One hundred years ago the idea of ‘the economy’ didn’t exist. Now, improving ‘the economy’ has come to be seen as one of the most important tasks facing modern societies. Politics and policymaking are increasingly conducted in the language of economics and economic logic increasingly frames how political problems are defined and addressed. The result is that crucial societal functions are outsourced to economic experts. The econocracy is about how this particular way of thinking about economies and economics has come to dominate many modern societies and its damaging consequences. We have put experts in charge but those experts are not fit for purpose. A growing movement is arguing that we should redefine the relationship between society and economics. Across the world, students, the economists of the future, are rebelling against their education. From three members of this movement comes a book that tries to open up the black box of economic decision making to public scrutiny. We show how a particular form of economics has come to dominate in universities across the UK and has thus shaped our understanding of the economy. We document the weaknesses of this form of economics and how it has failed to address many important issues such as financial stability, environmental sustainability and inequality; and we set out a vision for how we can bring economic discussion and decision making back into the public sphere to ensure the societies of the future can flourish.
This chapter sketches out the contours of econocracy, its relationship with the academic discipline of economics and how it has developed in the twentieth century. It then shows in more detail how democracy has been undermined and the idea of the citizen as an active participant in political discussion and collective decision making been lost.
This chapter uses evidence from a curriculum review of seven universities across the UK to show how the philosophy which underpins econocracy is being passed down to the next generation of economic experts. The curriculum review analyses 174 economics modules using the course outlines and exams to illustrate that economics students are taught to memorise and regurgitate a narrow body of subject matter not think independently or critically.
This chapter makes the academic, educational, practical and political case for pluralism in economics. It uses case studies of macroeconomics, the environment and inequality, to demonstrate that academic economics must open up to new ways of thinking.
Chapter 5 sets out a vision of a pluralist, critical and liberal economics education. However, it also shows how higher education has been reshaped in ways which makes positive reform increasingly difficult and set out a number of practical reforms which could be implemented within the current system.
This chapter argues that we need new political and economic institutions which are participatory, inclusive and accessible and sets out some ideas about how this can be achieved. These can be the catalyst for the development of a popular democratic culture of public participation in economic discussion and decision making.