Martin Wolf on Rethinking Economics

Martin Wolf is Chief Economics Commentator at the Financial Times, and a journalist whose pieces are frequently interesting and informative. Since the financial crisis of 2008 he has become more critical of the mainstream economic thinking which surely played a role in bringing on the crisis and shaping its consequences.

He has written the forward to the book I am reading at the moment: Rethinking Economics – An introduction to pluralist economics (2018). The book contains short introductions to the main heterodox (non-mainstream) schools of thought by leading thinkers from each school, including Post-Keynesian, Marxist, Austrian, Institutionalist, Feminist, Behavioural, Complexity, Co-operative and Ecological.

The project has been coordinated by the Rethinking Economics movement, which is leading calls for changes in the way economics is taught towards a more open, accessible and pluralist approach.

Here is an excerpt from the forward which very much chimes with my own views on economics:

“The economics that humanity will need will surely display the vigour of the mongrel, not the neuroses of the pure-bred. It will build on a better understanding of what humans desire and how they behave. It will abandon the assumptions that the study of humanity is a lost branch of physics, humans are desiccated calculating machines, a separate sphere of economic behaviour exists and economic outcomes have nothing to do with power.

Consider the obvious: the political and social institutions that economists mostly ignore also have economic purposes. They are part of the economic world, just as the economic world is part of them.

I would not recommend an ‘anything goes’ approach. Economists need just enough complexity to achieve a reasonable understanding of what it going on, but not more. Simplification is a necessary part of the study of something as complex as human social behaviour. Otherwise, it will collapse into mere description.” (p.xiii-xiv)

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