decision horizon is undertaken within specific power asymmetries, distinct price and interest rates, and differing time-scale ranges, hence “markets” can only be converted or gazed upon as agents, if they exhibit unity and a mechanism to “manage” choice-decisions. Therefore, within “markets,” localities, there might be several (heterogenous) agents, buyers, sellers, visitors, etc. Which does not exclude their association and construction of a sort of “monopoly.”

164Therefore, agents are the product oftransient, contingent institutionalization patterns, of certain social antagonistic practices, which generate rules and habits. Therefore, the notion of “systems” or totalities seems theoretically impertinent. Through the figure of the antagonism of agents, and between “economic formations” (not “societies”), both Center and Periphery, we can represent a privileged locus for the existence of agents, whether households, solidaristic or not, or “kinship” ensembles, which in turn have no pre-established necessary unified form. The “household” may become the fountain head of antagonisms, exhibiting either real or imaginary power asymmetries, as the feminist movement has appropriately demonstrated.

  • 58 In fact, Danby has argued that “core institutions are not universal and that other constellations o (...)

165The flow of goods and people, their associations, at local (which also comprises Center-Periphery antagonisms) and global “scale” (Center-Periphery) is most effectively perceived in a “multi-scalar” complex: distinct angles of vision by agents, with respect to their own diverse set and plural heterogenous conditions of existence. In relative terms, these specific conditions of existence cannot be generalized. They are always transient, contingent, and culturally specific.58 The strategies and examination of those antagonisms, which we can call the individual-collective divide, is the object of the reform struggle: the plans for their reconfiguration (power asymmetries) are always constitutively undecidable, given their heterogenous situation: possession separately from a certain set of their conditions of existence must be examined from a “multi-scalar” perspective. The notion of scales, as Danby perseveres, is important to examine and to pose the respective (contested) policies with which to transform those social relations. Hence, the notion of a “non-ergodic” uncertain and “multi-scalar” perspective presupposes the heterogenous and plural universe described above. By extension, the reform-revolution dichotomy must be substituted by “piecemeal” reforms or sectors, agents, since there are no general conditions of existence through which to construct a more equal world: the “socialization” of “possession” into some form of unity of those conditions by means of a “plan” could mean many things, but essentially, one is thinking of transforming possession in separation into a “non-separation” ensemble through the plan. But if this path can be potentially examined, the entities to be possessed “collectively” (not in separation) is the “plan” (not necessarily things), which again pertain to those conditions of existence which permit the instituting of a “plan,” implying the resurrection of the notion of “separateness” and, hence, examinations of institutions, practices, agents, and algorithms.

166Hence, the concept of “time,” as Danby underlined, is crucial. The emphasis on the notion of time disparity scales is crucial since these asynchronies form part of one of those power asymmetries previously highlighted. Agents have distinct temporal interludes, for example, in differing payment and cash flow dates, which explains Prebisch’s notion of “time disparities,” among and between agents, as well as Center-Periphery asynchrony, including those within the Peripheries and/or distinct economic formations: “Center-Periphery” antagonisms.

  • 59 I presume that the notion of the “rational agent” or “representative agent” and “equilibrium” of ma (...)

167The Center-Periphery perspective understanding of the productive and financial “cycles,” or circulating time periods, underlines the disparity, or “time” asynchrony under which diverse sectors and agents configure their calculations,59 which presupposes the heterogeneity in question: the inherent antagonism in the process through which prices are instituted, that is, the differing real or imaginary profit rates perceived and constructed, underlines much of Danby’s description of post-Keynesian theory as does the expression of “time gaps” used and Prebisch’s own notion of “time disparities.” These aspects reveal the problematic and uncertain consequences within contingent rules in process which agents must resolve, through a series of discursive and practical “conventional” habits (the “prices”) in question:

  • 60 As we will observe further ahead, what needs questioning is the theoretical role of the category “s (...)

Some institution or institutions must handle this - I use ‘institution’ in a general sense of some regularized system of interaction with rules, whether it is embodied in an organization, enforced by contract law, despotically coerced, or supported by an informal social code. One of the more interesting questions (…) is how this coordination works [?] (Danby 2017: 163)60

  • 61 Hicks (1946: 245), Klein (1946), Wade Hands (1991: 169).
  • 62 Indeed, Danby declares that it does not matter if we consider activities by “household” as necessar (...)

