Economics in Real Time

A Theoretical Reconstruction
John McDermott
A new model for contemporary economic behavior


This book offers a new model for contemporary economic behavior that accounts for changes since neoclassical and Marxian microeconomics were formulated over a century ago. By incorporating real time into the analysis of sales and purchases, the phenomena of product innovation, advertising and distribution, the provision of consumer credit, and, ultimately, the production of a changing workforce all become intrinsic to microeconomic analysis rather than being treated as extraneous to fundamental theory.

Economics in Real Time transforms the analysis of contemporary sales and purchases. In mainstream economics the series of purchases, say, of a personal computer, then of software upgrades, peripherals, on-line services, and even support services are analyzed as discrete, essentially unrelated transactions. However counterintuitive, this approach is theoretically necessary to sustain the free-market narrative, its price and general equilibrium theories, and its efficiency and welfare theorems. Economics in Real Time instead links such related purchases within what is called a "sale/purchase state" occupying the time interval that begins with the initial purchase of the PC and ends only when all of the PC's services have been exchanged to the buyer. Under this analysis, typical contemporary sale/purchase states, as for automobiles, benefit plans, and electronic goods, place the purchaser in continuing, often dependent relationships to multiple sellers, at least some of which were not even overt partners to the initial purchase. Moreover they typically impose a continuing stream of expenditures upon the purchaser, as for automobile upkeep or music CDs, and so forth.

Economics in Real Time analyzes a contemporary economy as shaped in both its narrowly economic and broadly social features by these sale/purchase states. It draws a radically different picture of its terrain, challenging at the most fundamental level both the relevance and the theoretical warrant of the free-market conception.

John McDermott is Professor Emeritus of the State University of New York and a member of the editorial board of the Review of Radical Political Economics. His books include Corporate Society: Class, Property, and Contemporary Capitalism. His work has appeared in the New York Review of Books, the Nation, and other venues. He now lives in the Boston area.

Praise / Awards

  • "John McDermott's thought-provoking and ambitious book challenges conventional notions of how market economies function and evolve. Drawing on Marx, Gramsci, and Schumpeter, McDermott presents a detailed and sociologically nuanced account of the market process—one that is at odds with the 'spontaneous order' hypothesis of Popper and Hayek. This book will spark much debate."
    —Gary Mongiovi, Co-editor of Review of Political Economy and Professor, St. John's University
  • "John McDermott has set himself the task of no less than revolutionizing how economists conceptualize "voluntary exchange" both in the sale of goods and services and more importantly in the labor market (or—as McDermott would insist—labor markets!). In my opinion he has succeeded admirably in raising the necessary questions and pointing us in the proper direction. It remains to be seen if the profession, which has never been very good at assimilating successful criticism (witness the neutering of the Keynesian Revolution!), will take it seriously. It should, and we who appreciate McDermott's achievement have a responsibility to make sure that happens."
    —Michael Meeropol, Western New England College
  • "John McDermott asks, simply, 'What happens when we take the realities of time seriously in economic theory?' The result is Economics in Real Time, a mosaic of surprising, powerful insights."
    —Robert Pollin, Professor of Economics and Co-Director, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts-Amherst
  • ". . . offers a new and intellectually impressive paradigm to describe and encapsulize contemporary economic fluctuations that takes into account changes that have been observed since the neoclassical and Marxian microeconomic theories created over a century ago."
    Library Bookwatch
  • "...this book is largely a serious (and, in my view, quite balanced) appraisal of neoclassical and Marxian theories, focusing on their treatments of time. It deserves a look on this basis alone."
    Rethinking Marxism

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Copyright © 2004, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 228pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2003
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11357-6

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  • $89.95 U.S.