Book from the WEA- The Economics Curriculum: towards a radical transformation


This  book from the World Economics Association (WEA) – edited by me and Jack Reardon and supported throughout by Grazia Ietto-Gillies – originated with a successful WEA online conference. The volume has been conceived with current and future economics students in mind: they will be the economists of the future.

One of the main ideas underlining the book is that “being an economist” in the XXI century requires a radical change in the training of economists and such change requires a global effort. A new economics curriculum is needed in order to improve the understanding of the deep interactions between economics and the political forces and the historical processes of social change. The need for trans-disciplinary and interdisciplinary work is highlighted.

None of us can change economics education on our own. It is within the spirit of global effort at fundamental change in economics education that this book directly contributes to rethinking economics but also lead to direct change in the economics curriculum. The objective is to discuss issues such as: What are the some of the main critiques of current practices on theory, methods and structures?  Which are the current gaps in economics curriculum? What is missing in the current economics curriculum?  What economics major should know?

The call for reform has been eloquently and persuasively made by the contributors-  Nicola Acocella, Sheila Dow,  David Hemenway, Arturo Hermann, Grazia Ietto-Gillies,Maria Alejandra Madi, Lars Pålsson Syll, Constantine Passaris, Paul Ormerod, Jack Reardon, Alessando Roncaglia, Asad Zaman- and this volume represents one small step in the call to action.

After the Introduction that lays the background and conceptual foundation for the rest of the book, Part Two includes contributions related to the evidence on what is wrong with the existing economics education. The objective is to discuss issues such as: What are the some of the main critiques of current practices on theory, methods and structures?. Part Three  includes contributions related to what is missing in the current economics curriculum. The aim is to identify and suggest solutions for current gaps in the curriculum. This part addresses specific areas: varieties of methodologies, history of economic thought, modern economies and firms, finance and economic policy. Finally, Part Four – emphasizes what economics major should know and the need for trans-disciplinary and interdisciplinary work.

Indeed, this book  from the WEA is concerned about the need to engage on multiple fronts with simultaneous entry points with as many people as possible from all parts of the globe. We hope the book will stimulate further debate by both students and professional economists – whether academics or not – on how to progress towards a new economics curriculum.

  1. Macrocompassion said:

    I certainly support this idea, but the question remains about what changes are needed and of what should the new economics syllabus consist? I would like to see that theoretical macroeconomics being treated as a systems engineering kind of situation where the big picture is taken as a whole and not as at present as a number of badly fitting pieces.

  2. Reblogged this on Gabriel Rega and commented:
    Para os que se interessam pela parte de educação e de reforma curricular.

  3. I recently recorded five lectures on Macroeconomics using a radical approach. The central concept is that all theories are attempts to understand historical experiences, and CANNOT be understood without their historical context. Thus, to understand Keynesian economics, we must learn the historical details of the Great Depression which led him to formulate this theory. This approach is in conflict with the standard idea economics is a science and hence universally applicable to all societies and across time and space. However, the approach provides substantial clarity and insight and therefore proves itself. My macroeconomics lectures are available from my webpage:
    Treating macroeconomics as a history is of course quite different from many other types of suggestions which have been made for change by heterodox economists, who continue to subscribe to the idea that economics is a science.

    • Macrocompassion said:

      I watched some of Asad’s first lecture but it seems to me that he has not treated the need for a scientific approach to macroeconomics properly. All scientific investigations have to begin somewhere and that place is from observation of a phenomena, ofter of an inductive kind. That is to say, the same phenomena is seen to occur on a regular experimental basis and the problem is to explain why. When the subject is economics, the use of science must therefore be preceded by the history part of specific happenings. Even without much or any repetition, the hypotheses and science will then follow. You can’t have the science without the history.

      Secondly with regard to explaining the Great Depression (or any other depression for that matter) and why classical theory does not work to explain how it did not recover, the classic theory fails to include that the reduced wages have 2 effects not one. The second one is that with less wages being paid there is a reduced demand for goods. Although labour may be cheaper to employ, no employer needs to employ them until the demand for goods improves. This situation is a positive feed-back one which means that it gradually gets worse. Fortunately it is not the only result of the depression.

      Scientific macroeconomics has not stayed silent recently and the claims of it being static or unfruitful are wrong. My research has allowed us to better understand how the whole system works, when you include both the ideas of Henry Hazlitt (1946 Economics in One Lesson) and Henry George (1879 Progress and Poverty). In contrast to later writings (started by John Bates Clerk for example) both of these two writers make a proper allowance for ALL of the system and not just the limited parts of it that J.M.Keynes chose to show.

      George rightly and scientifically states axioms and definitions before developing his argument and Hazlitt takes pains to omit the assumption about all other matters being non-variable when considering specific change. My recent research and modelling have taken into account both of the progress of these two writers. The resulting logic, science and theoretical model is the first to include all 3 of Adam Smith’s factors of production and the resulting money outputs that correspond (Ground-Rent, Wages and Interest or dividends). Believe it or not, none of the other diagrams nor models on Wikimedia Commons, Macroeconomics have this capacity except for mine which is : DiagFuncMacroSyst.pdf please note.

      If we are to make macroeconomics a true science then a lot of past rubbish needs to be omitted and like my approach, we must start again for scratch or almost scratch with a little induction.

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