168But Danby’s admirable theoretical transition exhibits certain ambivalences if looked at from Furtado’s or Prebisch’s posing of the problem. In some cases, mainstream and post-Keynesian economics share certain common specifications regarding “households” and “business.”61 We aim to show, through Danby’s own categories, the positive effect of their inclusion but within an alternative more encompassing concept of the “agent.” Although “households” “produce” a set of “services” (Danby 2017: 163) within the unit in question, these are equally “time-sensitive,” whether in money or institutionally arranged conventions. These activities-services and their “equivalences” and “exchanges,” between agents, “households” or “businesses” are not “pre-constituted,” and their conditions of existence are equally the product of antagonistic coordinating moments and decision-choice making. In other words, neither “households” nor “businesses” are a “bed of roses.” Danby’s presentation of the problematic in question commits the narrative to exclude “households” as “having the purpose” (Danby 2017: 163) of making money, but which his own examples in note number 3 (Danby 2017: 163) tend to contradict. I insist on these aspects because, in many instances, “households” are also “businesses,” examples of which Danby’s own book exhibit.62 What tends to be confused in the literature is the existence of some “money” and “conventions” habits/exchanges, under a diverse set of historical conditions with an apparent hegemony of the commodified form a la Marx, hence Danby’s use of the term “formally” to think these interactions (time-money-conventions fix exchanges) when talking about “businesses.” Here the post-Keynesian “cash-flow” perspective seems, undoubtedly, a “time-dated” (Danby 2017: 163) obligation.

169On the other hand, Danby’s account is fortunately relatively inconsistent, since he also underlines the heterogenous aspects of the agents and their conditions of existence, and the theoretical consequences that I am trying to emphasize:

Households, individuals, firms, and any other relevant units can therefore be characterized, at any moment in time, by (a) their commitments to do or provide things for others in the future, and (b) others’ commitments to do things for them or provide things to them. These commitments may be precise and precisely time-dated (e.g., bill payments) or impressive and heavily contingent on circumstance (e.g., a parent’s open-ended obligations to a child). They may or may not be monetized, and they will reflect differing types of obligations and norms and power in terms of who meets obligations to whom and how. (Danby 2017: 164)

170Emphasizing power asymmetries as contingent and antagonistic aspects of the complex in question, whether at the local “level,” within or between economic formations (Center-Periphery), as seen above, also implies emphasizing that agents are not necessarily “individual” human beings: whether “households” or “businesses.” The decision/choices may be invoked through an “individual,” having previously undergone a collective “conversation-discussion” on many counts; and on the other, the decisive dominion of certain “kinship’s ensembles” which realize simultaneously “love/and money” activities, can be observed as having de-Centered the agents “decision/choice” away from the “household” and establishing “equivalences” of exchanges within and without the latter entities not solely in “monetary” terms, in which certain obligatory, symbolical, traditional practices are taken into account. Danby’s own story can corroborate all that.

171But I distrust the overriding pertinence that Danby gave to the notions of “introspection” and “subjectivity”:

  • 63 In note number 4, Danby writes: “even institutions that present themselves as bureaucratically-form (...)

Once we think of a person, household, or firm as enmeshed in future commitments, our attention is drawn to the large range of institutions that in various ways enable, condition, encourage, discourage, thwart, constrain, or enforce commitments, which may include government, law, community, family, friendship, and religious institutions. It (…) bears repeating that ‘ties’ and institutions can be systematically and cruelly oppressive, and that some institutions, like race or class differences, work in part by limiting the kinds of social ties people are able to draw on, make, and sustain. This is one obvious point at which culture enters. (…) it is not news that economy is cultural, always deeply culturally embedded. (Danby 2017: 164)63

172My main “beef” with Danby’s way of representing the antagonistic and heterogenous characteristics of the social ensemble is associated with the category of the “cultural.” The simple assumption of an entity, sharing or under the rule of a series of (antagonistic) meanings and symbols, gets theoretically troublesome when it involves converting individuals’ “time-map” within and between each other into a “totality”: an “ensemble of all of these maps, with all their interconnections” (Danby 2017: 164).

This gives us one possible vision of a larger ‘economy, ’ and it will quickly be apparent that such an economy is global (such ties have never been stopped by national borders) and that it is not cleanly bounded off from other spheres of social existence. The resultant networks have properties of their own. (Danby 2017: 164)

173I am concerned here with the idea that we can envision “all” these maps into a “whole,” interconnected, which precisely displaces those theoretical conditions that are the aim to emphasize: those historical and contingent (“multi-scalar”) aspects of the agents and their ensemble. Questioning the existence of a “general” rationality, as Danby seems to be posing, notions of a “global economy” governed by a single motive force are a non-starter. But on certain occasions, Danby’s espousal of the “modernist ideology” and its critique undermines part of his argument.

  • 64 Prebisch’s notions of time disparities (or time asymmetries) between and among agents when closing (...)

174The idea of “diachronic” and robust “financial institutions” mentioned by Danby’s “forward transaction” and “spot” transactions, implies paradoxically an uncertain future, since in Danby’s own words, there “are no bright lines between sound and worthy projects and crazy” (Danby 2017: 165) ones,64 and collaterally it also holds for the process of “production” per se, since it requires a specific financial support.

175Money as a financial asset and simultaneously a liability regarding other agents (it just depends at which end of the transaction you are upended), procreates a distinct monstrous “ontology” unimaginable to anti-globalizers discussed:

A Post-Keynesian social ontology starts in time, and thus always already in finance. Finance generates the conditions for making goods and services and generates money as part of a spectrum of financial assets. (Danby 2017: 164)

  • 65 A tradition exemplified by Marshall, Kuznets, and Rao to whom the “Economy and family were opposed (...)

