Edible Economics: A Hungry Economist Explains the World

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Edible Economics: A Hungry Economist Explains the World

Edible Economics: A Hungry Economist Explains the World

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It shows that getting to grips with the economy is like learning a recipe: when we understand it, we can adapt and improve it—and better understand our world. I'm very used to Europeans and Europe-based gurus (the author is South Korean, but he's made his career in the UK, so I'm counting him in) being awful at analysing South America, save the Spaniards and Portuguese because language and historical ties that continue make them closer and more in touch, but it never ceases to bother me how ill-informed their commentary can be sometimes. Ha-Joon Chang uses food stories, knitting world history and personal stories together, to explain important themes in economics; often deconstructing popular economic myths that stil inform mainstream economics education and policymaking (including “post-industrialisation”, the “free market”, the importance of the care economy, misunderstandings of the welfare state, protectionism, innovation etc. That development obviously shaped Chang’s outlook – in chapters with titles such as Noodle and Banana, he sketches out the story of his home country’s rise, with an emphasis on its protection of infant industries and close regulation of multinational corporations. His descriptions of the wheres and hows of the food items serve as a springboard for his explanations about the economics and both are equally entertaining.

For Chang, chocolate is a life-long addiction, but more exciting are the insights it offers into post-industrial knowledge economies; and while okra makes Southern gumbo heart-meltingly smooth, it also speaks of capitalism's entangled relationship with freedom and unfreedom. In ‘Edible Economics’, Chang makes challenging economic ideas more palatable by plating them alongside stories about food from around the world.

Chang’s preferred growth model, once unorthodox, is close to being an “anti-Washington” consensus these days, and like all such consensuses, has weaknesses. For Chang, chocolate is a lifelong addiction, but more exciting are the insights it offers into postindustrial knowledge economies; and while okra makes Southern gumbo heart-meltingly smooth, it also speaks of capitalism’s entangled relationship with freedom. I'm usually a slow reader, but I managed to finish this in just two sittings, not only because it's under 200 pages but also because I was curious to know what strawberries had to do with automation and how okra was affected by colonisation and slavery.

Myth-busting, witty and thought-provoking, Edible Economics shows that getting to grips with the economy is like learning a recipe: if we understand it, we can change it - and, with it, the world.

Since I by far prefer to read about food than economics, it was the title and the cover which encouraged me to pick up this book, rather than the author's (impressive) credentials. Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to review Edible Economics in exchange for an honest review. There’s a tendency among leftwing economists to reproduce the boosterism of the neoliberals in the opposite direction; to suggest that a different policy mix with more regulation and redistribution could act as just as much of a silver bullet.

Very refreshing is not only his style, but also his Korean background - he offers an original, non-Western-centric point of view on food as well as on economics. Bestselling author and economist Ha-Joon Chang makes challenging economic ideas delicious by plating them alongside stories about food from around the world, using the diverse histories behind familiar food items to explore economic theory. In my case, it was like a roller-coaster ride that I finished in a breath, but its charm will stay forever.

I do appreciate the author’s evident extended effort to present ideas and concepts fairly, particularly multiple discussions of different versions and perspectives of the same theories, but the overarching author’s voice and bias is still ever-present. The author does address the strange connections he makes in the afterword, though perhaps I would have liked to have known what to expect a little more in the beginning.



  • Fruugo ID: 258392218-563234582
  • EAN: 764486781913
  • Sold by: Fruugo

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