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Debunking Economics: The Naked Emperor of the Social Sciences Paperback – March, 2002

4.1 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"... this book is a unique and valuable resource." -- The Ecologist

From the Publisher

Debunking Economics exposes what many non-economists may have suspected and a minority of economists have long known: that economic theory is not only unpalatable, but also plain wrong. Many of the most cherished notions of conventional economics are based on reasoning that is internally inconsistent.

Debunking Economics explains why economists think the way they do, and points out the flaws in their thinking which they either don’t realize, don’t appreciate, or just plain ignore. Most of these flaws were established by dissident academic economists decades ago, yet modern economics pretends that it can continue with ‘business as usual’. In a profound irony, Debunking Economics shows that a discipline which labours the word ‘rational’ may be the most irrational of all. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Zed Books (March 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1856499928
  • ISBN-13: 978-1856499927
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #860,596 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By M. A. Krul on March 4, 2006
Format: Paperback
For people, like me, who had almost given up entirely on the academic field of Economics because of ridiculous theories and poor teaching, there is fortunately still Steve Keen. In this book, the Australian Keen shows the errors of the standard views of neoclassical (orthodox) economics.

Not just some side aspects of the theory, but the actual core views of economics as it is taught in universities everywhere unravels before your eyes. Keen masterfully applies both economic models and historical analysis to show that orthodox economists not only do not know what theories exist in their own field, but they also have no inkling of the history of economics and what this means for their approach. This, combined with a possibly even poorer understanding of the philosophy of science (Keen uses Milton Friedman as the main example, but more could have been named), leads to a series of ridiculous assumptions and even more ridiculous results. That the economists consistently ignore the way industrial managers and market analysts etc. do NOT apply their pet theories is just the icing on the cake.

The book is heavy reading for those with no knowledge of economics or maths, but certainly not impossible. A basic understanding of economics and mathematics as taught at high school level (at least in The Netherlands) goes a long way, and Keen fortunately writes well and attempts to avoid long mathematical proofs as much as possible.

The only downside to the book is that his treatment of alternative theories, especially the quite closely linked Austrian school of economics, is very short and vague. This leads to the impression that Keen knows what's wrong with neoclassics, but not what is to be done instead. Therefore, start by reading this book, but don't end there.
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Format: Hardcover
This book provides a far more clear explanation of the ideas of standard economic theory (neo-classical economics) than do the standard texts (compare with Samuelson, Mankiw, or Barro, e.g.). The book explains utility maximization, indifference curves, and the assumptions underlying the standard economic model that is used by the IMF, the World Bank and all major western governments. Keen uses simple language that even the lay person can follow. The text should be standard reading for every student of elementary economics, but even an experienced economist like Alan Greenspan might benefit from the clarity of thought displayed therein.
Macroeconomic theory is covered from the right perspective, from the result of Sonnenshein et all which shows the basis in microeconomic theory for the standard macroeconomic model. Kirman is mentioned but his seminal connection of liquidity demand with uncertainty is not discussed. The work of Radner should have been included, but then Samuelson and Varian do not discuss Radner's contribution either.Chapter 7 presents the correct perspective on general equilibrium theory, with good advice for students of econ 101.Chapter 8 on Keynes is outstanding, presenting the clearest (and even correct!) textbook discussion of Keynes that I am aware of. Marx's contribution to the basis of capitalism, the recognition of the central role played by the profit motive, is also made apparent in the Keynsian context. The profit motive is ignored completely in Samuelson and the other standard texts, which discuss merely pure barter economies and leave out financial markets altogether. Hicks' interpretation of Keynes' ideas is also correctly presented. All in all, students of economics would be well advised to make Keen's book their main econ text.
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Format: Paperback
"Debunking Economics" is a critique of neoclassical economics by a Post Keynesian who likes Sraffa, math and dynamics as much as he dislikes neoclassical economics, equilibrium and statics.

The book has three main parts: Foundations, Complexities, and Alternatives. Foundations includes discussions of neoclassical supply, demand, perfect competition and monopoly, as well as the labour market. Complexities covers capital, assumptions, time, macroeconomics and financial markets. Finally, Alternatives part presents alternative financial theories and heterodox schools of economics, argues against Marxian economics and discusses the use and abuse of mathematics.

The idea behind the book is great. The execution itself, unfortunately, is a mixed bag. I found two chapters - Chapter 6 on capital and Chapter 13 on Marxian economics - to be almost unbearable. All the other chapters are more accessible and have promising arguments, albeit delivered in a mostly tedious manner. In this regard, Chapter 2 is quite representative of the whole book. It points out that in order to derive a smooth downward sloping market demand curve, economists assume homogeneous preferences, which amounts to having only one consumer in the market. Heterogeneous preferences would yield an unpredictable, messy curve with possibly more than one equilibrium. This interesting point is arrived at through a series of boring utility hills and indifference curves. Likewise, Chapter 8 presents a nice discussion of Walras and general equilibrium, but ends with a confused exposition of what temporal analysis in economics should be. Above all, in certain cases when the lay reader (who is supposedly the author's primary audience) might need some easing in (e.g.
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