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What Matters?: Economics for a Renewed Commonwealth
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What Matters?: Economics for a Renewed Commonwealth

4.24 of 5 stars 4.24  ·  rating details  ·  187 ratings  ·  29 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published May 18th 2010 by Counterpoint (first published April 23rd 2010)
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Fred Gorrell
The title of this book suggested it would address a subject near and dear to my heart, and the author is held in high esteem by many for his thoughtful, contrarian perspective on the world. The book itself was a great disappointment.

Wendell Berry is known as a proponent of sustainable practices in agriculture and land management, and is admired for having committed his life to align with his ideas; he lives and works on a farm in Kentucky. The title suggested to me that he would show us a path t
Wendell Berry needs no introduction to those who are interested in the environmental costs of living in societies that define corporate interests and the consequential consumerism as progress. He is a Luddite by his own admission; a proud one a that. This collection of essays is a really one solid argument against the priorities that we have set up as societies using economic arguments to warrant his claims.

First, he defines agrarianism as a prioritized list based upon importance: 1) nature, 2)e
Donovan Richards
Etymologically Speaking

Etymologically speaking, “economy” comes from the Greek word, “oikonomia.” A compound word, oikonomia comes from oikos meaning “household” and nomos meaning “law.” So, oikonomia literally translates as “the law of the household.”

Obviously, this definition differs greatly from the standard definition society places on economy. These days, we understand economy as “the wealth and resources created from the goods and services of a distinctive region.”

Clearly, a stark shift ha
John Lucy
Well, some of the essays in this collection are included in other Berry collections. With essay-writers, that type of thing is almost guaranteed to happen--I hope it happens with me someday--but it is still disappointing that there weren't more essays written specifically with this book in mind. Only the first essay/chapter was written for the purpose. Of course, all the essays, more or less, pertain to the subject and are certainly worth reading. Still, some of the essays have the feel of being ...more
Oct 11, 2012 John rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2012
Wendell Berry is a man born into the wrong century. He, like Richard Weaver, has a unique insight into the ravages of modernity upon a culture. Berry's counter-cultural economics is almost Utopian, though he works hard to steer clear of this label.

The book is a collection of essays arguing that we must re-prioritize people, communities, and place over "the economy" and "efficiency." Berry argues that Americans have sold their birthright for a bowl of porridge. We've traded short-term security an
I have been in the mood to read lots of Wendell Berry lately, I suppose it is because of all the bad news regarding the state of the country, the economy, etc. Seems like normal stuff for a presidential election year. This voice of reason encourages me but also makes me wonder why it seems like no one is listening...

Here are my dog-ears, brackets, underlines and asterisks:

pg. 5 - the fantastical consumption-based economy
pg. 6 - "the gullibility of the public thus becomes an economic resource"
Wendell Berry is one of my touchstones and again he didn't fail me in this book. I finished the book saddened however because his thoughts and warnings over the past 20+ years have not been heeded and the effect of Economics on communities and individuals has been much more damaging than he imagined or feared.

