- Series: Manchester Capitalism MUP
- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: Manchester University Press; 1 edition (November 25, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 152611013X
- ISBN-13: 978-1526110138
- Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.6 x 5.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #730,246 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Econocracy: The Perils of Leaving Economics to the Experts (Manchester Capitalism MUP) 1st Edition
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'Economics has become the organising principle, the reigning ideology, and even the new religion of our time. And this body of knowledge is controlled by a selective priesthood trained in a very particular type of economics - that is, Neoclassical economics. In this penetrating analysis, based on very sophisticated theoretical reflections and highly original empirical work, the authors show how the rule by this priesthood and its disciples is strangling our economies and societies and how we can change this situation. It is a damning indictment for the economics profession that it has taken young people barely out of university to provide this analysis. Utterly compelling and sobering.' - Ha-Joon Chang, Reader in Political Economy of Development at the University of Cambridge and Author of Economics: The User's Guide
'A rousing wake-up call to the economics profession to re-think its mission in society, from a collective of dissident graduate students. Their double argument is that the 'econocracy' of economists and economic institutions which has taken charge of our future is not fit for purpose, and, in any case, it contradicts the idea of democratic control. So the problem has to be tackled at both ends: creating a different kind of economics, and restoring the accountability of the experts to the citizens. The huge nature of the challenge does not daunt this enterprising group, whose technically assured, well-argued, and informative book must be read as a manifesto of what they hope will grow into a new social reform movement.' - Lord Robert Skidelsky, Professor Emeritus of Political Economy at Warwick University and Fellow of the British Academy in History and Economics
'If war is too important to be left to the generals, so is the economy too important to be left to narrowly trained economists. Yet, as this book shows, such economists are precisely what we are getting from our leading universities. Given the role economists play in our society, we need them to be much more than adepts in manipulating equations based on unrealistic assumptions. This book demonstrates just why that matters and offers thought-provoking ideas on how to go about it.' - Martin Wolf, Associate Editor and Chief Economics Commentator at the Financial Times
'An interesting and highly pertinent book.' - Noam Chomsky
'Economics, as practiced in university economics departments, regurgitated by policy makers, and summarised in the mainstream media, has become a form of propaganda. This superb book explains how: dangerous ideology is hidden inside a mathematical wrapper; controversial policies are presented as 'proven' by the models of economic 'science'. This book is essential reading for anyone who wants to know about the con - that includes everyone concerned with the future of democracy.' - Jonathan Aldred, Author of The Sceptical Economist
'Historians, one day, will study the mesmeric capacity of economic doctrine to override the public's faculty of rational judgement in favour of an unquestioning faith in the experts, in the face of the overwhelming evidence that they have got absolutely everything completely wrong. This research will engender the same sense of disbelief, I am convinced, that we feel today for the high mediaeval dogma that the sun must go around the earth because God ordained it so. This book will then be recognised as a turning point. It is an eloquent, quietly passionate, but above all knowledgeable statement of the simple fact that the emperor is naked, rounded off by a remarkably clear prescription for doing without tailors. Do not miss it.' - Alan Freeman, Visiting Professor at London Metropolitan University and Research Fellow of Queensland University of Technology, Australia
'This superbly written and scholarly work makes a strong case for wresting control of economic and political dialogue back from the pseudo-profession of academic economists and returning it to the body politic. Its authors are student economists who, writing after the financial crisis that mainstream economists didn't see coming, have approached their topic with refreshing scepticism, and a wisdom far beyond their years. This is an excellent read that I strongly recommend.' - Steve Keen, Head of the School Of Economics, History & Politics at Kingston University, London
'This is an impressive book of admirable scope and ambition.' - Andrew Mearman, Leeds University Business School, International Review of Economics Education
'Is economics too important to be left to the economists? The authors marshal a powerful case against economics as it often is, and set out a positive vision of economics as it might be, a public interest economics which enables citizens to understand the economy better and participate more fully in the decisions which affect all our futures. An important and timely book.' - Andrew Gamble, Professor of Politics at the University of Cambridge and Joint Editor of New Political Economy and the Political Quarterlya
'Economics is a subject of importance to all citizens, yet many economists have been unwilling to engage in the public debate made essential by the financial crisis and its consequences. This book is a provocative but welcome contribution to the democratic conversation that has to take place about the role of economics in public policy, and the need for the subject to be accessible to everyone. Many economists will not agree with all of the book's analysis but they certainly should not ignore it.' - Diane Coyle, Visiting Professor at the University of Manchester's Institute for Political and Economic Governance and Managing Director of Enlightenment Economics
"The high priests of economics still hold power, but they no longer have legitimacy. In proving so resistant to serious reform, they have sent the message to a sceptical public that they are unreformable. Which makes The Econocracy a case study for the question we should all be asking since the crash: how, after all that, have the elites - in Westminster, in the City, in economics - stayed in charge?" - The Guardian Book of the Day 09/02/2017
"Like Walt Whitman, The Econocracy contains multitudes."
