What Matters?: Economics for a Renewed Commonwealth
Over the years, Wendell Berry has sought to understand and confront the financial structure of modern society and the impact of developing late capitalism on American culture. There is perhaps no more demanding or important critique available to contemporary citizens than Berry’s writings — just as there is no vocabulary more given to obfuscation than that of economics as practiced by professionals and academics. Berry has called upon us to return to the basics. He has traced how the clarity of our economic approach has eroded over time, as the financial asylum was overtaken by the inmates, and citizens were turned from consumers — entertained and distracted — to victims, threatened by a future of despair and disillusion.
For this collection, Berry offers essays from over the last 25 years, alongside new essays about the recent economic collapse, including “Money Versus Goods” and “Faustian Economics,” treatises of great alarm and courage. He offers advice and perspective that should be heeded by all concerned as our society attempts to steer from its present chaos and recession to a future of hope and opportunity. With urgency and clarity, Berry asks us to look toward a true sustainable commonwealth, grounded in realistic Jeffersonian principles applied to our present day.
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After teaching in "higher ed" for more than 30 years, I could not agree more with Wendell Berry's call for a new major in Homecoming. With over 1.4 trillion in student debt that will probably not be paid back (see Mike Rowe's "great disconnect"), it is a shocking example of how greed has allowed corporate universities to serve as money launderers of tax payer money to sell worthless degrees to clueless students and then to leave them with the burden of debt. The corporate university is immoral for the "for profit" orientation that has caused a lack of appreciation or support for quality of instruction, as it contributes to the deepening of the hole "intelligent" life on this planet keeps digging. I am thankful for the work Wendell Berry has provided. My favorite quote from him is below and I used it in one of my publications.
As Wendell Berry (1990) reminds us through his personification on Mother Nature: “If you put the fates of whole communities or cities or regions or ecosystems at risk in single ships or factories or power plants, then I will furnish the drunk or the fool or the imbecile who will make the necessary small mistake.”
Berry, W. 1990. Word and Flesh. In: What Are People For? Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint.