Symposium: Is there a future for heterodox economics?

Editor: Arne Heise

'We need to offer something better to the scholars of the future.' Which way forward for heterodox economics?

Arne Heise.
After the global financial crisis, hopes were high that there would be a pluralisation of the economics discipline and a boost for heterodox economics that challenged dominant economic models. However, mainstream economics once again proved its enormous resilience and the future of alternatives to this mainstream is anything but certain. Geoffrey Hodgson's new book on this issue has sparked fresh discussions about the stunted development of heterodox economics and proposals for possible ways forward. This article will argue that the crucial factor for the future of heterodox economics is not converging on a single unified paradigm or raising the quality of research, but rather gaining access to different kinds of capital, first and foremost professorial positions at universities. Such access is severely restricted under present conditions as a result of epistemological and ontological discrimination. Heterodox economics can only flourish if the epistemic community of economists embraces paradigmatic pluralism as part of their academic culture, or if regulations are put in place to secure access to such capital and so to academic freedom.

An essay on the need to redefine economics for the sake of a human economy

Arjo Klamer.
More than 90 years after Lionel Robbins more or less defined the subject ofeconomics in his famous essay, it is time to redress the issue in light of recent developments and new insights. Robbins used the figure of Robinson Crusoe to define homo economicus as an agent that makes choices in conditions of scarcity. By re-reading and re-interpreting the story of Crusoe, we make more sense of the narrative when we envisage people engaged in practices by which they realize what is important to them, that is, their values. Homo economicus becomes a special case pertinent to theinstrumental economies of markets and organizations. In the so-called human economies of the home, the social, cultural, and natural world, people use the inputs that they acquire in the instrumental economies to realize what is important to them, such as families, friendships, science, art, religion, meanings. This shift in perspective will have far reaching consequence for the way economists think and theorize and enables them to connect with the value-based approach that is increasingly dominatingthe worlds of business and politics.

A Plea for Pluralism

Stephen Marglin.
Mainstream economics is one way of understanding how the economy works, but mainstream economists argue much more: that mainstream economics is the onlyway of understanding the economy. Mainstream economists should embrace pluralism for reasons suggested by John Stuart Mill: as a guard against the tyranny of the majority, a tyranny that fortifies itself against doubt not by reason but by power; even if the majority is right and the doubters wrong, engaging with doubt is a way to strengthen correct arguments; and, most likely, according to Mill, there is partial truth on the side of heterodoxy as well as on the orthodox side. The two elements of the power of mainstream economists are related: the police power over what is and what is not published in the major journals, and the role of publication in these journals in the tenure process. Pluralism is not an issue of concern to academics only. Economists of all stripes may try to construct the economy in the image of their theories, but for some time the mainstream has had the upper hand, just as it does in the academy. The push to deregulate the economy, which began in the United States during the Carter presidency, had its full flowering in the financial crisis of 2008.What will it take to allow heterodoxy into the academy? If history is any guide, innovations in economics take root when they are allied to successful political movements. One case in point is the symbiosis between Keynes’s General Theory and the New Deal and […]

The Future of Heterodox Economics

Teresa Ghilarducci ; Zachary Knauss ; Richard McGahey ; William Milberg ; Drew Landes.
We assess economics research and teaching frameworks in the United States by examining how knowledge is produced and ranked, the flaws and strengths of heterodox economic theory; and how students are trained, especially for careers in economic policy. We challenge the meaning of established terminology such as 'heterodoxy' and 'mainstream' by investigating their utility as a marker and to illuminate major barriers to the successful adoption of alternative economic theories in academia and the public discourse. Based on interviews with experienced economists working with heterodox paradigms in both mainstream and heterodox institutions, we identify three barriers 1) Neoclassical hegemony, 2) Weakness of heterodox theory, and 3) Pedagogy and training in economics.

The Hybrid Vigor of Heterodox Economics: A Feminist Perspective

Nancy Folbre.
This case study in the evolution of heterodox economics describes the emergence of feminist perspectives on care provision and their implications for a larger theory of bargaining over the distribution of gains from cooperation. It testifies to the hybrid vigor of diverse and ongoing efforts to challenge the narrow focus of the neoclassical paradigm.

Heterodoxy Needs Institutional Backing

Bruno Frey ; Andre Briviba.
A general aversion to new ideas, psychological factors, and foremost, institutional conditions shape the challenging position of heterodox economics. This institutional framework is coined by a strong orientation towards publication metrics and influences young scholars to conformity. We propose two ideas to improve the conditions for heterodox research. First, to introduce competition between journals for the scientific papers they want to have the most. Second, to establish a qualified random selection of papers to equalize the chances of publishing.


Louis-Philippe Rochon.
This article discusses the future of post-Keynesian economics by considering three angles: i) the future of post-Keynesian economics as an institution or as a school of thougth; ii) the future of post-Keynesian theory; and finally, iii) the future of post-Keynesian within the profession. My conclusion is fairly positive overall, although the place of post-Keynesian economics within the profession is certainly not enviable.

Power structures in economics and society: Some remarks on the future of non-mainstream economics

Rouven Reinke.
Economic approaches that emphasize power dynamics in the political economy or rely on a non-mathematical, non-positivistic, pluralistic methodology are either almost marginalized in (heterodoxy) or excluded from (transdisciplinary non-mainstream) the field of economics. Relying on a combination of the Discursive Political Economy of Economics and a critical sociology of economic knowledge, this article gives a sociological explanation of these paradigmatic conditions and the related future prospects of non-mainstream research within economics in Germany, by incorporating social theory, discourse, and power analysis, and philosophy of science. In doing so, the article argues for a special role of economics in the political economy, which is associated with a legitimatizing and economic-knowledgeproducing function for non-epistemic issues. In a dialectic understanding of society and science, the implementation of classification rankings such as rankings and of a pyramidal hierarchy of publications is viewed as the disciplinary response to its social role. This results in an unequal distribution of power in the field of economics in Germany. The article concludes that a pluralistic change in modern economics cannot be expected, as long there is no social change in terms of the interconnection between the two demands for academic reputation and economic knowledge.