Essays on: The Nature and State of Modern Economics: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Essays on: The Nature and State of Modern Economics

1st Edition

By Tony Lawson


262 pages

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pub: 2015-04-22
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What do modern academic economists do? What currently is mainstream economics? What is neoclassical economics? And how about heterodox economics? How do the central concerns of modern economists, whatever their associations or allegiances, relate to those traditionally taken up in the discipline? And how did economics arrive at its current state? These and various cognate questions and concerns are systematically pursued in this new book by Tony Lawson. The result is a collection of previously published and new papers distinguished in providing the only comprehensive and coherent account of these issues currently available.

The financial crisis has not only revealed weaknesses of the capitalist economy but also highlighted just how limited and impoverished is modern academic economics. Despite the failings of the latter being more widely acknowledged now than ever, there is still an enormous amount of confusion about their source and true nature. In this collection, Tony Lawson also identifies the causes of the discipline’s failings and outlines a transformative solution to its deficiencies.

Amongst other things, Lawson advocates for the adoption of a more historical and philosophical orientation to the study of economics, one that deemphasizes the current focus on mathematical modelling while maintaining a high level of analytical rigour. In so doing Lawson argues for a return to long term systematic and sustained projects, in the manner pursued by the likes of Marx, Veblen, Hayek and Keynes, concerned first and foremost with advancing our understanding of social reality.

Overall, this forceful and persuasive collection represents a major intervention in the on-going debates about the nature, state and future direction of economics.


This is a book of genuine originality, something that is rare in modern academia and all too often confused with mere novelty. Few thinkers can legitimately claim to have had a significant impact on their chosen field. Fewer still can claim to have substantively changed the terms of debate of that field. Tony Lawson is one of those few. These essays are for anyone with an interest in the future of the discipline.

Jamie Morgan, Reader in Economics, Leeds Beckett University; Co-editor Real World Economics Review

Tony Lawson has changed the conversation.

Edward Fullbrook, Executive Director of the World Economics Association.

Lawson writes with clarity and with an intellectual passion. A must read for any student of economics and political economy.

Peter Boettke, Professor of Economics and Philosophy at George Mason University, USA

This book should be read by everyone concerned to remedy the deficiencies in economics exposed by the 2008 financial crisis. Through rigorous argument, Lawson shows that the answer is not more complex forms of mathematical modelling, but the adoption of… methods that recognize the open-ended, relational , and processual character of economies.

Diane Elson, Professor of Sociology, University of Essex, UK

Tony Lawson provides the "L-correction" to Friedman's "F-twist", by forcing economics to consider its ontology.

Steve Keen, Professor and Head of Economics, History & Politics, Kingston University London, UK

[…] should be required reading for all serious economists, regardless of their approach.

G.C. Harcourt, Professorial Fellow, University of New South Wales

Tony Lawson is the enfant terrible of modern economic methodology. Whether you agree with him or not, he makes you think. This collection of papers is no exception. Highly recommended for all those with the slightest interest in the current state and nature of economic science.

Dimitris Milonakis, Professor of Political Economy and Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Crete, Greece.

The book by Tony Lawson entitled Essays on the nature and state of modern economics comes at a particularly fitting time in the history of the economic academic discipline. After what has been regarded by many as one of its major setbacks—namely the failure to predict the 2008 global financial crisis—economics has been severely shaken, marginally challenged, but ultimately left untouched by the debates on its conditions that have sparked in the last few years. Therefore, Lawson's choice to assemble a number of previously published papers and a new one into this collection constitutes an important and welcome contribution to the methodology and philosophy of economics literature.

Marco Sebastianelli, Institute for Advanced Study of Pavia

Table of Contents

1. Some fallacies or myths of modern economics 2. Modern economics: the problem and a solution 3. The nature of heterodox economics 4. What is this ‘school’ called neoclassical economics? 5. The current economic crisis: its nature and the course of academic economce 6. Contemporary economics and the crisis 7. Mathematical modelling and ideology in the economics academy: competing explanations of the failings of the modern discipline 8. Tensions in modern economics: the case of equilibrium analysis 9. Soro’s theory of reflexivity a critical comment 10. Ontology, modern economics, and pluralism 11. The varying fortunes of the project of mathematising economics: an evolutionary explanation

About the Series

Economics as Social Theory

Social Theory is experiencing something of a revival within economics. Critical analyses of the particular nature of the subject matter of social studies and of the types of method, categories and modes of explanation that can legitimately be endorsed for the scientific study of social objects, are re-emerging. Economists are again addressing such issues as the relationship between agency and structure, between economy and the rest of society, and between the enquirer and the object of enquiry. There is a renewed interest in elaborating basic categories such as causation, competition, culture, discrimination, evolution, money, need, order, organization, power probability, process, rationality, technology, time, truth, uncertainty, value etc.

The objective for this series is to facilitate this revival further. In contemporary economics the label “theory” has been appropriated by a group that confines itself to largely asocial, ahistorical, mathematical “modelling”. Economics as Social Theory thus reclaims the “Theory” label, offering a platform for alternative rigorous, but broader and more critical conceptions of theorizing.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Economics / General
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Economics / Theory