What Matters?: Economics for a Renewed Commonwealth

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Counterpoint Press, 2010 - Business & Economics - 193 pages
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"The reasoned and insistent exhortations of a man with a cause who, rather than mellowing with age and wisdom, continues to grow in forcefulness and vision." --Booklist

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 the last twenty-five 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 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 Jeffersonianprinciples applied to our present day.


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Berry feels our economy has eroded over time and we are victims, threatened by a future of despair and disillusion. This is a collection of essays collected over the past 25 years about the recent ... Read full review

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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.




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About the author (2010)

Wendell Berry The prolific poet, novelist, and essayist Wendell Berry is a fifth-generation native of north central Kentucky. Berry taught at Stanford University; traveled to Italy and France on a Guggenheim Fellowship; and taught at New York University and the University of Kentucky, Lexington, before moving to Henry County. Berry owns and operates Lanes Landing Farm, a small, hilly piece of property on the Kentucky River. He embraced full-time farming as a career, using horses and organic methods to tend the land. Harmony with nature in general, and the farming tradition in particular, is a central theme of Berry's diverse work. As a poet, Berry gained popularity within the literary community. Collected Poems, 1957-1982, was particularly well-received. Novels and short stories set in Port William, a fictional town paralleling his real-life home town of Port Royal further established his literary reputation. The Memory of Old Jack, Berry's third novel, received Chicago's Friends of American Writers Award for 1975. Berry reached his broadest audience and attained his greatest popular acclaim through his essays. The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture is a springboard for contemporary environmental concerns. In his life as well as his art, Berry has advocated a responsible, contextual relationship with individuals in a local, agrarian economy.

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