Economics and Its Enemies: Two Centuries of Anti-Economics

Economics and Its Enemies: Two Centuries of Anti-Economics

Economics and Its Enemies: Two Centuries of Anti-Economics

Economics and Its Enemies: Two Centuries of Anti-Economics


Anti-economics is described as the opposition to the mainstream of economic thought that has existed from the 18th century to the present day. This book tells the story of anti-economics in relation to Smith, Ricardo, Mill, Walras, Keynes, and Hicks as well as current economic thinkers. William Coleman examines how anti-economics developed from the Enlightenment to the present day and analyzes its various guises; Right anti-economics, Left anti-economics, Nationalist and Historicist anti-economics and Irrationalist, Moralist, Aesthetic, and Environmental anti-economics.


From almost its beginnings economics has been shadowed by a kind of negative doppelgänger, which has mocked, denigrated and wished ill on its positive counterpart. This clamorously hostile figure we will call ‘anti-economics’. This book tells the story of anti-economics, and seeks to take its measure.

Four illustrations of anti-economics

The École Normale Supérieure of Paris. In June 2000 students circulate with considerable success a petition calling for an end to the ‘hegemony of neoclassical economic theory’ that, they say, cuts economics off from reality, and should be replaced by other ‘approaches’ that consider ‘concrete realities’. The petition soon becomes a cause célèbre. The Minister of Education quickly announces that he would study closely the appeal from the students. Le Monde, L'Humanité, L'Express, Les Echos, Marianne, La Tribune, Politis, and French radio and television rush to take up the students' cause. The media agree that economics is suffering – the ‘malaise is general and of longstanding’; it is in crisis; it had become lost in an ‘imaginary world’ and has an ‘obsession to produce a social physics’. ‘A debate should be opened on this subject’ one paper declares. Another with glee predicts that the coming year ‘promises to be agitated’.

Mexico City. In the wake of the ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993 a play entitled ‘La Muerte Deliberada de Cuatro Neoliberales’ [The Deliberate Death of Four Neo-Liberals] is staged to critical approval, and commercial success, in the Mexican capital. The play opens with four Mexican economics post-grads studying in the United States, throwing a party for an old peer group friend, now an anthropologist, and his girlfriend. The banter of their party soon turns to NAFTA, and thence to the merits of economic models. The post-grads

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