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Heterodox economics is any economic thought or theory that contrasts with orthodox schools of economic thought, or that may be beyond neoclassical economics.These include institutional, evolutionary, feminist, social, post-Keynesian (not to be confused with New Keynesian), ecological, Georgist, Austrian, Marxian, socialist and anarchist economics, among others.
Economics may be called orthodox or conventional economics by its critics.Alternatively, mainstream economics deals with the "rationality–individualism–equilibrium nexus" and heterodox economics is more "radical" in dealing with the "institutions–history–social structure nexus". Many economists dismiss heterodox economics as "fringe" and "irrelevant", with little or no influence on the vast majority of academic mainstream economists in the English-speaking world.
A recent review documented several prominent groups of heterodox economists since at least the 1990s as working together with a resulting increase in coherence across different constituents.Along these lines, the International Confederation of Associations for Pluralism in Economics (ICAPE) does not define "heterodox economics" and has avoided defining its scope. ICAPE defines its mission as "promoting pluralism in economics."
In defining a common ground in the "critical commentary," one writer described fellow heterodox economists as trying to do three things: (1) identify shared ideas that generate a pattern of heterodox critique across topics and chapters of introductory macro texts; (2) give special attention to ideas that link methodological differences to policy differences; and (3) characterize the common ground in ways that permit distinct paradigms to develop common differences with textbook economics in different ways.
One study suggests four key factors as important to the study of economics by self-identified heterodox economists: history, natural systems, uncertainty, and power.
A number of heterodox schools of economic thought challenged the dominance of neoclassical economics after the neoclassical revolution of the 1870s. In addition to socialist critics of capitalism, heterodox schools in this period included advocates of various forms of mercantilism, such as the American School dissenters from neoclassical methodology such as the historical school, and advocates of unorthodox monetary theories such as Social credit. Other heterodox schools active before and during the Great Depression included Technocracy and Georgism.
Physical scientists and biologists were the first individuals to use energy flows to explain social and economic development. Joseph Henry, an American physicist and first secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, remarked that the "fundamental principle of political economy is that the physical labor of man can only be ameliorated by… the transformation of matter from a crude state to a artificial condition...by expending what is called power or energy."
The rise, and absorption into the mainstream of Keynesian economics, which appeared to provide a more coherent policy response to unemployment than unorthodox monetary or trade policies contributed to the decline of interest in these schools.
After 1945, the neoclassical synthesis of Keynesian and neoclassical economics resulted in a clearly defined mainstream position based on a division of the field into microeconomics (generally neoclassical but with a newly developed theory of market failure) and macroeconomics (divided between Keynesian and monetarist views on such issues as the role of monetary policy). Austrians and post-Keynesians who dissented from this synthesis emerged as clearly defined heterodox schools. In addition, the Marxist and institutionalist schools remained active.
Up to 1980 the most notable themes of heterodox economics in its various forms included:
From approximately 1980 mainstream economics has been significantly influenced by a number of new research programs, including behavioral economics, complexity economics, evolutionary economics, experimental economics, and neuroeconomics. As a consequence, some heterodox economists, such as John B. Davis, proposed that the definition of heterodox economics has to be adapted to this new, more complex reality:
There is no single "heterodox economic theory"; there are many different "heterodox theories" in existence. What they all share, however, is a rejection of the neoclassical orthodoxy as representing the appropriate tool for understanding the workings of economic and social life.The reasons for this rejection may vary. Some of the elements commonly found in heterodox critiques are listed below.
One of the most broadly accepted principles of neoclassical economics is the assumption of the "rationality of economic agents". Indeed, for a number of economists, the notion of rational maximizing behavior is taken to be synonymous with economic behavior (Becker 1976, Hirshleifer 1984). When some economists' studies do not embrace the rationality assumption, they are seen as placing the analyses outside the boundaries of the Neoclassical economics discipline (Landsberg 1989, 596). Neoclassical economics begins with the a priori assumptions that agents are rational and that they seek to maximize their individual utility (or profits) subject to environmental constraints. These assumptions provide the backbone for rational choice theory.
