Everybody loves James Scott. I certainly enjoyed “Seeing Like a State”, perhaps having a predisposition towards its genre. Because of my predisposition toward that narrative, I look out for contrary ones. I’m currently also enjoying “The Art of Not Being Governed”. I saw on the back flap a blurb from Tom Palmer at Reason, which I was surprised not to have already read. As one might expect of blurb-sources, Palmer praises the book but he also takes note my titular critic. Samuel Popkin’s “The Rational Peasant” argued against Scott’s “The Moral Economy of the Peasant”, neither of which I’ve read. This was way back in the 70s when Vietnam was still fresh in our minds, but perhaps if I read Popkin now it would still help to correct excesses I’ve absorbed from the Scott of today. My first link above references Randal O’Toole’s complaints about Jane Jacobs relying on Herbert Gans’ ethnographies, which I should also check out some time. Gans also wrote “Deciding What’s News”, which should be interesting in its own right if also dated.

I previously discussed oppositional pairs of books here. The ones listed there I have read are Easterly vs Collier and Greg Clark + Mancur Olson vs North & Wallis & Weingast. The ones I haven’t are Marshall Sahlins vs Edward Said + Gananath Obeyesekere and Daniel Goldhagen vs Finkelstein & Birn. In Henry Farrell’s double-review of Scott’s latest he depicts the other reviewed anarchist sympathizing author (Benedict Anderson) as his own opposition for radically altering his earlier argument about the relationship between mass communication and nationalism. Incidentally, “The Art of Not Being Governed” trumpets the repeated refutation of the famous materialist evolution theory put forth by Karl Wittfogel of the “hydraulic-state”.

UPDATE: Thorfinn points me to a much better critique from Victor Lieberman, this time of “The Art of Not Being Governed”.

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