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.
advance science and civilization.
William Beveridge, 19242
These quotes from two of Britain’s most famous economists set out
an approach to education that contrasts radically with economicseducation today. It is an approach called ‘liberal education’ and in
this chapter we argue that it provides a set of principles that can be
used to reform economics degrees. In this section we introduce the
idea of liberal education and in the next we explore the history and
state of the English higher education (HE) system since 1945 and
show how far liberal principles have been
economics expert and, by extension, what gives them this authority?
As in all professions, the answer is formal education, training
and – most importantly – qualifications, which are the concrete proof
of their holder’s expertise. The content of economicseducation is
revealing because it reflects the dominant view within the academic
discipline of the knowledge and skills economists must have and
what the role of an economist should be. It was this insight that
inspired Paul Samuelson, one of the most influential economists of
the twentieth century, to declare: ‘I don
had swapped sides. Now, when discussion turns to the political issues of the day and someone launches
into their opinion, often they finish by looking over at us, as if to
say, ‘Does that all make sense, you know, economically speaking?’
Sometimes, it’s even more explicit – ‘You’re an economist, what do
you think?’ As economics students we have somehow ended up with
a strange authority to judge the merits of political arguments.
These situations leave us feeling uncomfortable. Having graduated
now we are all keenly aware that our economicseducation has not
perhaps best summarised the situation when he said that his education ‘allowed one
to be critical’. Neoclassical economics may have been dominant, but
dissenting ideas still had their part to play.
In contrast, economicseducation today does not expose students
to alternative perspectives and does not allow them to be critical.
100 The econocracy
The main reason for this shift is that non-neoclassical economists
have been systematically excluded from economics departments
across the UK. The result is that departments are neither willing nor
able to teach alternative
Beyond neoclassical economics
Economics as a contested discipline
pluralism n. a condition or system in which two or more states, groups,
principles, sources of authority, etc., coexist.1
Economicseducation shapes how its students think about the world.
This makes economics powerful, as those who study it often go on
to have significant authority. Economics is presented as a unified
field and its association with maths and statistics makes it easy to
see it as a science. However, this is not the reality. In this chapter we
argue that there is a
participants are encouraged to interrogate and critique the subject
matter and develop their own independent judgements.9 University
economicseducation gives graduates a formal literacy in neoclassical
economics. We hope to imbue Citizen Economists with a substantive economic literacy that will enable them to critically engage with
economic narratives and arguments and rebalance their relationship
with economists, politicians and media experts.
There are important questions about how much people can be
expected to know about economics. The economy is
eventually knew something about these other Polanyi endeavours, and he
perhaps knew something about some of them before he met Polanyi. The
sketch below divides these other overlapping interests, projects, and
common contacts into matters concerned with Mannheim and the Moot
discussion group and matters concerned with Polanyi’s economicseducation film and his effort to reform liberal political philosophy.
Mannheim and Oldham’s Moot
In 1944, Polanyi began negotiating with Karl Mannheim, the Routledge
& Kegan Paul editor of the International Library of Sociology and Social
, South East Asia Community Observatory (SEACO) is a generic research platform capable of supporting a wide range of multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research in the clinical and biomedical sciences, the social sciences, economics, education and environmental sciences. Pascale is using the platform for longitudinal life-course monitoring of health and well-being at a population level. She feels that traditional methods of collecting data, which typically involve interviews at specific points in time, would offer a limited perspective, since interviewees often
, which the rulers encouraged; and, finally, the conflict with Israel, which was used to divert attention from demands for internal change. The uprisings showed that there are also inside forces in Arab countries that deal with politics, economics, education, and health, and that go beyond the conflict with the enemy, real or imagined. 18
Al-Ansari expressed the hope that the Arab revolutions would not be satisfied with politics and the replacement of regimes, but would alter the cultural bias that produces tyranny and Arab backwardness. 19 Al