James C. Scott at Cato Unbound

James C. Scott is one of the great thinkers of our time. This month at Cato Unbound, we’re doing a retrospective on his book Seeing Like a State. It’s a monograph whose influence has been felt all across the political spectrum — particularly, perhaps surprisingly, in the Austrian School of economics and its daughter movement, Masonomics.

Though Scott has termed himself a “crude Marxist, with the emphasis on ‘crude,’” I’ve always seen his work as falling somewhere between Jane Jacobs and Michel Foucault. It’s got a lot to offer free-marketers, Marxists, anarchists, urbanists, ruralists, and just about everyone else. (His book The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia is great too — possibly the best nonfiction I’ve read this year.)

Scott’s Cato Unbound lead essay, “The Trouble with the View from Above” reviews several of the key themes from Seeing Like a State. Economists Don Boudreaux and Brad DeLong will comment in the coming week, along with tech-writer-turned-urbanist Timothy Lee.

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22 thoughts on “James C. Scott at Cato Unbound

  1. Seeing Like a State is where it’s at. I’d note, perhaps unnecessarily, that the subtitle is “How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed,” not “Why Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Fail.”

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  2. With Scott’s discussion of local road-naming practices, I’m reminded of all my friend from Belfast has told me about Catholic place names and Protestant place names in his hometown, how naming acts as both shibboleth of the oppressed and tool of the oppressor.

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