176However, according to Danby’s portrayal of the illusory “modernist” theory of production/finance, as an unruly contradiction, its theoretical transformation requires incorporating “history and large-scale power” and “subjectivity and knowledge” (Danby 2017: 166). I suggest that contrary to Danby’s proposal, not much is lost if we displace notions of “subjectivities” and “knowledge” of the “other”: Latin American Structuralism, as has already been highlighted, does not presume agents or “actors” (Danby 2017: 166), as generally human beings, and using Danby’s own words, because “institutions are contingent and reproduced through repeated performances” (Danby 2017: 166).65 Nonetheless, Danby’s story is notable since he considers that “history,” “law,” “government,” states, or institutions “can be changed” (Danby 2017: 166). Pages under the heading of “Implications” (Danby 2017: 166) are some of the most advisable and brilliant to read, since the author finds himself under the unrenounceable ethical decision: “political history” (Danby 2017: 166) or more simply put: “power asymmetries.” The latter become the central object of “economics,” through an elegant prose which manages to verbalize these aspects as “institutional change” (Danby 2017: 166): “Celso Furtado, Michal Kalecki, Juan Noyola, and K. N. Raj” “this approach” (Danby 2017: 166) took “strong interest in sectoral conflicts within nations” (Danby 2017: 166).

  • 66 “There is no ‘outside’ to politics or to economy. There are no neutral referees or apolitical techn (...)

177The emphasis in Furtado’s insistence to take account of the variety of agents’ struggles, under diverse historical circumstances, brings to light the reference to “distinct groups” as the entities that can be posed as the “economy.”66 Danby’s attractive prose conceals this perspective, sometimes unwittingly, since he takes back with one hand what he had offered with the other: “it does not reduce politics or history to economy, for that reason does not theorize power as necessarily emerging from economy” (Danby 2017: 167), but on occasions Danby’s own narrative and Latin American structuralist stance run against these statements: power can only be posed as “necessarily emerg[ing] from [the] economy.” My interpretation of the ambivalent transition and theoretical difficulty is associated with the approach of Danby’s presentation of the question. By his own stipulations, the “Economy and material life matter,” is not a “free-standing realm, nor an adequate basis for explaining history” (Danby 2017: 167), opening the possibility of an alternative discourse.

  • 67 See Furtado’s reflection on the ethical consequences of thinking this problematic, above.

178And yet, how we can think of the social relations, which are presupposed by the term “economy,” its heterogenous conditions of existence, as the consequence of power asymmetries, represents those “objects” as the “matter” in the perspective in question. In other words, it does not negate the possibility of alternative narratives delving into “economics,” but Danby’s lukewarm commitment seems ethically ambiguous,67 evading the “social” (Wade Hands 2005), or the politics and decisions democratically discussed with the aim to transform the individual/collective divide. In contrast to Latin American Structuralism, it begins and culminates with a narrative aiming to offer alternatives and policies related with “social justice,” notwithstanding Marxist scathing attacks during the 1970s and 1980s. Despite that, it must be said, Latin American Structuralism subsumed or using a Hegelian notion, “superseded,” major aspects of Marx’s hostility and critique of “capitalism,” but displaced notions on “being” and “knowledge” articulation and the presumed “economic totality.”

179Clearly, Danby’s effort to salvage theoretically as worthwhile the advancement of a “post-Keynesian subjectivity” (Danby 2017: 167) is not necessarily at odds with Latin American Structuralism, although it generated certain ambiguities I wish to discuss. The “subjective/knowledge” couple narrative delves into the issue as to “how knowledge works” (Danby 2017: 167) in “economics” and touches on the importance of “uncertainty” (post-Keynesian) and on “information asymmetries” (Danby 2017: 167), and yet inadvertently culminates in a fundamental aspect in Latin American Structuralism: the heterogeneity of the agents (entrepreneur, banker, consumer), which are not necessarily human individuals and hence construct distinct optics for “solving” and calculating their respective aims and “paths.” Individuals may be the vehicle through which discussions are elaborated, in corporations or associations and unions, schools, and yet the entity which voices the choice-decisions has previously had to embark on a series of practices and dispositions governed by logics which cannot be made synonymous to “subjectivity”: in other words, not all agents are individual “human beings.”

180Human individuals’ “experience” is materialized under specific and disparate discursive historical modes of existence, and unlike Thatcher’s dictum that only individuals exist, the source and presence of some rules and habits are not univocally the product of these agents, and whose mode of existence implies a whole set of heterogeneous agents: aims and mechanism of choice-decision are in turn, on occasions, the consequence of an administrative mechanism ensemble of a bureaucratic managerial hierarchical predisposition (corporate forms). Analogies between the “individuals” and “corporations” as under the category of “human subjectivity” with their respective modes of deliberations and mechanisms of recognition can only serve to discard those very set of conditions (power asymmetries), which are the basis to think those agents under their own historical conditions.

