The second volume (titled Pluralist Readings in Economics: Key concepts and policy tools for the 21st century and authored by Maria Alejandra Madi) in the series of Economics: Current and Future Developments, covers a number of important economists, mostly contemporary or from the recent past but also from the classical period, some better known than others, representing a variety of approaches and themes of research, grouped around seven main subject areas: Karl Polanyi, Rudolf Hilferding and Eric Hobsbawm on the evolution of capitalism; Karl Marx, Michal Kalecki and John Kenneth Galbraith on capital, labour and power; Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk, Keynes and Tobin on money; Alfred Marshall, Joan Robinson, Milton Friedman on prices; Adam Smith, Joseph Schumpeter and Hyman Minsky on growth and economic cycles; David Ricardo, Friedrich von Hayek and Robert Mundell on economic policy; Arthur Cecil Pigou, Amartya Sen and Elinor Ostrom on welfare, social justice and governance. For each author there is a brief introduction setting the scene, a summary of the key concepts concerning the theme under consideration, some brief reading passages with the corresponding idea or concept highlighted, a brief note on the current relevance of the ideas presented, suggestions for further readings.
Clearly, all this is very useful: not only for the beginner, but also for the experienced economist who nowadays tends to be focused on a very specific area of research, hence in need of being confronted, once again or for the first time, with important themes and authors. Space constraints of course implies hard choices, so that each reader may feel he or she would have preferred a different choice of authors, of passages, of references; but it seems to me that the choices made are reasonable ones and can be justified. Consistent with the pluralist approach, there is also no attempt to a critical reading of the theoretical contributions of the various authors, while more freedom of judgment is retained in the policy comments.
Prof. Dr. Alessandro Roncaglia
Professor of Economics, Sapienza University of Rome
This excellent book, Volume 2 in the series, Economics: Current and Future Developments, Pluralist Readings in Economics: Key concepts and policy tools for the 21st century, provides a comprehensive introduction to multiple views on seven fundamental topics in the history of economics. The seven topics and chapters are: The Evolution of Capitalism; Capital, Labour and Power; Money; Prices; Growth and Economic Cycles; Economic Policy; and Welfare, Social Justice and Governance. Each chapter reviews the thinking of three major figures in the history of economics, so that the thinking of a total of twenty-one key figures is effectively and informatively reviewed. For example, the Evolution of Capitalism chapter reviews Karl Polanyi, Rudolph Hilferding, and Eric Hobsbawm; the Prices chapter reviews Alfred Marshall, Joan Robinson, and Milton Friedman; and the Welfare, Social Justice and Governance chapter reviews Arthur Pigou, Amartya Sen, and Elinor Ostrom.
The book is also clearly organized with each chapter having the same five subsections – Setting the Scene, Key Concepts, Reading Passages, Modern Concepts, and Further Reading – to allow comparisons of different figures approaches to the same topics and links to contemporary thinking. Thus, the book could stand alone in teaching and for advanced students new to the history of economics, or provide a core text to be supplemented with additional readings from more specialized literatures.
A special strength of the book is its pluralist character. The goal of the book is not to review only figures who shared the same views, as is sometimes the case in heterodox volumes devoted to only one approach. Rather the different figures reviewed often have significantly different views and approaches, which gives readers the opportunity to reflect on the basic issues in each chapter. The book is strongly recommended as an introduction to economics, and would no doubt provide valuable foundations for advanced study in economics.
John B. Davis
Marquette University and University of Amsterdam
In our view, the book succeeds in providing, in the author’s words, “a pluralist intellectual path, through the historical evolution of economic ideas, to enhance a deeper understanding of current social, political and economic relations”.
This goal is achieved also by organizing the analysis of each economist considered in the following paragraphs: Setting the Scene, Key Concepts, Reading Passages, Modern Concerns on the issues addressed, Further Reading.
This layout provides a good synergy between the historical, analytical, and contemporary perspectives of the themes addressed. Other interesting aspects of the book can be found in (i) the application of a pluralist methodology aimed at comparing the often notable different approaches of orthodox and heterodox economists; and (ii) in the effort to consider the various themes as different aspects of the problems and contradictions of modern economic systems.
For these reasons, the book can be used both as a textbook at intermediate and advanced level, and as an intellectual tool for steering a more complex reflection and debate on major economic issues.
Italian National Institute of Statistics, Italy
December 1, 2017
Drawing on the work of earlier economists, Madi highlights the range of perspectives that have been, and can be, taken to understand the workings of the economy, its interactions with politics and its place in society. She shows how these older perspectives are highly relevant today, despite the lack of attention given to them in current mainstream courses. Her approach includes the choice of selected extracts from the works of the chosen economists and adding brief interpretation and applications.
Madi stresses the importance of change and evolution of economic systems and the way that people and institutions adapt, including the significance of globalisation at the current time. Many of these aspects are hidden or lost in current mainstream economics.
Overall, the book opens up a wealth of literature for students and shows how this can be applied in today’s world. It shows the value of diverse perspectives and illustrates some of the omissions in a monolithic mainstream approach.
The book does not restrict itself to economists from the English speaking world. Broader approaches are still acceptable and debated in some of those circles, notably in Latin America, but the literature is generally not so accessible to Anglophone scholars. This introduction is likely to encourage students to explore further among this wider range of ideas.
Prof. Dr. Stuart Birks,
Department of Economics and Finance, Massey University, New Zealand.
Editor, World Economics Association Commentaries