Baran’s Book

Lewis Coser’s review of Paul Baran’s Political Economy of Growth is tendentious, misleading, and sciolistic. I say this only after re-reading both Coser’s review and Baran’s book.

Invective may be invigorating; it is not a substitute for analysis. Just what is revealed about the argument in Baran’s book by the following phrases by Coser: “crude propogandist’s brief,” “Stalinoid obscurantism,” “claustrophobia,” “the “Fathers,” “pious mumblings”? Clearly, Coser is angry; but about what?

Baran’s thesis is not fairly summarized by Coser. The book is essentially an argument for socialist economic planning which Baran believes to be the most solid and humane basis for national economic development. He points out private economic monopoly—wherever it exists—as the basic obstacle to that development. Coser has not evaluated the book in its own terms; yet, this is a reviewer’s first obligation.

As a social scientist Coser has a special responsibility while writing for a non-technical publication. And it is a difficult responsibility. He must above all be well informed on the subject matter discussed. Unfortunately, Coser is illinformed; worse, he cultivates the opposite impression.

Coser, for example, declares: “A vast specialized literature has grown up; yet one looks in vai...