181In some contexts, “human” individuals may be agents to reckon with, but they do not present a unified or pre-established constituted narrative and mechanism through which to solve the choice-decision. A “household,” is itself a configuration of a variety set of agents-individuals, it also does not possess a univocally pre-established unity. Equally important differences and power asymmetries can be observed among and between a great variety of agents: “businesses,” individually or corporately “owned/managed,” and last but not least “workers” and their organizations present an equally diffuse range of narratives which explain their “recognition” and mechanism of decision-choice. Social justice in the context of the individual/collective antagonistic divide implies a struggle for a reconstruction of the boundary in question in a democratically contested complex.

  • 68 According to Danby, both Marx and Keynes seemed wavering ambiguously in their standing as “romantic (...)
  • 69 A singular ruling of the totality in question is actually problematized: “My suggestion is that the (...)

182One could argue that the notion of a “modernist” ontology does not exhibit the necessary qualities of a unified realm, which if unwrapped could set free diverse and contested plural theoretical alternatives. In this context, differing enunciative modalities are potentially power enabling for autonomous discourses. Therefore, questioning the pertinence of the substantive categories which give credence to modernism discourse is important, for example “individual psychologies” and “national units” and the ingrained teleological transition between tradition and modern. But the hegemonic discursive formation of “modernism”68 Centered around certain categories limits theorizing “kinship,” “community,” and other institutions and their diversity or heterogeneity, which Danby emphasizes. Otherwise, the “international” space (Center-Periphery)69 and its flows may be perceived as a set of uncontaminated social relations and/or antagonisms as expounded by mainstream economics.

  • 70 I am not going to bring K. Gödel into the picture, but his contemporary A. Lovejoy (The Great Chain (...)

183Potential “political alternative[s]” (Danby 2017: 162) are deceptively unviable and yet it’s mandatory to flee from discussing “ontologies” as fully fledged totalities, as well as interrogating-rejecting those specific sets of notions presupposed by the agents (as necessarily human, psychologies, introspections). But more generally, what I am arguing has to do with discarding the idea of discourses as a guarded set of padlocked categories (an “iron cage”), and which on certain instances can be deduced form Danby’s narrative. Perhaps the reader may have perceived the irony of my critique, since if, as my contention presupposes, the absence of padlocked discourses is the norm, then “inconsistencies” are the rule (the norm)70. I see no problem in assuming the possibility of a non-closed discursive formation with their respective antagonistic enunciative modalities: it is the only option which can illuminate the presence of discourses not necessarily governed by the ideology of modernism or “Western-centrism,” and therefore discarding the idea that everything necessarily, under specific set of social relations “melts into air.” Classical “ontologies” can only maintain certain “consistency” under the cloak of a “being” whose conditions of existence is “general.” If alternative discourses are politically game changers, social relations may not unequivocally “melt into air.”

184On the other hand, Danby’s second claim conveys “modernity” as coming fully into being after WWII, with the rise of a formal symbolic order of equality between nations and the end of “colonialism,” which explains the rise of discourses through which to diagnose and discipline governments. However, this description then would have little theoretical bearing if it were not for its aim to discontinue with traditional academia notions of “space,” as did Latin American Structuralism, bringing to the fore the Center-Periphery perspective. In fact, Danby recovers in this sense Tsing’s concept of “scale-making projects” (Danby 2017: 170) whose vision:

shows are not just that such scales as the national and global are made things, but that they are complex assemblages that do much work, incorporating not only the voices of governments and large businesses, but also simultaneously, rhetoric of suspicion and conspiracy. (…) Where Jameson and Graeber see conspiracy theories as demotic strivings to grasp the unknowable, Tsing shows that they are allied fictions, lurid retracings of the same notions of power and scale. (Danby 2017: 170)

185The definitions above related to the idea of “spaces” and their “logic” certainly sound more hesitant than modernity’s apparent ranting argument on the ineffable capitalism, tradition/modernity, or rationalist/romanticist designations.

Concluding Remarks

186Therefore, to recapitulate, my critique of Danby’s book in fact reinforces my own ethical posture, which implies a decision to engage in a judicious democratic hegemonic struggle (political), involving a discussion of the role and extension of the individual/collective divide with respect to the regulations and institutions which should dominate social relations among agents. Therefore, the heterogenous characteristics emphasized by Latin American structuralist economics, although subversive of the Western-centric “auto-imagination,” can also become a theoretical support to radicalize a “post-Keynesian” vision that Danby emphasized. The very possibility of organizing in disparate ways the process of production and circulation means that there is no overriding determination and teleological process to insist on the idea that “modernism” will “melt social relations into air.” Today’s so-called “left” or “right” divide cannot be the basis on which we can undertake the struggle to generate a more equal and better world, the reconstruction of the productive complex and its contingent social processes supposes examining the heterogenous and power asymmetric forces of the world we live in.

187To sum up: first, we intended to describe Danby’s account of the rise of the rationalist-romanticist discourse within the framework of a discussion of modernism (the Western-centric “auto-imagination”) and the construction of the household/business, (love-money) distinction, as well as its role and consequences to economics with the emergence of the statistical revolution and the generation of mechanisms through which to survey and measure the existence of a world totality. Subsequently, I discussed under the banner of the rise of development economics the theoretical agents and “white man’s burden curse” in Africa, through a series of authors that unknowingly subsequently formed part of the worthiest theoretical moments in economics, offshoots of Western-centric discourse. Finally, I engaged with Danby’s “post-Keynesianism” with the intent to transform the vocabulary through Latin American Structuralism’s vision, which obliges us to rethink political alternatives to construct a better and more equal “society.”


