Communication and the Transformation of Economics: Essays in Information, Public Policy, and Political Economy

Communication and the Transformation of Economics: Essays in Information, Public Policy, and Political Economy

Communication and the Transformation of Economics: Essays in Information, Public Policy, and Political Economy

Communication and the Transformation of Economics: Essays in Information, Public Policy, and Political Economy


Many governments are pursuing with relentless vigor a neoconservative/transnational corporate program of globalization, privatization, deregulation, cutbacks to social programs, and downsizing of the public sector. Countries are forming into giant "free trade" blocs. Increasingly they lack the will and desire to resist encroachments of world "superculture." Furthermore, they encourage heightened commoditization of information and knowledge, for instance through stiffer intellectual property laws, through "Information Highway" initiatives, and through provisions in bilateral and multilateral trade treaties. The analytical underpinning and ideological justification for this neoconservative/transnational corporate policy agenda is mainstream (neoclassical) economics. Focusing on the centrality of information/communication to economic and ecological processes, Communication and the Transformation of Economics cuts at the philosophical/ideological root of this neoconservative policy agenda. Mainstream economics assumes a commodity status for information, even though information is indivisible, subjective, shared, and intangible. Information, in other words, is quite ill-suited to commodity treatment. Likewise, neoclassicism posits communication as comprising merely acts of commodity exchange, thereby ignoring gift relations; dialogic interactions; the cumulative, transformative properties of all informational interchange; and the social or community context within which communicative action takes place. Continuing in the tradition of writers such as Russel Wallace, Thorstein Veblen, Karl Polyani, E. F. Schumacher, Kenneth E. Boulding, and Herman Daly, Robert Babe proposes infusing mainstream economics with realistic and expansive conceptions of information/communication in order to better comprehend twenty-first-century issues and progress toward a more sustainable, more just, and more democratic economic/communicatory order.


This book is written in the conviction that mainstream (or neoclassical) economics is leading us to a dead-end. In the words of Herman Daly and John Cobb, economic orthodoxy is "an ideology of death," destroying our planet and debasing our humanity.

Fortunately, neoclassical economics is not immutable truth; it does not depict with exacting precision and nuanced insight inexorable economic laws or ineluctable economic processes. Neoclassicism, rather, is mere social construction. It is a product of the human mind, or rather a product of the thinking of a small community of humans known as neoclassical economists, whose doctrines have spread into the very corridors of political and economic power. Today's mainstream or neoclassical economics consists largely of deductive reasoning based on a set of restrictive and (in the words of neoclassicist Milton Friedman) "descriptively false" assumptions. Useful undoubtedly to some, particularly the rich and powerful, as a schema or paradigm for interpreting economic life, mainstream economics remains nonetheless social construction.

Usefulness for certain segments of society does not in and of itself constitute a criterion of truth, philosophical pragmatism notwithstanding. To the contrary, if it be the case, as is contended in this book, that policy prescriptions flowing from economic orthodoxy cause immiserization of masses of people, environmental degradation, and breakdowns in human community, then even on the terms set by philosophical pragmatism, economic orthodoxy is fundamentally untrue. Neoclassicism is a false doctrine, promulgated for self-serving purposes by a small but inordinately influential éite.

By promulgating notions such as the efficacy of unmitigated market forces, competition, individualism, economic efficiency (narrowly construed), pursuit of profit, monetarization and commoditization of social life, mainstream economics has become a doctrine serving the worldly interests of the rich and powerful, but to the disadvantage of the poor and the oppressed. Neoclassicism indeed "justifies" the marginalization of millions.

Nor is economic orthodoxy a mode of thought consistent with a long term, sustainable development. It is, rather, a short run (take-the-moneyand-run-or-tomorrow-we-may-die) type of ideology. These characteristics . . .

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