Need Economic Theories

The Association for Heterodox Economics welcomes student initiatives for fundamental reform of the economics curriculum, as do our post-Keynesian colleagues (Letters, 19 November). Heterodox economists, drawing on a range of theorists, including Keynes, Marx, Minsky and others, have consistently argued for greater pluralism in both economics curricula and economics research evaluation.

We recognise the clear benefits of pluralism in economics: it encourages, by exposing them to alternative perspectives, the development of students’ critical thinking and judgment. Also, by drawing on a range of views, pluralism offers greater power to explain real-world events and provides the tools to solve real-world complex problems.

Need Economic Theories

We support initiatives from within economics for curriculum reform (Report, 12 November). The proposed reform incorporates much of what we regard as desirable for the future of the subject: an appreciation of the complexity of the world, the importance of economic history and the history of economic thought, a recognition of the importance of environmental limits to economic activity, and a broader base of economic ideas than is taught currently.

However, we are also concerned that this new initiative is too narrow, advocates evidence without the theoretical frameworks to understand it, and may simply replace one orthodoxy with another.

The Manchester students’ proposals (Report, 25 October) are the latest in a long line of appeals by student bodies for a more pluralist and relevant curriculum, following actions by students at Harvard, Cambridge and Paris. In the early 1970s an active protest by students at the University of Sydney led to the reform of the university curriculum, to include “political economy”, ie economics that takes into account, power, politics and a contest of ideas. What all of these student protests share is the demand for economics that illuminates the real world, takes in multiple perspectives and engages them.

Moreover, as the recent protests have shown, students recognise the value of it to them. Fortunately, even within the monoculture of the UK economics curriculum, there are institutions in which pluralist, realistic, relevant economics is taught.

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