1 Danby, C. (2017) The Known Economy: Romantics, Rationalists, and the Making of a World Scale. Routledge.

2 Anglo-Saxon and/or Eurocentric discourses.

3 For an “outline,” see first three chapters.

4 See also Connell (2007) and Lander (2000). Collaterally, the critique includes considering how certain theorists from the so-called “developed” economies faced having to deal with the specter of the “‘The white-man’s burden’curse,” aspects of which haunted Seers’s work (see further ahead), despite having traversed theoretical routes coinciding with the Latin American structuralists in the 1940s and 1950s.

5 “Modernity is not just the doctrine that human societies tend to move from a solidaristic, locally rooted tradition to an individualistic, functionally divided modern society. It’s also a stylized ritual combat between two variants of this story, the rationalist and the romantic. Ideas about economy have played key roles in the shared doctrine, and in the ritual combat between its two variants” (Danby 2017: 7).

6 “Ethical doctrines are vulnerable to ethical critiques. Might it be wiser to avoid the danger of ethical critique by disclaiming any ethical foundation” (Danby 2017: 26).

7 Hence, in my interpretation, the Archeology of Knowledge (Foucault 1972) seems the more profound of Foucault’s books, to comprehend specific discursive formations, notwithstanding the encyclopedic nature of the The Order of Things… (1970).

8 According to Berman: “The innate dynamism of the modern economy, and of the culture that grows from this economy, annihilates everything that it creates -physical environments, social institutions, metaphysical ideas, artistic visions, moral values – in order to create more, to go endlessly creating the world anew. This drive draws all modern men and women into its orbit, and forces us all modern men and women into its orbit, and forces us all to grapple with the question of what is essential, what is meaningful, what is real in the maelstrom in which we move and live” (Berman 1982: 288).

9 There is no space here to delve on the category of “ideology” but for what follows, I assume discourses as the means by which certain specific set of practices are materialized; another occasion is necessary to scrutinize the theoretical assumptions whereby we might be able to differentiate “ideological” from non-ideological discourses, without excluding the possibility of questioning the very worthwhileness of the distinction. Danby’s note number 15 in the “Introduction” exhibit these worries: “I use terms like ‘full modernity’ or ‘tradition’ to refer to images in an ideology, not to the actual state of the world. It remains a discursive hurdle that ‘modernity’ is often used by adherents to mean both the specific assumptions described above and the entire thinkable social/historical horizon, a ‘how we are’ with no conceivable outside. I follow Latour (1993) and Fabian (1983) in denying the reality of ‘modernity’ as a historical stage and finding it counterproductive both as a category of social science and as an ethical guide” (Danby 2017: 12). My disagreement with Danby refers to the statement that we are dealing with an “ideological project” (Danby 2017: 98), since it requires presupposing the existence of a general discursive mechanism whereby to discriminate among discourses those “free” from the iron cage. Rather, discourses should be evaluated as forming part of the war of interpretations.

10 Morgan and Bach (2018), Moshe (2018).

11 See also Tribe (2008).

12 Mitchell’s and Kuznets’s “perspective” was sidelined by the new Keynesianism, to say the least. Rockoff has pointed out an interesting estimate on the “value” of unpaid household activities during the 1920s: Income in the United States, Its Amount and Distribution, 1909–1919 was published in two volumes (National Bureau of Economic Research, Mitchell et al. 1921). Nearly 600 pages in all, it far surpassed anything that had come before in terms of the amount of data utilized and the care taken in thoroughly double-checking the component estimates. The study made a clever use of the circular flow. King was tasked with estimating national income from the payments-for-final-products side, and Knauth with estimating it from the payments-for-productive-services side. The two estimates turned out to be reassuringly close. The study identified and tried to deal with many of the problems inherent in estimating national income that continue to be sources of debate and criticism. For example, it noted that its estimate of the national income in 1918 of $61 billion did not include the monetary value of unpaid work in the household, which probably amounted to “several billions” (Rockoff, p. 155).

13 Notwithstanding the consistent substantive narrative of the taboo in question, a construction of “women’s household activities” requires, both in ethically and political terms, an alternative discursive strategy in which what seems decisive is what is considered “productive.” The category might need deconstruction and/or reconstruction, which in turn implies examining the implicit or explicit power asymmetries in question not just of the household participants, but also between and among the heterogenous agents (all kinds of “businesses”).

14 But anticipating my doubts, not all agents are individuals or “people,” and furthermore, those very same “appraisals” and “motives” are constructed by an ensemble of antagonistic discourses for the accomplishment of those objectives. In a power asymmetric context, heterogeneous agents are not necessarily “economic,” nor human individuals as such.

15 However, as we will see ahead, the same could be said of the alternative Keynesian victorious discourse on data reconstruction and its assumptions.