Martin Sandbu, The Financial Times, 24/02/2017
"This slim book manages to pack in a concise and well-researched critique of modern economics and how it is taught in universities as well as the broader issue of public engagement with economics as part of the democratic process. Written in the wake of the Brexit referendum but before the surprising success of Donald Trump, this book is a timely warning of what can happen when economists, policymakers and the public can't find common ground." - Maxine Montaigne, LSE Review of books
"...an interesting volume for anyone who wants to rethink their approach to the economical language." - Market Plus, the Swiss Financial Channel - April 2017
About the Author
Joe Earle, Cahal Moran and Zach Ward-Perkins are founding members of the Post-Crash Economics Society at the University of Manchester
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The book’s three authors - Joe Earle, Cahal Moran and Zach Ward-Perkins - all studied economics at the same time at Manchester University and all fell out of love with their course, coming to view it as “narrow, uncritical and disconnected from the real world”.
This led, in their second year, to their setting up the Post-Crash Economics Society for curricular reform, which ultimately evolved into an international network called Rethinking Economics (with 40 groups in 13 countries), dedicated to reforming economic education and democratising economics by transforming the subject “from a technical discipline into a public dialogue”.
The authors define ‘econocracy’ as an economics-based technocracy or a society “in which political goals are defined in terms of their effects on the economy, which is believed to be a distinct system with its own logic that requires experts to manage it”, and ‘The Econocracy’ represents not only their analysis of what’s gone wrong but also how this problem should be addressed.
This enterprise exhibits two paradoxes.
Firstly, it is claimed that the teaching of economics in UK universities represents a form of indoctrination, which militates against independent, critical thought. But if this is really so, then how were our three authors (and their counterparts in others institutions of higher education) able to escape that fate?
The answer seems to lie in what economists would refer to as ‘exogenous shock’: not only did they all come of age in the 2008 global financial crisis and embark upon Economics degrees in the vain hope that their studies would shed light on this phenomenon but when the Eurozone crisis occurred it wasn’t even mentioned in lectures, confirming their growing realisation that what they were taught was only tenuously, if at all, related to the economics of the real world.
Secondly, although Earle, Moran and Ward-Perkins present the language of economics as impenetrably technical to the layman, they succeed in making their own economic arguments wonderfully lucid.
They certainly make out a good case that there are serious issues concerning how economics is taught and what is taught, with neo-classical theory exhibiting severe shortcomings in addressing issues such macroeconomic stability, environmental change and inequality.
I would, however, have liked the critique to have been even more wide-ranging and better informed historically (although in their defence one of their complaints is the way in which economics is usually studied without reference to history, politics and ethics).
Thus whilst Earle, Moran and Ward-Perkins are correct in arguing that the economy as “an abstract concept … is a relatively recent invention” and that World War Two played a pivotal role in making economists indispensable experts, technocracy and the associated belief that the world is “characterised by knowable, predictable forces” stretches back to at least the late seventeenth-century Enlightenment and the roots of liberalism as an ideology.
Given the depth of these roots, it is difficult to be quite as sanguine as Earle, Moran and Ward-Perkins regarding the prospects for uprooting the econocracy.
An economics degree set a graduate up for life, so what was their problem?
Their views are straightforward. The economy shapes modern society. The economy is managed by experts– the econocracy. Experts get things wrong – the crash of 2007 from which they took their name. Change is needed.
The econocrats are trained at elite universities. The syllabus is narrow, divorced from the real world and discourages independent thinking. This they knew at first hand. A broader curriculum is essential.
Finally, experts exclude citizens. A functioning democracy requires participation in all areas of power and decision, especially the economy. Ordinary people need to be made “literate” in the field, so they can engage. The university not only must create well-rounded experts but also citizen economists.
Propositions are set out logically and clearly, backed up with evidence. A little utopian perhaps? They admit this, but lay out a programme of practical actions and, to their merit, can point to real achievements. Through Facebook and Skype the movement – Rethinking Economics - has spread to campuses in many other countries. In Manchester students go into local schools and they also run adult evening classes. There are websites and blogs listed in the book. Big wheels and bankers have acknowledged many of their views are sound. It is a happening project to which this short book is a good introduction.
On a personal note I have just completed History of Economic Thought run by Oxford University’s continuing education department. They offer a range courses in economics, encouraging exactly the kind of critical study recommended in this book.
For example the descrition goes like this: "Martin Wolf, Associate Editor and Chief Economics Commentator at the Financial Times An interesting and highly pertinent book. Noam Chomsky Economics, as practiced in university economics departments, regurgitated by policy makers, and summarised in the mainstream media, has become a form of propaganda. This superb book explains how: dangerous ideology is hidden inside a mathematical wrapper."
Now, if you look at the publisher's page, Martin Wolf is quoted quite differently: "'If war is too important to be left to the generals, so is the economy too important to be left to narrowly trained economists. Yet, as this book shows, such economists are precisely what we are getting from our leading universities. Given the role economists play in our society, we need them to be much more than adepts in manipulating equations based on unrealistic assumptions. This book demonstrates just why that matters and offers thought-provoking ideas on how to go about it.' Martin Wolf, Associate Editor and Chief Economics Commentator at the Financial Times"
My guess is that someone has deliberately destorted the book's description. This is why I give it a five stars recommendation without having read it. If someone thinks a book is so important that you have to denounce it through an utterly misleading description, than it must be important.