Toward a Humanist Political Economy


216 pages
Contains Bibliography
ISBN 1-895431-23-9
DDC 320.5'13





Reviewed by Phillip J. Wood

Phillip J. Wood is an associate professor of political studies at
Queen’s University.


This is a collection of essays that were written during the 1980s in
response to the political concerns of that decade, especially the
collapse of the postwar Keynesian consensus and the rise of the new
Right. The authors are political economists who want to revitalize their
discipline in order to make it the basis of a progressive communitarian
challenge to the dominance of new-Right ideas. For this to happen, they
argue that political economy must be rescued from influences that have
deformed and dehumanized it, including economism, Stalinism,
neo-Marxism, and, most recently, ideas associated with the “free”

The key to this rescue operation, in turn, is the rehabilitation of a
series of insights that have been consequently marginalized. First,
political economy must incorporate some of the ideas of the Frankfurt
School in order once again to take culture seriously as a determinant of
political and economic outcomes. In Part 1, the authors argue that
Canada has failed to develop a progressive political culture; that this
failure has its sources in economic dependence, repression, regionalism,
and the political use of immigration; and that its consequences are the
decline of urban communities, a weak response to the neo-conservative
backlash against the welfare state, and, more generally, the gradual
weakening of social democracy as a political strategy.

Second, political economy must reacquaint itself with the role of
morality and reason in economic life. In Part 2, the authors argue that
the work of Keynes, though now out of fashion in the economics
profession, poses a serious moral and practical challenge not only to
the power of rentier capital and the irrationality of supply-side
economics, but to capital tout court.

Finally, the authors argue that political economy must renew its
concern with public life, solidarity, and community. Part 3 focuses on
Hannah Arendt’s work on citizenship and community.

Despite its diversity, this collection hangs together reasonably well
around the authors’ central themes. Some of the essays are now more
than a decade old, but most of the themes are still relevant for those
trying to fathom the post-Reaganite political world of the 1990s.


Chorney, Harold., “Toward a Humanist Political Economy,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 30, 2024,