I would have given the book 5 stars, but there were a couple of essays that I didn't connect with and I skipped over them. The essays I connected with spoke truth and common sense as always
He's one of the only writers who can use the Bible as his rationale without being totally irritating but it's still a little too much for me, and as far as solutions go this doesn't go anywhere near far enough in my opinion. This is probably a good stepping stone for anyone who isn't ready to hear a more radical analysis yet and his anti-city back to the land attitude is still more radical than a lot of other stuff at least.
To provide a counterweight to Kevin Kelly's techno-optimism in What Technology Wants, I had Berry going at the same time. As opposed to Kelly's "anything goes and it will all work out in the end" approach to technological development, Berry prefers an Amish-like approach to technology: pick and choose carefully, closely observe the effects of the accepted technologies, reassess, repeat. Hard to do, yes, but it seems that the important things are always the hard ones to manage, no? Another Berry ...more
Andre Satie
Non-fiction essays on farming and food production in America. A scary read, as he knows his subject, and the situation is a dire one.
Scott Smith
An unflinching polemic on the need for more local, land-based economies. I don't agree with all of Berry's ideas but his insistence on local culture and finding joy in work aren't often heard in our current discourse. The conversation needs more of him
Fred Kohn
This is my first time reading Wendell Berry and I found his thought very interesting. I expected the book to be about economics, and it was... kind of. It really got me thinking about economics in ways I haven't before, and for that I was grateful. The only thing I found annoying about the book was that I thought many of the essays only repeated what had been said earlier.
Wendell Berry should be required reading for most college students. He provides a much needed perspective from outside of academia on issues ranging from farming to finance to higher education itself. This collection of essays examines economics in the United States and shows how its relentless focus on wealth accumulation is harming our communities.
I read the first essay Money versus Goods which explains economics from an agrarian point of view. Nature, land, manufacturing and consumer-based is the order of priority. We have it backwards. I want to read more of these essays.
As Michael Pollan says of Berry, his writing is "at once perfectly obvious and completely arresting". I found this short book to be dense with beauty, wisdom, and both delicate and direct words worth reading and remembering.
Jenni Pertuset
why: Wendell Berry is my hero. Plus this review.
Madeline Anderson
I loved Wendell Berry's views and the passion with which he conveys the need for change. This book made me rethink my current living. The only difficult aspect is the practicality of what he is suggesting.
As usual Berry has much wisdom to impart and he does it so eloquently. His last line: "Without prosperous local economies, the people have no power and the land has no voice." certainly resonates.
Sep 16, 2013 Ron rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: church
Another great collection of Wendell Berry essays. However, I had read about half of them in some of his other books already. It would be nice if all of his essay collections were distinct.
Kalen Graham
It's a collection of similar essay's. Interesting perspective. After the first two passages you get the point and the book becomes redundant.
Good collection of essays. Some really challenging ideas on how we view our world and our earth.
Berry really challenges me to make my life more local and more sustainable. I wish it was easy...
Ron Cammel
Berry's writing makes the most basic, common-sense ideas seem revolutionary.
I so admire the message and the writing of Wendell Berry.
Nonfiction - recommended by Citizen Reader
Read this before all his predictions come true...
Feb 16, 2012 Matt marked it as to-read
Les marked it as to-read
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Wendell Berry is a conservationist, farmer, essayist, novelist, professor of English and poet. He was born August 5, 1934 in Henry County, Kentucky where he now lives on a farm. The New York Times has called Berry the "prophet of rural America."
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“If you can read and have more imagination than a doorknob, what need do you have for a 'movie version' of a novel?” 56 likes
“That we can prescribe the terms of our own success, that we can live outside or in ignorance of the Great Economy are the greatest errors. They condemn us to a life without a standard, wavering in inescapable bewilderment from paltry self-satisfaction to paltry self-dissatisfaction. But since we have no place to live but in the Great Economy, whether or not we know that and act accordingly is the critical question, not about economy merely, but about human life itself.

It is possible to make a little economy, such as our present one, that is so short-sighted and in which accounting is of so short a term as to give the impression that vices are necessary and practically justifiable. When we make our economy a little wheel turning in opposition to what we call “nature,” then we set up competitiveness as the ruling principle in our explanation of reality and in our understanding of economy; we make of it, willy-nilly, a virtue. But competitiveness, as a ruling principle and a virtue, imposes a logic that is extremely difficult, perhaps impossible, to control. That logic explains why our cars and our clothes are shoddily made, why our “wastes” are toxic, and why our “defensive” weapons are suicidal; it explains why it is so difficult for us to draw a line between “free enterprise” and crime. If our economic ideal is maximum profit with minimum responsibility, why should we be surprised to find our corporations so frequently in court and robbery on the increase? Why should we be surprised to find that medicine has become an exploitive industry, profitable in direct proportion to its hurry and its mechanical indifference? People who pay for shoddy products or careless services and people who are robbed outright are equally victims of theft, the only difference being that the robbers outright are not guilty of fraud.”
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