Emma Rothschild

Emma Rothschild is Associate Professor of Humanities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Putting down

Emma Rothschild, 4 June 1981

Times are dire for economists in America. The country is preoccupied with its economic misfortunes. Yet the most esteemed theorist of economic recovery seems to be the early 19th-century French populariser of Adam Smith known to Marx as ‘the inane Jean-Baptiste Say … [who] refutes himself again’. The most successful recent guide to the economy – a work called Wealth and Poverty, described by the Republican Director of the Office of Management and Budget as ‘Promethean in its intellectual power and insight’ – explains (with the required obeisance to Say) that slow economic growth is to be understood in terms of faith, the modesty of female sexuality and the ‘dominance of single and separated men in poor communities’.

Hangchow Retrouvé

Emma Rothschild, 22 May 1980

The city of Hangchow, in the 13th century, was transfixed by food. Its restaurants went in and out of fashion, and were commemorated in elaborate and scholarly guidebooks. There were restaurants specialising in regional food, fish restaurants, fast-food bars, restaurants which served iced food or vegetarian dishes. Its markets were ‘innumerable’, according to Marco Polo, selling...

One of the more mournful consequences of the economic crisis is the boom in the business of illness. This is in one sense a figure of speech. The economies of the West are evidently unwell: since 1973, they have been obsessed with the etiology of economic impairment, the electroencephalograms of unemployment and inflation. But it is also literally true.

Looking at the imperial magnificence, the Habsburgian gigantism of public buildings in Edinburgh and Glasgow, you want to ask: where did all that wealth go? Looking at the stone ruins in the...

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Among the intellectual figures who have shaped the modern world Adam Smith stands out as someone who doesn’t frighten the laity, might be positively welcomed indeed by middle England....

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