23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on December 20, 2005
This is the best introduction to the ideas of Veblen, Marx, Smith, Keynes and heterodox thinking in general available today. I use it as a required text in a first year college course which introduces students to Institionalism, Marxism and neoclassical economics. The book starts with an excellent summary of heterodox thinking and the problems which heterodox economists identify in the mainstream. The chapters on specific authors are exactly what is needed to show students the diverse analyses of the capitalist system that exist within the discipline. They are very wide-ranging but so clear and comprehensible that students get a deep understanding of the differences between schools of thought. I highly recommend this book for courses on economic perspectives and history of thought, as well as for mainstream courses in both micro and macro.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on March 28, 2004
Every once in a while you come across a little gem of a book that will expand your mind with its insightful analysis. I sat down and over two 5 hour sittings I read this entire book through word-for-word which is pretty rare for me to do.
The book begins by explaining the problems of current neo-liberal economic modeling. The book goes on to tell you what Karl Marx REALLY said and how it had nothing to do with Stalin, China, or the former Soviet Union. You also get a good introduction to economists Veblen, Keynes, and Galbraith and how all of their ideas tie into the Swedish model of the economy that we see today.
Best of all, the book does not read like a laborous academic treatise; it's easy to read, moves briskly along, and gets straight to the point.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on February 17, 2006
I am a college instructor who teaches a course on globalization. I use this book as a supplement to a world history text which begins in the 15th century. This text is very valuable for tracing the interaction of economic theories and world events. It begins with Adam Smith and goes up through Keynes. The text is non-mathematical, very easy to read and opens students up to theories besides neo-classical economics.There are excellent chapters on social class and on the social democracy of Sweden. It's great to have a chapter which shows the relativity of private capitalism.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 2008
I have never taken an economic course and wanted to have some kind of introduction before starting graduate school. Who would have guessed an economics book could make a great summer read?! I was pleasantly surprised by the accessibility and the conversational tone of "Introduction to Political Economy". After an engaging introduction to some of the biggest names in economics, Sackrey, Schneider and Knoedler offer meaningful examination of existing systems. The book also gets bonus points for sharing tidbits (like uncommon quotes from Adam Smith) that you probably won't get in the classroom, yet which speak to very real goings-on. A warning: not for those who can't handle a strong critique of neoliberal ideology...but in light of the current financial meltdown, I'm guessing that won't be a problem for most folks.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
University economics training is long on rigor but short on history, sociology, law and ethics. The process can be incredibly narrowing: economic models obscure as much as they illuminate, yet create the impression that economics is a "hard" science yielding "objective" truths. Most students quickly forget the graphs and formulas, while retaining forever the gut faith that unfettered markets are wonderful devices for rewarding talent and maximizing welfare. The experience is deeply ideological. It blinds students to blatant capitalist failures such as inequality, wasteful advertising, asset bubbles, greed and consumerism, and authoritarian workplaces.
"An Introduction to Political Economy" is a great "reality check" on the standard curriculum. The book doesn't present a systematic view of economics, since only two chapters -- those on Keynes and Sweezy/Baran -- really analyze the dynamics of a modern capitalist economy. But the book does discuss authors such as Marx, Veblen and Galbraith, who offered deep criticisms of the social world created by capitalism. It also has chapters on Swedish social democracy and Spanish cooperatives -- alternative forms of economic organization that would strike most American readers as revolutionary.
I liked this book a lot. But to be fair, it is too unbalanced and superficial to substitute for a regular econ text: for example, no one reading it would learn how capitalism has encouraged innovation and created fantastic wealth for hundreds of millions of people who would otherwise be living in poverty. Readers looking for a more comprehensive left overview of the economy should read "Understanding Capitalism" by Samuel Bowles. However, "An Introduction to Political Economy" is a GREAT mind-opener for beginning students who want to understand the real world of capitalism and social institutions.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on November 10, 2007
I am a college freshman and when it comes to economics, the neoclassical dominance is a serious turnoff. I got this book to counterbalance Mankiw's principles textbook. It is fairly simple, easy to read and in general a fabulous introduction to the ideas of Adam Smith (such a misunderstood figure), Marx, Veblen, Keynes, etc. If you want some insights about capitalism outside of "free markets" reductionism, you might want to check out this book.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 13, 2014
I regret that I didn't discover this book prior to my time teaching economics as an adjunct professor. The summaries of Smith, Marx, Keynes and others stick closely to what the authors actually said, rather than how they are often caricatured by economic commentators and political partisans. It argues convincingly that mainstream economic theory is based on questionable assumptions (e.g., that competitive and self-seeking behavior is somehow innate) that constrain the ability of economics to make society better off.
I quibble with the authors' presentation of a couple of themes, as I fear that a typical undergrad might come away thinking that models are bad per se, or that marginal thinking is bad per se. A model is just a simplified way to view a dynamic system, and marginal thinking is a powerful tool for analyzing problems squarely in the realm of the political economy, like the behavior of private equity firms (they've shuttered companies, not because they weren't earning a profit at all, but because they were only earning a 5% return on equity rather than 8%) or the slave-like conditions of Asian tech workers (Americans could pay "marginally" more for their smart phones, and foreign workers could be "marginally" much better off, with rigorous international labor standards).
On the whole, the book's critique of mainstream economics is powerful. Why do most economists ignore the importance of the concept of class in the workings of the economy? Why do they not acknowledge the way that ideology shapes their research and constrains their engagement as public intellectuals? How is it that the concepts of class and ideology are fundamental to all other social sciences, but curiously not economics? The book sheds a great deal of light on these skeletons in the closet.
Modern medicine would never claim with a straight face to be interested in curing cancer, but at the same time not be interested in studying where tumors come from. Mainstream economics, on the other hand, delves into the minutiae of pure competition, oligopoly and monopoly with great rigor, but doesn't much care where the "cancer" of monopolies comes from, how they are sustained, and what the full range of societal consequences are. My takeaway message from this book can be summarized as follows: "Concentrated economic power begets political power and the power to rig the system, which strengthens monopoly power." But you'll never see this circular flow model in an intro textbook.
This is an excellent, readable and entertaining book. It is a wake-up call for economics students and economists to revisit the foundations of their own science and a plea for them to do more interesting and useful work.
on April 28, 2015
Everything you knew was wrong with neoclassical economics, but couldn't put into words. I wish I had time for a more significant review, but I too work for a heartless capitalist.
on November 20, 2014
Cheaper than the bookstore for my daughter's college classes
on October 6, 2014