Released: April 27, 2016
Beginning in the mid-1970s a political program based in pre-Great Depression economics took hold in the U.S. and spread across the developed West. Its basis in reaction to the ‘managed capitalism’ that emerged from the Great Depression produced a hybrid—neoliberalism, which discarded the institutional framework of classical economics in favor of an opportunistic state-capitalist amalgam. The political maneuvers behind the rise explain the institutional re-emergence of this new-old capitalism but they don’t explain either why it was so readily adopted by so many people or why it has been so resilient in the face of the serial catastrophes it has created.
Capitalist theory informs a narrow, anti-historical concept of people, what motivates us and our relationship to one another and the world. More profoundly, the premises of the ‘self’ of capitalism form a deeply instantiated identity. The emergence of philosophical post-modernism informed by the work of Martin Heidegger, Friedrich Nietzsche and Karl Marx provided an explanation of the social basis of this Western self that unites capitalist theory with practice in paradox to create a ‘timeless and universal,’ yet wholly malleable, authoritarian subject. Western critics of philosophical post-modernism get its relationship to the re-emergence of new-old capitalism partially right without understanding the basis of the critique.
Zen Economics addresses the background philosophical issues around economics, science and technology to place them in context and then applies the results to work and labor, income and wealth distribution, environmental crisis and animal rights. Zen enters as absence, as radical humility toward what is knowable and what is known. This view derives from years spent with the base texts of existential philosophy, from correspondence between Martin Heidegger and D.T. Suzuki around the relationship between Heidegger’s ontology and Zen and from Buddhism as a practical, non-deistic, philosophy of life. The book ends with a political program that emerges from four decades of political activism.
"Rob Urie is the hands-down best political-economics writer of our time. Whether the topic is climate change, the bank crisis or the demonic Ms. Clinton, Urie never disappoints. He is a top-notch analyst with a keen eye for hypocrisy and a breathtaking grasp of history. Even better, Urie is crackerjack writer who knows how to cut through the mainstream baloney and deliver the goods. For that alone, he deserves a Pulitzer.” — Mike Whitney, economic columnist, “Grasping at Straws"
Rob Urie is a writer, artist and musician who lived his early years at the tail-end of the 1960s rebellion against war, capitalism and racism. After living as an artist and writer and co-founding several punk rock bands on the Lower East Side of New York in the early 1980s, Rob completed his education, earning a B.S. degree in Economics and Philosophy from Albright College and an M.S. degree in Economics from The University of North Carolina. An additional year was spent doing graduate coursework in the History of Science and the Philosophy of Science through the Liberal Studies program at The University of North Carolina. The experience of life-altering violence and the social failures that surrounded it led Rob to move away from the arts to take a series of quasi- academic jobs in the Asset Management business before starting a successful Global-Macro mutual fund and writing a globally distributed blog on finance and political economy. A recovered awareness of the destructive nature of capitalism and a growing sense that bourgeois working life is abandonment of social and personal possibility led Rob to walk away from career and a steady paycheck in 2011 to try to live a socially constructive life. Since 2011 Rob has been arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge with 700 other Occupy Wall Street protestors, has marched with early incarnations of Black Lives Matter and other anti-racist and environmental groups and has been a regular contributor to CounterPunch with articles reprinted around the globe. Rob is currently embarking on an effort in applied economics, moving to one of the poorest cities in the U.S. to try to help create a post-capitalist economy amongst people long ago tossed aside by the dominant culture. His book Zen Economics is a first effort at outlining the task at hand, reconciliation with the world so that we can live in it together.