16 See note 21 in Danby (2017: 32).

17 “The household emerges as a space of leisure, of non-work. Rao’s and Gilbert’s descriptions of what goes on in the household sphere (…) are romanticized” (Danby 2017: 27).

18 Bach (2018).

19 See also Chapters 5 and 7 in Peden (2000 and 2004).

20 Income (Y); Consumption (C); Investment (I), Government (G); Saving (S); Taxes (T).

21 “Gresham’s Law” is represented by Fisher’s (1916, pp. 105, 116, 119, 128) as water-gold-silver reservoirs, connected by pipes as a hydraulic automatic process, although driven by forces whereby bad money pushes good money out, its “propulsion” mechanisms aimed to show the accumulation and drain of “gold” reserves which induced changes towards an alternative coinage.

22 Paradoxically, the metaphor itself, of the machine or the body displays a visibility previously inexistent: “multitude of social processes and restless circulatory that we call the economy and recognize only via its abstractions can, with this model, be viewed in its entirety” (Stevenson in Danby 2017: 64).

23 “The physical model dramatizes the process of finding equilibrium: the plumbing apparatus will not instantly find the equilibrium price but will only gradually converge on it, with some overshooting and undershooting and general sloshing about” (Danby 2017: 65).

24 For an alternative and equally wonderful critique see Pilkington (2016) and previous chapter for my assessment.

25 It is difficult, after Mirowski’s (1989) book, and certainly not least Naredo’s (1987), to find a better reflection on these issues.

26 Danby’s “confession,” if I may be permitted the term, speaks not just volumes -again pardon the expression-, but “tons”!!!: “Part of the experience of teaching macroeconomics is struggling with this metaphorical thicket: students are primed to think of the nation as an organism possessing its own spirit and will, thriving and competing with like organisms” (Danby 2017: 65, note number 18).

27 I disagree about the feasibility of a general consistent, non-circular, representation of the being/knowledge, or power/knowledge dichotomy, hence my rejection of closing the sentence with “a distinct heterogeneity of being.”

28 “In a nutshell, a set of international organizations emerged after WWII that needed standardized nation-level concepts. Richard Stone and Milton Gilbert had forged a common Anglo-American position during the war on National income accounting: There was no serious competitor. No alternative system of national accounting had such well-placed advocates or was as well poised to claim global applicability” (Danby 2017: 68). No space to describe the above process, the rise, and the predominance of the “triumvirate”: Lord Keynes, Milton Gilbert and Richard Stone, whose work reconstructed the statistics traditions, which were extended throughout the world by the international organizations after World War II. See Chapter 4 of Danby (2017).

29 Foreigners purchase domestic financial assets, which can be considered as gross foreign savings, but residents buy foreign financial assets, which means gross foreign investment. Balance of payments X – M = Net exports; then = NFI, which means Net Foreign Investment, which can be included in the classical workhorse: C + I + G + (X – M) = Y = C + S + T + NFI.

30 See photo in Danby (2017: 76). See chapter on Furtado and his encounter with Mead in 1957.

31 The nation equation mi = ρi σ´i xw + ai ; mi and xw are national imports and world exports, respectively. The world equation is ∑i mi = xw ∑ρi σ´i + ∑i ai : “the expression ∑ρi σ´i stands for the weighted average of pi´s of the individual countries, with the σ´i’s (the ‘marginal propensities of the world to import from country i’) as the weights.” (Polak 1954: 54), while ai stands “for the total effect upon imports of all exogenous variables” (Polak 1954: 54). The symbol “ρ”, refers to an intensity, a “fraction” indicating a “change in the volume of exports and the ensuing change in the volume of imports” which Polak names as the “international reflection ratio,” to evaluate how certain countries revert back “impulses” received “from the rest of the world.” (Polak 1954: 42).

32 Danby writes: “close relations between any particular export sector and particular foreign buyers are illegible. There is no category –no conceptual category, no measurable thing– in which the structure of the international financial system might appear. (…) the International market is conceptualized as a space of pure flows, a space without people or institutions, all of whom are tucked away inside national economies. This effect is strengthened by the way orthodox economists like to model markets, as efficient anonymous smoothly adjusting mechanisms to facilitate flows of goods and services and exchanges of assets” (Danby 2017: 77, my emphasis).

33 “Discovering Economies in British Africa,” Chapter 5.

34 Indeed, geographical provenance and language are not necessarily a limitation to ethical and theoretical alternative transformations.

35 Seers would use the term “special case.”

36 Said (1978).

37 “Nonetheless, the views he [Crossman] ascribes to Horowitz are consistent with Hashomer Hatzair’s ideology of a Jewish rebirth through land and labor, and more broadly with the “agrarian ethos” described earlier (…): the idea that there was something false and artificial about a diasporic existence that could be fixed by returning to the land of Palestine. It was the nationalism that resonated with Crossman, redeeming Horowitz and his colleague (‘their native country’) as opposed to the American Zionists, which had aroused Crossman’s anti-Semitism” (Danby 2017: 44).

