Life, Language, Law: Essays in Honor of Arthur F. Bentley

By Richard W. Taylor | Go to book overview

IV
The Coming Revolution in Economic Thought

By BERTRAM GROSS

"MY INTEREST IN POLITICS is not primary, but derived from my interest in the economic life; and I hope from this point of approach ultimately to gain a better understanding of the economic life than I have succeeded in gaining hitherto.''1

These words were written by Arthur F. Bentley in the early days of the century when, after completing his doctorate in economics, he edged over into the field of politics and wrote his classic "The Process of Government." But his stay in the field of politics was short-lived. Encountering little but indifference and incomprehension among the political scientists of that day, he moved again--but forward into philosophy instead of back into economics.

More than four decades later, Bentley and I discussed the present state of economic theory. The former economics student from Johns Hopkins seemed to regret that he had never returned. I sensed two basic reasons why he had not. One was the feeling that he had to develop his thoughts in the field of philosophy before he could achieve a satisfying understanding of either economics or politics. The second was the sheer magnitude of the task faced in economics. If political thought had been a stony field of scraggly weeds, economics was a lush jungle of brilliant half-truths, murky and labrinthine trails, elaborate intellectual flowerings, and stubbornly living survivals of a long- dead past. Here the job of reformulation and overhauling, we agreed, was staggerng.

Today, however, the overhauling process is already starting in earnest. In fact, if one looks carefully enough, it is already possible to see the beginnings not only of a reformulation, but even of a veritable revolution in economic thought.

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