Home > neoclassical economics, New vs. Old Paradigm > The Pope is a heterodox if you are a Greek or a Russian

The Pope is a heterodox if you are a Greek or a Russian

Well, heterodox is relative, isn’t it? The Pope is a heterodox if you are a Greek or a Russia. I don’t particularly like it but wouldn’t mind if people use it as an easy way of saying that I am not a neoclassical economist. But, as I have explained in my latest book (Economics: The User’s Guide), I don’t entirely subscribe to one school or another. I have been influenced by many different schools. I believe—not only for political reasons but for intellectual reasons too—we need pluralism in economics. Different schools have different methodological approaches, have different interests (some more interested in production, while others are more interested in exchange, for instance) or make different political and ethical assumptions. We need all of them to understand fully the complexity of the world.

I have a problem with the term heterodox because it suggests that we reject the entirety of mainstream economics, which I do not do. The term heterodox can be a hindrance to a pluralistic approach. The Institutional School is probably the one that has influenced me the most. It is because I am interested in particular kinds of problems; but I wouldn’t insist that everyone use it to study every problem. Yes, it is a difficult life swimming against the tide. They [the establishment] don’t take you seriously; many will say you are not even an economist; they won’t promote you. I don’t know what to say, but even when my book sells 1.8 million copies they don’t take me seriously. But I have no complaints. I have come to the conclusion that the economics profession cannot be reformed from within. In the last 10 years, I have started to write a lot for newspapers, magazines and publish popular books, which, by the market’s yardstick, appear to have succeeded. In the English-speaking world, at least since the 1950s, the neoclassical school has been the dominant school. But it has never been as monolithic as it is today. Until the 1970s and 1980s, every respectable department had a couple of economic historians, maybe a couple of Marxists.

Ha-Joon Chang

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