Freedom in Contention: Social Movements and Liberal Political Economy

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Social movements have been implicated in long-term societal transformations, helping bring about political democratization, economic freedom, and social equality. In recent years, movements such as Occupy Wall Street, the Arab Spring, and Black Lives Matter have organized protests, and other contentious activities, against varied injustices in the world today. But what are social movements, how do they work, and what are their impacts upon society? In this landmark contribution, social movement activities and outcomes are understood through the lens of liberal political economy. This approach emphasizes dynamic collective choices within multi-faceted economic, political, and social environments, with the capacity for such choices to promote freedom, equality, and dignity. Inspired by the works of Friedrich Hayek, Elinor and Vincent Ostrom, and James Buchanan, Freedom in Contention illustrates how social movements fluidly organize in often repressive environments, bringing people together in their efforts to audaciously challenge public power and other forms of authority. Using historical and contemporary case studies, this book reveals how advances in human liberty are shaped by the struggles of social movement activists to have their concerns heard and respected. This important book will appeal to social scientists, decision-makers, and people interested in how social movements affect our lives.

Endorsements for “Freedom in Contention: Social Movements and Liberal Political Economy:”

Freedom in Contention: Social Movements and Liberal Political Economy by Mikayla Novak is a timely and important book exploring how social change through the collective action of social movements occurs both within free and open societies struggling to fulfill the liberal promise, and the struggle of those trapped inside closed repressive regimes who yearn for freedom. Novak provides a great synthesis of ideas to provide a framework for understanding how groups fight and overcome injustice, and in doing so she has made a significant contribution to the literature in social theory” (Peter Boettke, George Mason University)

“Social movements are central characters in the history of liberal democracy. But as Mikayla Novak argues, they have a complicated relationship with liberal thought. Neither fully designed nor fully spontaneous, social movements occupy a liminal space that leaves them under-theorized. Novak explores the role that social movements play as an imperfect but vital discovery process. As she explains, social movements reveal what’s wrong with the current state of the world, hold the powerful to account, and help free societies realize, incrementally and in fits and starts, the promise of the liberal project” (Emily Chamlee-Wright, President and CEO, Institute for Humane Studies)

“In this pathbreaking book Mikayla Novak offers a comprehensive and novel analysis of social movements. Weaving together interdisciplinary concepts with wide-ranging illustrations, Freedom in Contention offers crucial insights into the role that social movements play in a self-governing society. Anyone interested in understanding liberal societies should read this book!” (Christopher Coyne, George Mason University)

“We live in an age of social and civil unrest. Strikes, marches, protests and riots are common fixtures in the news. Around the globe there is a growing intolerance for injustice. Applying the lens of mainline political economists like F. A. Hayek, James Buchanan and Elinor Ostrom, Novak offers unique insight into these events. This is a book worth reading at a time that demands our understanding” (Virgil Storr, George Mason University)

“What role do social movements have in a liberal society? How do they bolster or undermine freedom? Freedom in Contention: Social Movements and Liberal Political Economy is an interesting and engaging answer to this question. Reviewing contemporary social movement theory, Novak has provided a thoughtful discussion that will be of enduring interest to scholars of social activism and classical liberalism” (Fabio Rojas, Indiana University)


Inequality: An Entangled Political Economy Perspective

Novak inequality EPE perspective

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In recent years the degree of income and wealth inequality within developed countries has been raised as a central issue in economic and social policy debates. Numerous figures across diverse ideological affinities have advocated policy measures to significantly alter income and wealth distributions, while the inequality debate has become infused with other subjects such as social justice and identity politics.

This book presents an account of economic inequality from a contemporary classical liberal perspective. Inequality is seen as a by-product of entangled relationships within society, bringing to the fore key ideas from complexity, evolutionary and network sciences.

Novak illustrates that inequality is problematic insofar as it generates pro-rich redistribution and constrains progress by the less well off. Economic inequality has important links with issues such as fiscal and regulatory policies, discrimination and social exclusion, and institutional design.

This unique book is important reading for social science academics, policy makers and people interested in exploring the dimensions and solutions to inequality, a critical issue of our time.

Endorsements for “Inequality: An Entangled Political Economy Perspective:”

“Inequality is a vexing topic of singular significance in our time. It has bred a climate of hostile political discourse reminiscent of the Cold War. In this lucid book, Mikayla Novak explains how we can transcend that hostility by recognizing the deeply entangled character of politics and economics within modern societies. With this proposed change in vision, Novak explains how more civil times can lie ahead.” (Richard Wagner, Hobart R. Harris Professor of Economics, George Mason University, USA)

“Mikayla Novak’s Inequality: An Entangled Political Economy Perspective is a thoroughly researched and well written exploration of one of the most divisive topics in modern democratic discourse. Novak brings careful and clear thinking to a topic too often clouded in emotion and guided by moral intuition. Using economic reasoning and evidence, Novak builds to a brilliant discussion of how a world of dignified equals can operate with the economic, personal and political freedom necessary to simultaneously achieve generalized prosperity through productive specialization and peaceful social cooperation among diverse peoples. Highly recommended, just a brilliant book that comes at precisely the right time.” (Peter Boettke, Professor of Economics and Philosophy, George Mason University, USA)

“Mikayla Novak has taken on perhaps the most widely avoided problem in classical liberal economic thought, and the domain most effortlessly occupied by simplistic and earnest political-economy thinking, namely inequality. Novak shows how the nature and causes of inequality can be better understood though the lens of entangled political economy. This book is a bold new intellectual foundation for social policy analysis.” (Jason Potts, Professor of Economics, RMIT University, Australia)