This book works out the economic implications, as well as the implications for economics, of the social theory developed in my Politics books and of the philosophical program advanced in “The Self Awakened.” It represents the counterpart in political economy to the arguments of “What Should Legal Analysis Become?” about law. I see it as one more move in a campaign to free social thought from its embrace of superstition and its subservience to fate.
The book takes as its point of departure a discussion of the doctrine of free trade on the basis of comparative advantage — the most characteristic teaching of economics. A substantive theme in the work is the way in which the activities we have learned how to repeat (and thus to express in formulas, embodied in machines) are best related to the activities we do not yet know how to repeat. Here is a form of the division of labor — in the workplace or in the world as a whole — contrasting to Adam Smith’s pin factory and to Henry Ford’s assembly line. A methodological theme is the development of a practice of economics supporting a more intimate bond among analysis, explanation, and proposal than the economics inaugurated by the marginalism of the late nineteenth century allows. (Princeton University Press)