Thirty Three Theses.

Author:Bullock, Paul
Position:'The Econocracy: The Perils of Leaving Economics to the Experts' and 'Demography and Economics: Look Past the Past' - Book review
 
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Rethinking Economics and the New Weather Institute Thirty Three Theses for an Economics Reformation, Published during the 500th anniversary of the Reformation on the evening of Tuesday, 12 December, in London, and 'nailed' to the doors of the London School of Economics. Available at: http://www. rethinkeconomics.org/projects/reformation/

Joe Earle, Cahal Moran and Zach Ward-Perkins

The Econocracy: The Perils of Leaving Economics to the Experts, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2017; 211 pp.: ISBN 9781526110138, RRP\\\9.99/$22.95

Charles Goodhart and Philipp Erfurth Demography and economics: Look past the past, VOX, 4 November 2014. Available at: http://www.voxeu.org/article/demography-and-economics-look-past-past

This polemical review questions the purpose of the recent 'Thirty Three Theses for an Economics Reformation', and the earlier steps taken in this line by students and academics at Manchester University. It raises the question of the use of classical as well as neoclassical economic theory in defence of the status quo and points to the need to maintain an historical materialist approach if the current crises of capitalism is to be effectively understood and confronted.

The first two of the publications reviewed here represent a linked protest against the dominance of the 'standard model'-the neoclassical formulations of economic issues-plied by the teachers of economic principles in Universities today. In reviewing their concerns that this dominance blunts the 'critical analysis skills' of students, (1) a third article has been included for review to show that it is not only neo-classical economic theory that obstructs a proper understanding of current economic problems, but classical economic theory which is also commonly used and also obscures the fundamental processes driving the contemporary economy. In order to confront the roles of both neo-classical economics and classical political economy in preventing a proper and unapologetic grasp of the economic issues at stake today, the reviewer would argue that the application of Marx's post classical methodology is the way forward for young 'economists' with a social conscience.

The Thirty Three Theses

Just before Christmas 2017 a letter was published in The Guardian Newspaper written by 64 'economists' giving support for the 'radically greater pluralism' in the teaching of economics that had been called for in 'Thirty Three Theses for an Economics Reformation, theses published a week before by Rethinking Economics (2017) and the New Weather Institute (Open Democracy 2017). (2) The theses were presented 'To mark 500years since the Catholic Reformation', to remind us of Martin Luther's (1517) '95 Theses', and drawing a deliberate analogy between Protestant protest against Roman Catholic theological practice and their academic objections to the dominance of neo-classical economic theory in contemporary economic thinking and practice.

'The 33 theses' is headlined in tabloid fashion, 'The World Faces Poverty, Inequality, Ecological Crisis and Financial Instability immediately leaving in the air the relation and order of these phenomena. The argument then starts with three numbered statements expressing concern '... that economics is doing much less than it could to provide insights that would help solve these problems'. These paragraphs state that (1) 'The neoclassical perspective overwhelmingly dominates teaching, research, advice to policy, and public debate', (2) but that it 'is still useful', although (3) evidence that contradicts its predictions are ignored. If we were to be told what this neo-classical approach was to start with, we might have had a better understanding of the subsequent statements.

There is much in these theses that can be found, if even more cautiously expressed, in the speeches given by Janet Yellen as she headed for the exit door at the Federal Reserve (Yellen 2017a, 2017b). Indeed, one wonders upon reading the 33 theses what they will contain, if the neo-classical orthodoxy--by which we understand the 'standard model' or Walrasian-centred approach--honed to banish any real enquiry into the fundamental causes and catastrophic consequences of modern imperialism, is from the very beginning regarded as 'useful'. Luther perhaps would be concerned that our petitioners are not properly 'repenting'. (3) The timidity of expression is striking: the pleading for competition in thought against the neo-classical 'monopoly', the request for 'a more pluralist approach' which invites you to 'debate' since 'a better economics is possible', is hardly the intellectual 'bomb' that Marx put under the seat of the bourgeoisie with his Capital. Perhaps their timidity arises because, like Luther, they wonder, 'Who knows whether all souls in purgatory wish to be redeemed?' (4)

Already the readers will be asking themselves why these numerous practicing academics have allowed such a monopoly of approach to be imposed. One must infer that they have been obediently delivering this monopoly product, that it turns out to be 'their job'. Is it, as Luther asked, that as 'soon as the money clinks into the money chest, the soul flies out of purgatory'...

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