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Book Projects

The Currency of Justice: Money and Political Thought (in manuscript form)

While contemporary political theorists have been vocal about money’s corrosive effects on civic norms, they have remained largely silent concerning the politics of money. Political theory today tends to regard money as irresponsive to questions of justice and unworthy of normative analysis. This book challenges the opposition between politics and money by excavating discussions of currency as a central political institution in the history of political thought and exploring its implications for politics today. By recovering five historical moments of monetary politics I reconstruct the neglected monetary dimension of the political thought of Aristotle, John Locke, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, John Maynard Keynes, and Jürgen Habermas and argue that money is not only an economic tool but also a political institution constitutive of any political community. Currency is an essential tool of civic recognition that mirrors the civic uses of speech in fostering trust and acknowledgement, and a political institution of reciprocity whose benefits and burdens require fair sharing. This does not displace worries about commodification but complements them by an account of currency as a malleable political institution.

 

The Political Thought of John Maynard Keynes (in progress)

John Maynard Keynes is today rarely, if ever, considered or taught as a social theorist and political thinker. If he is invoked at all he appears most likely as an adjective, misleadingly gesturing toward arguments for fiscal stimulus or the postwar welfare state. This book introduces political theorists to a different Keynes. The Keynes I have instead in mind asked in the interwar years what a new liberalism might look like that could successfully negotiate the relation between the economic and the political, and who on this basis constructed a liberal constitutional theory of money and the economy. Keynes was not just one of the most influential economists of the twentieth century. He was also an eloquent and prolific political commentator, an active campaigner for the British Liberal Party, and a perceptive theorist of what it might mean to think the political and the economic together without reducing one to the other. Moreover, Keynes did so without neglecting the domestic politics of democratic opinion formation or the international politics of military and economic competition. Despite his casual presence as an adjective, Keynes’s political thought remains a largely underexplored resource for those grappling with problems of liberal economic governance.

 

Commercial Society before Perpetual Growth: The Politics of the Steady State (in progress)

This book project offers a political investigation of eighteenth-century discussions of economic growth and environmental limits – ranging from Rousseau to Malthus. While thinkers of commercial society are usually seen as standing on the threshold to our modernity, it is easy to forget that their preoccupation with how to maintain a stable commercial society was rooted in a world prior to the carbon revolution’s circumvention of diminishing returns to land. If carbon-based inputs allowed the nineteenth century to break out of the previous constraints of nature, our contemporary constellation is once more reminiscent of a context in which narratives of material progress and decline compete for preeminence. Recovering the premises and outlines of eighteenth-century debates about the steady state not only makes available valuable intellectual resources but also allows for a re-framing of powerful contemporary narratives that link the possibility of progress to economic growth.

 

 

 

Contact information

Princeton Society of Fellows
Princeton University
10 Joseph Henry House
Princeton, NJ 08544
E-Mail: seich@princeton.edu
Twitter: @stefeich