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.
Today, in many countries what is viewed as ‘credible’ economic knowledge stems from academic economics. The discipline of academic economics is based in universities across the world that employ economists who produce research that is published in academic journals and educate students who then go into government, businesses, and think tanks. Through the book’s authors’ and contributors’ experiences of economics education, and as part of the international student movement Rethinking Economics, it argues that academic economics in its current state does not provide people with the knowledge that we need to build thriving economies that allows everyone to flourish wherever they are from in the world, and whatever their racialised identity, gender or socioeconomic background. The consequences of this inadequate education links to modern economies being a root cause of systemic racism and sexism, socioeconomic inequality, and the ecological crisis. When economies are rooted in a set of principles that values whiteness, maleness and wealth, we should not be surprised by the inequalities that show up. Structural inequalities need systemic change, change that infiltrates through every level of the system, otherwise we risk reproducing and deepening them. This book makes the case that in order to reclaim economics it is necessary to diversify, decolonise and democratise how economics is taught and practised, and by whom. It calls on everyone to do what we can to reclaim economics for racial justice, gender equality and future generations.
elephant in the
room was hard to ignore.
This was in early 2013. Little did we know it but other students
were starting similar campaigns across the world and in time we
linked up with them in a network called RethinkingEconomics.
Amazingly, what united us across different continents and languages
was the shared feeling that there was a deep malaise at the heart of
economics and that as a result we were being sold short as students
and as citizens. While we were supposed to be on the road to becoming economists, we could also see economics with the eyes of outsiders. We
Supporting the creation of a new generation of Citizen Economists
is now a key aim of RethinkingEconomics and we are developing
a range of practical projects to democratise economics. We have
developed schools workshops for 11–18 year olds, which introduce
students to critical, pluralist economics in a fun and accessible
manner. In the workshops we ask students to draw an economist:
they invariably draw white men, some wearing top hats, others
reading the Financial Times. One had a monocle and another was
even standing on top of the world. These
reform our economies to address the many crises our
generation faces. We chose to study economics because we wanted to
understand the world we were inheriting and improve it but were left
feeling deeply disappointed and uneasy.
We are from an international student movement called
RethinkingEconomics, with over a hundred groups in thirty countries
across the world, all campaigning
Africa saw a massive student movement for free education that
compelled him to start a RethinkingEconomics for Africa group.
From unequal access to
education, to huge poverty and industrialisation, it was
absolutely clear that we had economic problems to solve. Our
economics textbooks held no answers to these problems
Ariane Agunsoye, Michelle Groenewald, Danielle Guizzo, and Kamal Ramburuth-Hurt
During the RethinkingEconomics For Africa (REFA) student conference
workshops in 2019, one of REFA’s founders and contributor to
this book, Kamal Ramburuth-Hurt, recorded that students defined the
‘decolonisation’ of the economics curriculum as
ultimately rejecting the ‘one-size-fits-all’
approaches that characterises the economic status quo. They wanted
the removal of barriers
semester in January 2013.
Early on we made contact with students from a few different
universities in the UK who were setting up a group called RethinkingEconomics. This aimed to provide an international network to
connect students and citizens who wanted to open up and reinvigorate economics. We used Facebook and Skype to communicate and
while all of us dislike the crackle of a slow Skype connection, we recognise that the international student movement to reform economics
could not exist without it. We are very much a movement of our time
and could not have existed in
reform in economics education in the last few years. Haldane, ‘The revolution in economics’, 3–6;
Martin Wolf, The Shifts and the Shocks: What We’ve Learned—and
Have Still to Learn—from the Financial Crisis, London: Penguin, 2014;
Adair Turner, ‘Preface’, in Cambridge Society for Economic Pluralism,
CSEP Survey of Economics Students, 2.
18 For more details see Sara Gorgoni, ‘University of Greenwich revises its
economics programmes to enhance pluralism and real world economics’, RethinkingEconomics blog, 14 December 2014. Available at:
Ariane Agunsoye, Michelle Groenewald, Danielle Guizzo, and Bruno Roberts- Dear
universities and six provinces who participated in the annual
RethinkingEconomics for Africa Festival in 2019 shared their views
on how economics is not adequately able to deal with a range of
issues they experience. They felt that their education just
wasn’t relevant to a country like South Africa – the
conference’s host nation – where economic inequality
is the highest in the world