Many heterodox schools are critical of the homo economicus model of human behavior used in standard neoclassical model. A typical version of the critique is that of Satya Gabriel:
Neoclassical economic theory is grounded in a particular conception of human psychology, agency or decision-making. It is assumed that all human beings make economic decisions so as to maximize pleasure or utility. Some heterodox theories reject this basic assumption of neoclassical theory, arguing for alternative understandings of how economic decisions are made and/or how human psychology works. It is possible to accept the notion that humans are pleasure seeking machines, yet reject the idea that economic decisions are governed by such pleasure seeking. Human beings may, for example, be unable to make choices consistent with pleasure maximization due to social constraints and/or coercion. Humans may also be unable to correctly assess the choice points that are most likely to lead to maximum pleasure, even if they are unconstrained (except in budgetary terms) in making such choices. And it is also possible that the notion of pleasure seeking is itself a meaningless assumption because it is either impossible to test or too general to refute. Economic theories that reject the basic assumption of economic decisions as the outcome of pleasure maximization are heterodox.
Shiozawa emphasizes that economic agents act in a complex world and therefore impossible for them to attain maximal utility point. They instead behave as if there are a repertories of many ready made rules, one of which they chose according to relevant situation.
In microeconomic theory, cost-minimization by consumers and by firms implies the existence of supply and demand correspondences for which market clearing equilibrium prices exist, if there are large numbers of consumers and producers. Under convexity assumptions or under some marginal-cost pricing rules, each equilibrium will be Pareto efficient: In large economies, non-convexity also leads to quasi-equilibria that are nearly efficient.
However, the concept of market equilibrium has been criticized by Austrians, post-Keynesians and others, who object to applications of microeconomic theory to real-world markets, when such markets are not usefully approximated by microeconomic models. Heterodox economists assert that micro-economic models rarely capture reality.
Mainstream microeconomics may be defined in terms of optimization and equilibrium, following the approaches of Paul Samuelson and Hal Varian. On the other hand, heterodox economics may be labeled as falling into the nexus of institutions, history, and social structure.
Over the past two decades, the intellectual agendas of heterodox economists have taken a decidedly pluralist turn. Leading heterodox thinkers have moved beyond the established paradigms of Austrian, Feminist, Institutional-Evolutionary, Marxian, Post Keynesian, Radical, Social, and Sraffian economics—opening up new lines of analysis, criticism, and dialogue among dissenting schools of thought. This cross-fertilization of ideas is creating a new generation of scholarship in which novel combinations of heterodox ideas are being brought to bear on important contemporary and historical problems, such as socially grounded reconstructions of the individual in economic theory; the goals and tools of economic measurement and professional ethics; the complexities of policymaking in today's global political economy; and innovative connections among formerly separate theoretical traditions (Marxian, Austrian, feminist, ecological, Sraffian, institutionalist, and post-Keynesian) (for a review of post-Keynesian economics, see Lavoie (1992); Rochon (1999)).
David Colander, an advocate of complexity economics, argues that the ideas of heterodox economists are now being discussed in the mainstream without mention of the heterodox economists, because the tools to analyze institutions, uncertainty, and other factors have now been developed by the mainstream. He suggests that heterodox economists should embrace rigorous mathematics and attempt to work from within the mainstream, rather than treating it as an enemy.
Some schools of heterodox economic thought have also taken a transdisciplinary approach. Thermoeconomics is based on the claim that human economic processes are governed by the second law of thermodynamics. The posited relationship between economic theory, energy and entropy, has been extended further by systems scientists to explain the role of energy in biological evolution in terms of such economic criteria as productivity, efficiency, and especially the costs and benefits of the various mechanisms for capturing and utilizing available energy to build biomass and do work.
Various student movements have emerged in response to the exclusion of heterodox economics in the curricula of most economics degrees. The International Student Initiative for Pluralist Economics was set up as an umbrella network for various smaller university groups such as Rethinking Economics to promote pluralism in economics, including more heterodox approaches.
# Listed in Journal of Economic Literature codes scrolled to at JEL: B5 – Current Heterodox Approaches.
§ Listed in The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics
Some schools in the social sciences aim to promote certain perspectives: classical and modern political economy; economic sociology and anthropology; gender and racial issues in economics; and so on.
Economics is the social science that studies the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.
Neoclassical economics is an approach to economics focusing on the determination of goods, outputs, and income distributions in markets through supply and demand. This determination is often mediated through a hypothesized maximization of utility by income-constrained individuals and of profits by firms facing production costs and employing available information and factors of production, in accordance with rational choice theory, a theory that has come under considerable question in recent years.
