The Leading Economists in the World

The pre-classical economics, if this term can be used to denote an enquiry regarding the system of livelihood of the people and forces determining their prosperity that existed before the rise of science and industrial revolution, can be summarized in terms of the "Closed system-Caste-Power-Religion-Custom" nexus. The economic life of the commoners/laity was controlled by the nobility (or aristocracy) or the clergy (religious heads); tradition-bound it went in a perpetual cycle without much development for a very long time. This circularity gave rise to 'caste' - tying of the type of livelihood to birth in a social group, now strange to the modern western civilization (see Knox : The Middle Ages - Medieval Society). The rise of science and the industrial revolution overthrew the power of the state as well as the priests and destabilized the age-old caste system. Power went into the hands of the industrialists and the formation of 'economic class' began. These developments gave rise to economics as a new scientific enquiry.

The subsequent evolution of economics as a structure of thought can be phased into (i) the classical synthesis (of pre-classical, Mercantilist and Physiocratic doctrines), (ii) The Marxian antithesis, (iii) the neoclassical reconstruction and orthodoxy, (iv) the "old" institutionalism, (v) the Keynesian antithesis, (vi) Keynesian economics - in the sense of Axel Leijonhufvud (1968), (vii) the Post-World War-II developments, (viii) the decline of neoclassicism, (ix) modern heterodoxy, and (x) the strands of modern economics.

The orthodox economics (the Classical, the Neo-Classical and the Neo/New-Keynesian), has also been alleged to be an apologia in defense of the free market economy based on the institutions of individualism and private property, and a belief in the optimal global outcome of decentralized and uncoordinated decision-making at the local level. The medieval economy was tradition bound and robust. The industrial revolution perforce threw this economy out of gear and a natural question arose if the new order would be stable and desirable. Stated differently, the new order gave rise to the six fundamental questions: (i) will the society organized on the principles of exchange stay composed or will it fall apart (the question of existence of equilibrium)?, (ii) will such an equilibrium be unique (a multiplicity of equilibria poses difficult and embarrassing questions)?, (iii) will such an equilibrium be robust (the question of stability of equilibrium)?, (iv) will such an economy (society) be efficient?, (v) will it grow or expand forever?, and (vi) will it be just? The classical economists, Adam Smith in particular, answered all these questions affirmatively using a characteristic methodology. However, Karl Marx challenged the entire structure of faith in the merits of the exchange economy and shattered all optimism regarding the said order. The neoclassicists, mostly using their own new (mathematical, marginalist, rationalistic, atomistic, hedonistic, etc) methodology set out to prove that answers to all those six questions were in affirmative. They restructured the faith in the said order. In so doing, they had to distance themselves from the reality and they did not mind doing so. This endeavour made neoclassical economics dogmatic and religious in nature. Leijonhufvud in his Life among the Econ (1973) characterized neoclassical economics in the most sarcastic manner.        ...

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The IDEAS (Internet Documents in Economics Access Service) of RePEc (Research Papers in Economics) classifies authors in economics (based on their papers in the RePEc repository) by field (such as labour economics, micro-finance, neuro-economics, post-Keynesian economics, health economics, etc). A large number of papers are free downloadable. One may obtain a fair view of the direction to which economics is moving at present. Another source of reading materials may be Cowles Foundation Research in Economics: papers (reprints) from 1943 to the present. Yet another rich source of downloadable papers is the Social Science Research Network website. The Real-World Economics Review is a journal that disseminates ideas on the Post-Autistic Economics (a radical heterodox economics) and may be free downloaded.

A brief history of economic theories and thoughts in addition to a good introduction to various schools of economic thought and the economists associated with them is available on SCARLETT History of Economic Theory and Thought.

Discouragement to the development (by means of subversion, repression, suppression or even oppression) of new ideas/authors throwing out a challenge to the already established ideas (or the established economists for that matter) is well documented. It might occur on account of ideological reasons or even vile. D. Gilmour (in reviewing the book Rejected: Leading Economists Ponder the Publication Process edited by G.B. Shepherd) writes "When one wishes to pursue a Ph.D. in any field, it is usually with the notion to "seek the truth" or to use "intellectualism" for the betterment of society. As this book points out, "Not so." It appears that modern Economists are more interested in expanding their kingdoms via the publication process and through their graduate students than seriously studying problems of the real world. Such strategies require setting up artifical barriers to entry and even to the extreme of intellectual property theft. ... When mathematicians decide to enter the market to challenge the legitmacy of the Economist's use of mathematics, they are quickly quelled via the publication process. So much for nobility in academia. ... Thus, one can conclude that the field of Economics is interested in learning more and more about less and less". In this regard, the following documents are worth reading:

  • Publishing as Prostitution? Choosing Between One's Own Ideas and Academic Failure. written by Bruno S. Frey, Working Paper No. 117 Institute for Empirical Research in Economics, University of Zurich; Working Paper Series (ISSN 1424-0459); June 2002 [Published in: Public Choice Vol. 116, 2003, pp. 205-223].
  • Chapter 55. written by Graciela Chichilnisky in Shepherd, George B. (ed.) Rejected: Leading Economist Ponder the Publication Process. Thomas Horton and Daughters, 1995, Chapter 55. pp. 56-66



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