An Outline of the History of Economic Thought

An Outline of the History of Economic Thought

An Outline of the History of Economic Thought

An Outline of the History of Economic Thought


This book provides a comprehensive and analytical overview of the development of economic theory from its beginnings, at the end of the Middle Ages, up to contemporary contributions. Traditional theories are presented as living matter, and modern theories are presented as part of a historicalprocess and not as established truths. In this way, the book avoids the dangerous dichotomy between pure historians of thought who dedicate themselves exclusively to studying facts, and pure theorists who are interested in the evolution of the logical structure of theories. The second edition contains several changes and additions. The authors give due consideration to the "civil economy" perspective developed during Humanism and the Renaissance. The section on Adam Smith has been considerably extended and improved. The treatment of the post-keynesian approach hasbeen separated from "new keynesian macroeconomics". Finally, a new chapter has been added to review the most recent developments in the economic discourse in the light of globalization and the new technological trajectory.


Our satisfaction in writing the second English edition of this book is easy to imagine: not only are we assured of the utility of our work, but also have the opportunity to enlarge and revise it. We have attempted to do this in various ways. We have removed oversights and errors; we have made a few additions and expanded a little on all chapters; we have re-written and simplified various parts which students had found obscure or difficult to understand; lastly, we have updated the bibliography, with the aim of offering useful suggestions for further reading.

More substantial integrations have been made to chapters 1 and 11 . In the first chapter we felt it necessary to recall the role played by humanism and the Renaissance in the birth of political economy and, in particular, the contribution they made to the formation of 'civil humanism', a philosophical approach that fell into disuse following the advent of utilitarianism, but now appears set for a second revival. In the chapter on Smith we have integrated our exposition of the interpretations of his thought by recalling the one that is today considered the most convincing, that of Smith as an institutionalist economist. The chapter on Marx has also been enlarged to recall his concept of man and his investigation into the social and institutional conditions of capitalist production, two of the most topical parts of his thinking. Lastly, in chapter 9 , we have separated treatment of the post-Keynesian approach from the so-called 'new Keynesian macroeconomics', by further expanding on both and pointing out the important differences that distinguish the two schools. We have also added a summary paragraph with a simple diagram comparing the views of the various contemporary schools of macroeconomics. In chapter 11 we have added extensive paragraphs on evolutionary games and the theories of growth and complexity.

In addition, we have introduced a new chapter—the twelfth—which deals with the current situation of economic science. The state of crisis which has beset our discipline over the last thirty years appears even more evident today than when we wrote the first edition of this book. Now we believe it to be a healthy crisis and in chapter 12 we have endeavoured to explain why. A crisis can also be a revolution. We do not pretend to know what will happen in economic science over the next twenty years or so, but it seemed important to us to clarify the reason why, in our opinion, we are in the middle of a crisis of foundations that may make history begin again from Adam.

Finally, a formal change has been made which we hope will be useful for students. We have removed many references to relevant works from the main text and entered them in special bibliographic lists at the end of each chapter.

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