Rational choice theory, also known as choice theory or rational action theory, is a framework for understanding and often formally modeling social and economic behavior. The basic premise of rational choice theory is that aggregate social behavior results from the behavior of individual actors, each of whom is making their individual decisions. The theory also focuses on the determinants of the individual choices. Rational choice theory then assumes that an individual has preferences among the available choice alternatives that allow them to state which option they prefer. These preferences are assumed to be complete and transitive. The rational agent is assumed to take account of available information, probabilities of events, and potential costs and benefits in determining preferences, and to act consistently in choosing the self-determined best choice of action. In simpler terms, this theory dictates that every person, even when carrying out the most mundane of tasks, perform their own personal cost and benefit analysis in order to determine whether the action is worth pursuing for the best possible outcome. And following this, a person will choose the optimum venture in every case. This could culminate in a student deciding on whether to attend a lecture or stay in bed, a shopper deciding to provide their own bag to avoid the five pence charge or even a voter deciding which candidate or party based on who will fulfill their needs the best on issues that have an impact on themselves especially.
Political economy is the study of production and trade and their relations with law, custom and government; and with the distribution of national income and wealth. As a discipline, political economy originated in moral philosophy, in the 18th century, to explore the administration of states' wealth, with "political" signifying the Greek word polity and "economy" signifying the Greek word "okonomie". The earliest works of political economy are usually attributed to the British scholars Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, and David Ricardo, although they were preceded by the work of the French physiocrats, such as François Quesnay (1694–1774) and Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot (1727–1781).
Classical economics or classical political economy is a school of thought in economics that flourished, primarily in Britain, in the late 18th and early-to-mid 19th century. Its main thinkers are held to be Adam Smith, Jean-Baptiste Say, David Ricardo, Thomas Robert Malthus, and John Stuart Mill. These economists produced a theory of market economies as largely self-regulating systems, governed by natural laws of production and exchange.
Steve Keen is an Australian economist and author. He considers himself a post-Keynesian, criticising neoclassical economics as inconsistent, unscientific and empirically unsupported. The major influences on Keen's thinking about economics include John Maynard Keynes, Karl Marx, Hyman Minsky, Piero Sraffa, Augusto Graziani, Joseph Alois Schumpeter, Thorstein Veblen, and François Quesnay. Hyman Minsky's financial instability hypothesis forms the main basis of his major contribution to economics which mainly concentrates on mathematical modelling and simulation of financial instability. He is a notable critic of the Australian property bubble, as he sees it.
Neo-Keynesian economics is a school of macroeconomic thought that was developed in the post-war period from the writings of John Maynard Keynes. A group of economists, attempted to interpret and formalize Keynes' writings and to synthesize it with the neoclassical models of economics. Their work has become known as the neoclassical synthesis and created the models that formed the core ideas of neo-Keynesian economics. These ideas dominated mainstream economics in the post-war period and formed the mainstream of macroeconomic thought in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
Institutional economics focuses on understanding the role of the evolutionary process and the role of institutions in shaping economic behavior. Its original focus lay in Thorstein Veblen's instinct-oriented dichotomy between technology on the one side and the "ceremonial" sphere of society on the other. Its name and core elements trace back to a 1919 American Economic Review article by Walton H. Hamilton. Institutional economics emphasizes a broader study of institutions and views markets as a result of the complex interaction of these various institutions. The earlier tradition continues today as a leading heterodox approach to economics.
Mainstream economics is the body of knowledge, theories, and models of economics, as taught by universities worldwide, that are generally accepted by economists as a basis for discussion. Also known as orthodox economics, it can be contrasted to heterodox economics, which encompasses various schools or approaches that are only accepted by a minority of economists.
In the history of economic thought, a school of economic thought is a group of economic thinkers who share or shared a common perspective on the way economies work. While economists do not always fit into particular schools, particularly in modern times, classifying economists into schools of thought is common. Economic thought may be roughly divided into three phases: premodern, early modern and modern. Systematic economic theory has been developed mainly since the beginning of what is termed the modern era.
