This week, the Legal Theory Bookworm recommends two new books by Roberto Unger. The first is The Self Awakened: Pragmatism Unbound by Roberto Mangabeira Unger. Here is a description:
In what kind of world and for what kind of thought is time real, history open, and novelty possible? In what kind of world and for what kind of thought does it make sense for a human being to look for trouble rather than to stay out of trouble?
In this long-awaited work of general philosophy, Roberto Mangabeira Unger proposes a radical reorientation of established ideas about nature, mind, society, politics, and religion. He shows how we have to change our beliefs if we are to succeed in doing justice to our most distinctive contemporary experiences, discoveries, and ideals.
The Self Awakened mobilizes the resources of several philosophical traditions, and develops the unrecognized revolutionary implications of the most influential of these traditions today--pragmatism. Avoiding technical jargon and needless complication, this book makes a case for philosophy as the supreme activity of the intellect at war, insisting on its power to deal with what matters most.
And from the blurbs & reviews:
Unger writes broadly for an educated audience, but most specifically for philosophers, psychologists, political scientists, sociologists, and legal theorists. His style is inviting and non-technical, almost sermonic in certain passages. His capacious and ambitious mind yields a challenge, though, of holding together and keeping in view the multiple facets of his philosophical vision. His penchant for apt and memorable metaphors, however, assists readers in this task.--Brad Frazier, Metapsychology Online
Roberto Unger is one of the very few creative political philosophers of our time. The brief and broadly accessible The Self Awakened, which takes a distinctive position on one of the great questions of political philosophy and develops its implications for the political predicaments of our time, will serve as the best introduction to his complex work. For the brave band of secular humanists who do not wish to turn back the clock, this book represents an important contribution to an important conversation.--Bruce Ackerman, Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science, Yale University, and author of The Failure of the Founding Fathers
The second is Free Trade Reimagined: The World Division of Labor and the Method of Economics by Roberto Mangabeira Unger. Here is a description:
Free Trade Reimagined begins with a sustained criticism of the heart of the emerging world economy, the theory and practice of free trade. Roberto Mangabeira Unger does not, however, defend protectionism against free trade. Instead, he attacks and revises the terms on which the traditional debate between free traders and protectionists has been joined.
Unger's intervention in this major contemporary debate serves as a point of departure for a proposal to rethink the basic ideas with which we explain economic activity. He suggests, by example as well as by theory, a way of understanding contemporary economies that is both more realistic and more revealing of hidden possibilities for transformation than are the established forms of economics.
One message of the book is that we need not choose between accepting and rejecting globalization; we can have a different globalization. Traditional free-trade doctrine rests on shaky empirical and theoretical ground. Unger takes a new approach to show when international trade is likely to be useful or harmful to the socially inclusive economic growth that every nation wants. Another message is that the movement of people and ideas is more important than the movement of things and money, and that freedom to change the institutions defining a market economy is just as important as freedom to exchange goods on the basis of those institutions.
Free Trade Reimagined ranges broadly within and outside economics. Presenting technical issues in plain language, it appeals to the general reader. It puts a disciplined imagination in the service of rebellion against the dictatorship of no alternatives that characterizes life and thought today.
And from the reviews:
Unger has written an incisive and compelling critique of free trade. The core of the argument-which seems to me historically incontrovertible--is that a nation's comparative advantage is always constructed by collaboration between public authorities and private interests. The essay hammers this point home with the relentless brilliance for which the author is known. A clear and worthy challenge both to those who are sure the doctrine of free trade is right and those who are confident that is fundamentally flawed.--Charles Sabel, Columbia Law School
This book aims to provide a critical assessment of the present theoretical and practical consensus in favor of the orthodox conception of free trade and to outline the elements of a realizable alternative. Unger reveals a remarkable breadth of understanding of the field, boring into it with his inimitable and potent vision. This is a book of enormous intellectual and worldly interest.--Sanjay Reddy, Columbia University
As one would expect from Unger, the book is brilliantly written and his central theses are persuasively and passionately argued. It is readily accessible and will command a wide audience and generate significant and constructive public debate and controversy.--Michael Trebilcock, University of Toronto
I have vivid memories of Unger's jurisprudence course at Harvard, and of the huge interest that Law in Modern Society created. Unger's work is always provocative, even fascinating.