Re: [OPE-L] is there "no longer a dominant school" in economics?

From: Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM
Date: Thu Sep 01 2005 - 12:44:08 EDT

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Thursday, September 01, 2005 11:57 AM
Subject: RE: your name was mentioned re SSA

Dear Jerry,

Good to hear from you.  Honestly, I haven't been reading my email lists for
a  long time now.  Someday I'll get really caught up...

Serendipitously, I have recently finished a review of all the SSA literature
in the last ten years.  Neither Sam nor Rick have worked in the area in
that time.  I suspect Gordon's death effectively ended Bowles' involvement.
Interestingly, the overall thrust of the SSA approach has become more
Marxist  in this period, in contrast to the French regulation school which
has become much less (especially the founding Parisian school).  I strongly
suspect your  reading of Sam's trajectory is correct.  Sam has always been
pluralist (maybe theoretically promiscuous is a better metaphor).  Of late
this has led him to flirt with the dark side of the force in the form of the
tendencies you mention in your post.  Learning from other perspectives is
of course positive  but there must be limits (I think supply and demand
analysis may be useful in foreign exchange markets where the non-produced
is exchanging against the non-produced, but that's it. Period. Full stop.)

As to the rest of your post:

Some of the Nobelists listed have become sort of heterodox in their old
age. Doing so in retirement is pretty non-threatening. They are indulged by
neoclassical colleagues as long as they don't do anything really dangerous
like support the hiring of the non-orthodox in the leading graduate
schools. Hence their heterodoxy is not evidence of pluralism in the

Indeed has there been a net increase in heterodox graduate programs in the
last generation? (UMKC +, Notre Dame -) There has been a flowering of
non-orthodox mathematical modeling in a neatly hedged part of the garden,
but  these folks generally share the neoclassical confusion of theory with
math and are often equally hostile to the rest of us (an effective way of
currying favor with the orthodoxy).

The orthodoxy has been in theoretical crisis since Sraffa, but it is easy
for people like Sam to confuse this with an actual institutional crisis.  As
far as I can see the political dominance of neoliberalism has reinforced not
undermined the dominance of neoclassicism in the profession.  Neoclassicism
will be turfed out when its ideological as well as its (atrophied)
scientific functions are superceded by something more effective. Complex
non-linear mathematical modeling shows no signs of being able to accomplish

I'd be interested in others experience.  So maybe Gerry can copy this to
the  list.  If there are any replies I'd appreciate it they could be copied
to so I'd be sure to see them.



>===== Original Message From =====
Hi Terry:  How have you been?  I hope all is well. I mentioned your name
in the following post and -- in case you don't read all of my posts
carefully -- thought I'd call it to your attention.
Comradely, Jerry

 ----- Original Message -----
> From: Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM
> Sent: Wednesday, August 31, 2005 9:25 AM
> Subject: [OPE-L] is there "no longer a single dominant school" in
> I have assigned the (new) 3rd edition of _Understanding Capitalism_ for
> a couple of sections of macro courses that I am teaching this semester.
> The 3rd edition -- in which Frank Roosevelt was added as a co-author
> besides Samuel Bowles and Richard Edwards -- is in many ways different
> from the preceding two editions.  The fundamental reason for the changes,
> I believe, is a change in perspective by the authors.
> While it might be seen as still being an "alternative" text and it is
> certainly more progressive than mainstream texts,  the authors have
> clearly become believers in the "new pluralism" in economics.  What
> has changed in recent years, they claim,  is that economists "have turned
> their attention to inequality, the importance of ethical values
> motives in economic behavior, the exercise of power, the way that history
> shapes economic events, and how the economy shapes who we are as
> individuals and as people in societies and cultures."    Note that the way
> in which "economics has changed in significant ways" concerns -- for B, E&
> R -- the *content* of their analysis rather than merely the analytical
> techniques employed.  Indeed, the authors claim:
>      "Of course, economics remains a controversial topic.  There is,
>       however, no longer a single dominant school but rather many distinct
>       approaches, each with its own merits and shortcomings."
> Hmmm....
> This leads me to ask:
> *Have the perspectives in  the economics profession changed significantly
> since the 1980s _or_ have the perspectives of Bowles, Edwards
> and Roosevelt  changed _or_ have both changed?*
> *What do you think?*
> The authors claim that since the 1st edition of this book, the Nobel
>     "has been awarded to many of the economists who have inspired our own
>      work.  Among them are Amartya Sen and Ronald Coase ..., as well as
>      George Akerlof, Joseph Stiglitz, Robert Fogel, Douglass North,
>      Daniel Kahnemann, Vernon Smith, John Nash, and others."
> Yet, if one were to examine either of the previous editions of this
> would be hard pressed to discover ways in which any of the above
> "inspired our own work."    It is therefore unclear when they were so
> "inspired".   It is also unclear how exactly the above "inspired" Bowles,
> Edwards and Roosevelt.   Can it be  that they were really inspired by
> Robert Fogel --  an apologist for slavery?   What inspiration could
> received from marginalist economic historian Douglass North, etc.?
> *Should _we_ be inspired by any of the recent Nobel Prize winners?  If so,
> which ones?*
> In the text, the authors especially highlight the contributions of Ronald
> Coase and Amartya Sen?
> *Are there any perspectives of Coase and Sen that we should especially
> note of and incorporate within our analysis?*
> >
> As I explained previously, I had used the two earlier editions of
> this book as texts for classes that I had taught on introductoryeconomics.
> As I have more experience working with this edition, I'll let you knowmore
> about that experience.  I can tell you that the current edition doesretain
> of the content and focus of the previous editions.  The sub-title
> --
> "competition, command, and change" (but "in the US Economy" was dropped
> -- reflecting more of a global focus) -- and the focus >on class, race,and
> remains.  Analytically -- as was the case with prior editions --
> of  the surplus product (and class conflict over), the importance (and
> determinants) of  the rate of profit,  economic dualism, segmented
> and even social  structures of accumulation remain.  This is the case
> I don't think  that Bowles and Edwards could still be said to be part
ofthe Social
> Structure of  Accumulation (SSA) perspective.  (Terry: am I mistaken?)So I
> guess the  bottom  line is that while there are many significant changesin
the text,
> much of   the  flavor and content remains the same or is quite similar.One
> though,  what the next edition will look like ....
> In solidarity, Jerry

 Terry McDonough
Dept. of Economics
National University of Ireland, Galway

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