The pluralism in economics movement is a campaign to change the teaching and research in economics towards more openness in its approaches, topics and standpoints it considers. The goal of the movement is to "...reinvigorate the discipline ... [and bring] economics back into the service of society". Some have argued that economics had greater scientific pluralism in the past compared to the monist approach that is prevalent today. Pluralism encourages the inclusion of a wide variety of neoclassical and heterodox economic theories—including classical, Post-Keynesian, institutional, ecological, evolutionary, feminist, Marxist, and Austrian economics, stating that "each tradition of thought adds something unique and valuable to economic scholarship".
New classical macroeconomics, sometimes simply called new classical economics, is a school of thought in macroeconomics that builds its analysis entirely on a neoclassical framework. Specifically, it emphasizes the importance of rigorous foundations based on microeconomics, especially rational expectations.
The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics (2018), 3rd ed., is an twenty-volume reference work on economics published by Palgrave Macmillan. It contains around 3,000 entries, including many classic essays from the original Inglis Palgrave Dictionary, and a significant increase in new entries from the previous editions by the most prominent economists in the field, among them 36 winners of the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. Articles are classified according to Journal of Economic Literature(JEL) classification codes.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to economics:
Neo-classical economics has come under critique on the basis of its core ideologies, assumptions, and other matters.
Macroeconomic theory has its origins in the study of business cycles and monetary theory. In general, early theorists believed monetary factors could not affect real factors such as real output. John Maynard Keynes attacked some of these "classical" theories and produced a general theory that described the whole economy in terms of aggregates rather than individual, microeconomic parts. Attempting to explain unemployment and recessions, he noticed the tendency for people and businesses to hoard cash and avoid investment during a recession. He argued that this invalidated the assumptions of classical economists who thought that markets always clear, leaving no surplus of goods and no willing labor left idle.
The terms neo-Marxian, post-Marxian and radical political economics were first used to refer to a distinct tradition of economic theory in the 1970s and 1980s that stems from the Marxian economic thought. Many of the leading figures were associated with the leftist Monthly Review School.
The Cambridge capital controversy, sometimes called "the capital controversy" or "the two Cambridges debate", was a dispute between proponents of two differing theoretical and mathematical positions in economics that started in the 1950s and lasted well into the 1960s. The debate concerned the nature and role of capital goods and a critique of the neoclassical vision of aggregate production and distribution. The name arises from the location of the principals involved in the controversy: the debate was largely between economists such as Joan Robinson and Piero Sraffa at the University of Cambridge in England and economists such as Paul Samuelson and Robert Solow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Frederic Sterling Lee was an American heterodox economist. His primary theoretical contribution to heterodox economics lies in the areas of pricing, price, production, costs, market competition, market governance, and the modeling the economy as a disaggregated, emergent whole. He was the founding editor of the Heterodox Economics Newsletter (2004–09), the editor of the American Journal of Economics and Sociology (2009–13), the president of the Association for Institutional Thought (2012), the president of the Association for Evolutionary Economics (2015), and the founder and honorary life president of the Association for Heterodox Economics. Lee authored and edited seventeen books, including Post Keynesian Price Theory (1998), A History of Heterodox Economics (2009), and Microeconomic Theory: A Heterodox Approach (2017). He published fifty-six articles and over a hundred book chapters, book entries, book reviews, and notes of one sort or another.
Marxism and Keynesianism is a method of understanding and comparing the works of influential economists John Maynard Keynes and Karl Marx. Both men's works has fostered respective schools of economic thought that have had significant influence in various academic circles, as well as in influencing government policy of various states. Keynes' work found popularity in developed liberal economies following the Great Depression and World War II, most notably Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal in the United States, in which strong industrial production was backed by strong unions and government support. Marx's work, with varying degrees of faithfulness, led the way to a number of socialist republics, notably the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China. The immense influence of both Marxian and Keynesian schools has led to numerous comparisons of the work of both economists along with synthesis of both schools.
Marx was an important and influential thinker, and Marxism has been a doctrine with intellectual and practical influence. The fact is, however, that most serious English-speaking economists regard Marxist economics as an irrelevant dead end.( Solow 1988 ) George Stigler similarly noted the professional marginality of the "neo-Ricardian" economists (who follow Piero Sraffa): "economists working in the Marxian-Sraffian tradition represent a small minority of modern economists, and ... their writings have virtually no impact upon the professional work of most economists in major English-language universities."( Stigler 1988 , p. 1733)