More on the meaning of Radical Economics

A brief follow up on my post yesterday. Ellen Frank, in a Dr. Dollar column in Dollars & Sense, provides a thoughtful discussion of the difference between Radical and Liberal (or Progressive) economist. In her words:

“To reject the core assumptions of individualism and free choice, however, is to place oneself “out of the mainstream.” Though a good number of economists fall into this category, many would be uncomfortable with the tag “radical.” Others call themselves “heterodox,” “progressive,” “feminist,” “institutionalist,” “post-Keynesian,” “Marxist,” “social economists,” or “ecological economists.” Like the American left in general, these groups differ in focus and politics. What most share is an insistence that economic analysis address structural power and the inequities of race, class, and gender. Most are also concerned with the destructive impact of markets on environmental and social stability. And most see themselves as part of a centuries-old tradition of political economy that does not divorce economic questions from social and political ones.

 

As the political center of gravity in the United States shifts rightward, prominent liberals have grown increasingly critical of right-wing economic policies. After stints in the Clinton administration and at the World Bank, Stiglitz wrote two books attacking the political power of the finance industry. Krugman became the bête noir of the Republican right once he began writing op-ed columns for the New York Times. For those shunted “out of the mainstream,” such dissidence is a hopeful development. But we must also remember that mainstream economics has absorbed and even celebrated dissidents in the past, without abandoning its allegiance to the neo-classical framework.”

I tend not to like the mix of theoretical terms like Radical, Heterodox, and neoclassical, with the more political Progressive and Liberal. But it is important to note that several Liberal economists like Krugman and Stiglitz, while remaining in the neoclassical camp, are political allies of Radical and Heterodox economists.


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