Political Economy, Ideology, and the Impact of Economics on the Third World

By Derrick K. Gondwe | Go to book overview

2
The Transition from Political
Economy to Economics

In 1932 Lord Lionel Robbins, one of the prominent followers of Alfred Marshall, the founder of neoclassical economics, defined economics as "the science which studies human behavior as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses." 1 The standard mainstream (neoclassical) textbook defines it as the study of how best to allocate scarce resources among competing uses in order to satisfy human wants. In his widely used introductory textbook, Campbell McConnell says, "Economics is a science of efficiency in the use of scarce resources." He makes his statement even clearer when he notes the kinship between this efficiency and efficiency in engineering. He states, "Economic efficiency is also concerned with inputs and outputs. . . . Specifically . . . the relationship between the units of scarce resources . . . and the resulting output of some wanted product."2

These definitions reflect the asocial and technical nature of neoclassical economics. What is important in mainstream economics is how resources can be allocated to produce the maximum output. The social organization involved in this production is not subject to change because, it is implied, the capitalist society is the good society and will remain so. 3 Economics defined in this way does not resemble closely the social science it is supposed to be. Lord Robbins defined economics in terms of the relationships between ends and means, not between human beings and groups of human beings as they organize to use the means to achieve

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Political Economy, Ideology, and the Impact of Economics on the Third World
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - The Transition from Political Economy to Economics 11
  • 3 - Ideology in Political Economy 31
  • 5 - Economics and the Political Economy of Less Developed Countries 93
  • Notes 115
  • 6 - Ideology and the Economics of Less Developed Countries 121
  • 7 - Toward a People-Centered Political Economy 151
  • Bibliography 177
  • Index 189
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