Web Letters | The Nation

Swans and Zombies: Neoliberalism's Permanent Contradiction

Sense and sensibility

“Valuation is expectation and expectation is imagination.”
         —George Shackle, Epistemics and Economics (1972)

Mr. Joshua Clover reminds his readers of the power of sensibility and imagination in the life of the mind, in the very notion of committed inquiry. If we wish to explore further as to Mr. Clover’s intellectual precursors, the name of Richard Bronk and his book The Romantic Economist, which supplies the opening quotation to my letter, is a place to begin. To read Mr. Clover’s elegant literary essay is no longer to experience economic thought apart from the human world but as integrated into the totality of the human experience, manifested in a literary essay of depth, breadth and eloquence.

Stephen K. Mack

San Diego, CA

Apr 16 2011 - 11:23am

Swans and Zombies: Neoliberalism's Permanent Contradiction

Word salad

Well, to me the whole article looks like something spit out by a Monte Carlo text generator, to such an extent deliberately torturing, that the (momentarily confused or just lazy) perpetrator of this “joke” seems to be assured that neither the authors cited, much less the readers, will have disposition to read all blah blah blah or protest against his misrepresentations. The writer should be more rigorous before making free associations or selective use of ideas and book citations.

Marko Costa

São Paulo, BRAZIL

Apr 10 2011 - 12:25pm

Swans and Zombies: Neoliberalism's Permanent Contradiction

Frustrating misrepresentation

I am puzzled by Mr. Clover’s letter, below, in which he refers to Nassim Taleb’s book as “an interesting read.” In saying this, one would assume that he has read the The Black Swan. Based, on the article, I would conclude that he has not. After reading the first paragraph of the article, I had the impression that Mr. Clover overheard the term “black swan” in a shallow context at a cocktail party and then used it as a convenient rhetorical device for his article. This impression was reinforced later when he refers to “the black swan theory.” For someone who has read The Black Swan (me included) and appreciates the depth of Nassim Taleb’s ideas, Mr. Clover’s article is very frustrating. I hope Mr. Clover will read The Black Swan. If Mr. Clover has, in fact, read the book, then my frustration enters a different realm of concern.

Walter Marsh

South Pasadena, CA

Apr 9 2011 - 4:40pm

Swans and Zombies: Neoliberalism's Permanent Contradiction

“A theodicy of risk”

I highly encourage all interested to read N.N. Taleb’s book and decide for themselves. It is an interesting read, as theodicies of risk go. For those whose main interest is risk management, and steering clear of errors in calculating portfolio exposure, it is no doubt excellent. If one wants a causal account of the crisis—that eschews a kind of apologetics for the market, and might therefore give us a way to grasp how the crisis came about, and thus its likelihood—several other titles suggest themselves.

Joshua Clover

Ithaca, NY

Apr 8 2011 - 9:45pm

Swans and Zombies: Neoliberalism's Permanent Contradiction

Missing the point of The Black Swan

The author completely missed the central message of my book The Black Swan. I strongly suggest he reads the books he references prior to discussing them.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

New York, NY

Apr 7 2011 - 12:38pm

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