This stunning, refreshing work combines the history of economics and the practice of modern development. It is predicated on Brenner's view that there is no individual freedom without economic security, and that such security depends upon progress in both the natural and social sciences. Social institutions determine the pace and direction of technological advancement and scientific and technological achievements determine which forms of social reorganization are possible and which are illusory. As all living is action, and living implies choices, any theory of development must start with the person.
Economic laws obtain only in relation to specific forms of social existence. Advanced societies are technically capable of providing for basic needs but are not yet convinced of their ability to do so. Modern life still reflects the fears of a society still trying to escape the anxieties, demons, and ghosts of a long dark era of unemployment and starvation. The problem of development is the contradiction between technological potentials and cultural inheritances.
Looking into the Seeds of Time was originally written with the belief that the growing mastery of nature by humanity would curb egoistic impulses and replace competitive with cooperative goals. While the same spirit pervades this new edition, the work reveals how political as well as economic processes make the goals of prosperity harder to achieve. The work reveals a rare insight into the mechanisms of the marketplace, and how they can be examined in a comparative, historical context—across nations as different as the United States, Great Britain and Japan, and from the Reformation to the modern era of bourgeois consolidation. This is institutional economics at its very best.