Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics

Review of The Social Order of the Underworld by David Skarbek

The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics

Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics 18, no. 2 (Summer 2015)

Neither Carl Menger, Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, nor Israel Kirzner are found within the bibliography of David Skarbek’s latest book The Social Order of the Underworld: How Prison Gangs Govern the American Penal System published by Oxford University Press. In fact, no citations are made to any of the popular field journals of contemporary Austrian economics. And yet, I would urge readers to consider this book both one of the best and most important pieces of scholarship for Austrian economics to be published in recent years. In short, if one does not recognize the role of the Austrian paradigm within the text itself or the relevance of the text to the Austrian tradition, one might consider reassessing what exactly are her understandings regarding the essential facets of Austrianism. As Mises suggested in Theory and History, the inherent purpose of theory is to do history, to explain the complex social world around us. In this vein, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and readers will likely want seconds of Skarbek’s compelling research.

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