[OPE-L:2322] Discrimination against heterodox economics in UK

From: Gerald Levy (glevy@PRATT.EDU)
Date: Mon Feb 07 2000 - 11:55:37 EST

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via Chris A (yes, I think it should be of interest to listmembers) a
letter by Fred Lee./ In solidarity, Jerry

Subject: UK Econ Benchmark
Date: Mon, Feb 7, 2000, 9:05 am

Dear U.K. Colleague,

You may (or may not) be aware that a draft of "Benchmark Statement for
Economics" has been sent to all the Heads of Economic Departments in the
If you have not received a copy of the report you should ask your Head for a
copy of it; of failing that, I can make you a copy and send it to you.

Upon examining the report, I found the discussion of what constitutes the
content of the economics taught to be somewhat neutral--but not entirely.
while it is possible to read the report as saying that heterodox economic
theories are not excluded from being taught, I think there are enough
and not so indirect statements to suggest that the teaching of heterodox
economic theories in core theory modules (and perhaps even in optional
is disallowed. My reasons are as follows:

1. in section 1.1 it is stated that the aim of economics is to analyse and
    understand the allocation, distribution and utilisation of scarce
    resources. This in my view is the aim of economics from a neoclassical
    viewpoint. In heterodox economics based on the surplus approach, scarce
    resources do not exist. In addition, the aim of economics from a
    perspective is far broader than the neoclassical view--it can include
    conflict, power, institutions, gender, social provisioning as well as

2. in section 4.3 under 'Analysis, Deduction and Induction' it is stated
    economi reasoning is highly deductive, and logical analysis is applied
    assumption-based models. This is clearly true for neoclassical
    but clearly not true for heterodox economics.

3. in section 4.4 it is stated that the economic student acquires a
    to use the following concepts in their subsequent careers: opportunity
    cost, equilibrium and disequilibrium, and the relevance of marginal
    considerations. Such concepts only have meaning and relevance in
    neoclassical economic theory. In heterodox economic theory these
    either do not exist or have a highly questionable existence. They
    in any case, not necessarily be the important 'transferable concepts'
    heterodox economists would want to teach to their students.

Thus, when the report states that one of the attainments of an economic
is the ability to apply core economic theory and economic reasoning to
topics, the implicit assumption is that the core economic theory and
reasoning is neoclassical economic theory. If this is indeed the case, then
teaching of any heterodox economictheory, whether in core or optional
is severely limited if not forbidden.

You need to examine the report to see if my fears are correct. You might
find other aspects of the report to object to. Whatever conclusions you
to you need to convey them to your Head of Department, or better yet to
members of the Economics Benchmarking Group. Philip Arestis (e-mail:
p.arestis@uel.ac.uk), George Hadjimatheou, and Peter Reynolds (e-mail:
p.j.reynolds@staffs.ac.uk) are members of the Group; I urge you to send your
comments ASAP.


Fred Lee

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