February 10, 2003

Rootless Cosmopolites of the World, Unite! You Have Nothing to Lose but the Idiocy of Rural Life!

I read Tyler Cowen's Creative Destruction: How Globalization Is Changing the World's Cultures over the weekend --- it's a small book with big margins --- and came away half-convinced. Cowan frames matters as an argument about what "globalization" --- never precisely defined --- does to cultural diversity, also never defined. He concludes that it reduces the difference between cultures, but increases the diversity within any one culture. Therefore the effective cultural diversity available to most people will actually increase. This is an attractive argument, but pending those definitions, I'm not altogether convinced --- it's not even clear that diversity across cultures is comparable to that within a given culture. This probably deserves a full review...

Chris Mooney had a good profile of Cowen in the Boston Globe, but that's retreated into the pay section of the paper's archive. Update, 9 May 2003: someone has helpfully provided a summary.

While we're on the subject of "creative destruction" (am I alone in thinking it should be retired for a few years?), does anyone know what made the idea so attractive to people in Vienna between the wars? Schumpeter coined that phrase, but Popper uses nearly identical ones when expounding the idea that knowledge grows through conjectures and refutations, and I'm sure I've seen similar things in Hayek. Was there some intellectual reason they would all have been attracted to this notion simultaneously? Or was it some kind of emotional reaction to the all-hell-breaking-loose atmosphere of the place and time?

The Great Transformation

Posted at February 10, 2003 15:21 | permanent link

Three-Toed Sloth