In a survey spanning over half a century of his own work, Hirschman, among the most influential thinkers of the twentieth century on political economy, celebrates the ability to undermine one’s own claims and theories. Whereas skepticism toward other people’s work is not noteworthy, Hirschman argues, self-critque is crucial in relation “to one’s own generalizations or constructs.” But self-criticism and interpretive changes do “not in the end cancel out or refute the earlier findings”; rather, they help to define domains of the social world where originally postulated relations do not hold. Exercises in “self-subversion,” while often experienced at first as traumatic, are eventually, as Hirschman’s own career attests, “rewarding and enriching.”

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