38 “Rather than being a group of experts, the Anglo-American Committee was a sort of jury, made up of six middling-prominent men from each country, none of whom had prior knowledge of the region” (Danby 2017: 43)

39 Kipling’s expression represents a truly power discursive regime par excellence a la Foucault.

40 It is ironic that models of truth a la Davidson, in which the “translation” of stories between diverse languages or discourses, actually originates with making references to “anthropological” discourses in colonial Africa! The advent of “truth” will be the product of a reconstruction and translation between discourses and their respective vocabularies, but in which the notion of “charity” between the “speakers” is mandatory; by “charity” is meant a situation in which the conversation with “the other” implies a mutual endeavor to tell each other the truth (!) or trusting the “nature” of the “storyteller” as “truth.” By the way, it is worthwhile to mention that one can agree with Davidson’s procedural examination to understand the process by which the discursive transformations and translations attain “truth” and dominance, without assuming the pertinence of the notion of “charity” and instead recover Nietzsche’s images of the sparks of the clashing swords. (Malpas 1992).

41 Deane (1989, 1965).

42 For example, Seers and Dudley (1962, 1963).

43 See note 34 in Danby (2017: 102).

44 Hence recovering Danby’s own questioning of the notion of a “universal” notion of Kinship. (Danby 2007).

45 According to Deane, “we have still to establish firm conclusions of the mainsprings of economic behavior in African rural communities, on the motives for work or leisure” (Deane, emphases added in Danby 2017: 89) (…) [M] oney does not have the same power of inspiration in the semi-subsistence economy. Social and psychological considerations frequently outweigh the money factor as a determinant of activity… they often do not even try to make profits from either production or exchange (Deane, emphases added in Danby 2017: 89).

46 Frankel, reviewing Deane’s 1948 study, praised her scruple: ‘No author could be at greater pains to warn the reader of a tentative conclusion, or a suspected margin of error.’ But he wondered ‘why it should ever have been expected that a technique which suits a highly developed and large-scale national economy such as the United Kingdom should, even if it could, be applied to small so-called ‘national’ units which are only just entering the world economy through the development of one or two specialized products in them. The whole procedure looks like an experiment to discover whether the system of accounting applicable to General Motors can throw light on the operations of a whole petrol station run by a man whose main livelihood is obtained with the assistance of his wife and children from an agricultural allotment… Are these aggregates a practical tool, or are they the symbols of fashionable concepts transferred from very highly developed economic regions to hide our ignorance of economically backward ones?’ (Frankel in Danby 2017: 100).

47 In Deane’s words: “The strange reasoning whereby they embrace such activities as childrearing, child minding, and the like in total production, and measure a year’s supply of non-agricultural, non-trading activities of women in terms of the bride payments in a given year” (Deane in Danby 2017: 91).

48 “The marginalization of Frankel and Seers suggest that one requirement for being a mainstream economist in the postwar period was accepting comparability, which meant accepting the underlying theoretical armature” (Danby 2017: 102, note number 34)

49 Herskovits’s “cross-disciplinary attack on the problems of economic growth” (Danby 2017: 94) and the differences between “academic disciplines” (Danby 2017: 94), as a way to delimit a “boundary” whereby a “free card” is donated to study Africans, need not, nor does not become an imperative, as Danby’s insistence implies, since anthropologists also take into consideration “whether” “social obligations to pay and to give,” or “total cultural context” matter in the “industrialized countries” themselves.

50 Frankel’s theoretical admonition to keep away from “economists” (“warning to other anthropologists to steer clear of economists” (Danby 2017: 95), might actually weaken and surrender any mechanisms with which to undertake the struggle and thus hinder some form of participation in redirecting policies.

51 “All the characteristics of modernist political economy noted (…) are shared by two contending moieties within modernist political economy, rationalists and romantics. I have sought to reframe the showy hostilities between them as a ritual combat atop a substantial, consequential, and troubling platform of agreement” (Danby 2017: 170)

52 “First, romantics are concerned with shared knowledge and understanding, not just feelings. (…) attentive to scarcities of time and attention (…) Bad art crowds out good art. (…) one characteristic of bad art is irresponsible circulation of signs. (…) Romantic critique of fashionable clothing, popular novels, and money all sound alarm that signifiers have gotten loose and are reproducing irresponsibly.” (Danby 2017: 122)

53 According to Danby, “romantic anti-globalizers” find “finance opaque, malign, and violent; and we know about it not directly, via our senses and reason, but indirectly via our confusion, dread, and alarm. For all their rhetorical truculence, these anti-globalization theorists re-affirm the IMF’s view of the world. If we are to escape this trap we need to rethink the modernist priors that reproduce this agreement on the shape and nature of the world” (Danby 2017: 157)

54 On heterogeneity, see further ahead.

55 Hence, M. Kalecki’s unhesitant definition of these power asymmetries (a relative notion) with the term “degree of monopoly power” (López and Assous 2010), which should not be confused with the notion of “monopoly.”

