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

From: Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM
Date: Wed Aug 31 2005 - 09:25:34 EDT

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 and unselfish 
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."


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 Prize:

    "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 book, one 
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 they have 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 take
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 introductory economics.
As I have more experience working with this edition, I'll let you know more
about that experience.  I can tell you that the current edition does retain much
of the content and focus of the previous editions.  The sub-title is similar --
"competition, command, and change" (but "in the US Economy" was dropped
-- reflecting more of a global focus) -- and the focus on class, race, and gender
remains.  Analytically -- as was the case with prior editions --  the concepts of
the surplus product (and class conflict over), the importance (and determinants) of
the rate of profit,  economic dualism, segmented labor markets, and even social
structures of accumulation remain.  This is the case even though I don't think
that Bowles and Edwards could still be said to be part of the Social Structure of
Accumulation (SSA) perspective.  (Terry: am I mistaken?)    So I guess the
bottom line is that while there are many significant changes in the text, much of the 
flavor and content remains the same or is quite similar.  One wonders, though, 
what the next edition will look like ....

In solidarity, Jerry

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