56 Hence, “classes” can be specified according to those “entities” possessed in separation (tangible or intangible; “things” or “permissions-property rights.” Obviously, a partial theoretical prelude to Latin American Structuralism was given by Marx, but superseded, in its Hegelian sense, by the former, and thus no concept of totality or necessary evolutionary process is required in a heterogenous, contingent set of social relations, see further ahead.

57 Units of productive (agents), whose conditions of existence are of their “own” so to speak, may coalesce into a larger entity, a classic in this sense is Marx’s sectoral description of the “concentration” under one roof (one agent), those tasks which were dispersed and undertaken by diverse and distinct agents/production units, distinguishing between formal and real subsumption of capital. Significantly, today many “productive” tasks show an inverse “historical” process: the proliferation “home-office” type of jobs, or “outsourcing” reduces many responsibilities and costs of the “larger” corporations or capital.

58 In fact, Danby has argued that “core institutions are not universal and that other constellations of institutions may function to undergird forward transactions at the micro level, and stabilize price levels at the macro level (…) It is reasonable to expect money to mean different things and play different roles in differently structured economies” (Danby 2000: 419).

59 I presume that the notion of the “rational agent” or “representative agent” and “equilibrium” of mainstream economics has no business (pun intended!) and is theoretically bankrupt. See Ackerman (2004).

60 As we will observe further ahead, what needs questioning is the theoretical role of the category “system,” otherwise the duplicitous characteristics of the notion of synchronicity/asynchrony cannot be questioned. Its corollary implies calling Saussure’s bluff on the presumed “systematicity” and therefore the analogy of “language” regarding a monetary organization, and not least the presumed “systematic” nature of the organized chain of meanings (significant/signified), whose significations are defined negatively. Significations may well be the product of a negative process of meanings, but it does not follow that they are a well-organized “totality.”

61 Hicks (1946: 245), Klein (1946), Wade Hands (1991: 169).

62 Indeed, Danby declares that it does not matter if we consider activities by “household” as necessarily “loving,” or kinship as solidaristic.

63 In note number 4, Danby writes: “even institutions that present themselves as bureaucratically-formal and rule-bound are in practice often reliant on particularist social ties” (Danby 2017: 168).

64 Prebisch’s notions of time disparities (or time asymmetries) between and among agents when closing obligatory commitments, in Danby’s words as “time-dated,” or relatively contingent under certain forms of obligations which might not be so precise, forms parts of the concept of “uncertainty.” These time “scales” of the agents, with certain high levels of leverage (those very credit worthy), may be able to adjust their “payroll dates,” interest or wages through new credit terms. Hence in a “forward-transacting” ensemble, the notion most underlined by Post-Keynesians, generally through Keynes’s own notion is the idea of “uncertainty,” and yet Prebisch wants to go one better, using instead the idea of “time disparities”: if time had a known constant unit of sorts -within a commercial setting or future transacting complex - , the very idea of “uncertainty” would be redundant. Keynes’s critique has nothing to do with the existence or otherwise of certain probabilities to calculate the “uncertainty” in question, and which Danby highlights by the term as “ontological” condition is well taken, but then Prebisch’s own notion on time disparities has to be seen as a theoretical condition of existence of uncertainty itself. The ensemble’s existential conditions (time/uncertainty) explain “wave”, “undulatory,” movements of the economy: an asynchrony between space and time disparities of the circulatory and productive processes; between “capitals,” given the power asymmetries among them: “locally”, regionally and “worldwide”: “Center-Periphery” (Prebisch 1948d, 1949a, 1949b); on endogenous money see Prebisch (1944a). Above I have suggested delinking Prebisch from “Singer” and/or “Thirwall,” a fashion dominant in today’s Western-centric academy.

65 A tradition exemplified by Marshall, Kuznets, and Rao to whom the “Economy and family were opposed mentalities” (Danby 2017: 88, my emphasis) or “how to understand formal and informal employment, factories and backyard gardens, kinship obligations, Godparents, inheritance and marriage practices, trade unions, religious congregations, civic festivals, private charities? What are the motives for these people’s behavior?” (Danby 2017: 98).

66 “There is no ‘outside’ to politics or to economy. There are no neutral referees or apolitical technocrats” (Danby 2017: 166).

67 See Furtado’s reflection on the ethical consequences of thinking this problematic, above.

68 According to Danby, both Marx and Keynes seemed wavering ambiguously in their standing as “romantics.”

69 A singular ruling of the totality in question is actually problematized: “My suggestion is that the world is not in fact very tightly organized, and that the financial markets are flighty and unreliable. Apologists and critics alike risk pareidolia, that is to say a tendency to read signals that are not there, and attribute more coherence than really exists. What is the warrant for assuming that international financial markets, or global capitalism or what have you, function according to any single inexorable logic, whether that is the logic of Moloch or Adam Smith? At the global level, we risk being frightened by a creature of our minds, an inflated image of international capitalism. At the level of the nation, the close alignment of society, population, and nation promoted by this kind of data has authorized the disciplining of households, and hindered migration and transnational kin and community ties” (Danby 2017: 170).

70 I am not going to bring K. Gödel into the picture, but his contemporary A. Lovejoy (The Great Chain of Being), should be enough to quell the debate.


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