Home > Uncategorized > Top 20 heterodox economics books

Top 20 heterodox economics books

from Lars Syll

  • Karl Marx, Das Kapital (1867)
  • Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899)
  • Joseph Schumpeter, The Theory of Economic Development (1911)
  • Nikolai Kondratiev, The Major Economic Cycles (1925)
  • Gunnar Myrdal, The Political Element in the Development of Economic Theory (1930)
  • John Maynard Keynes, The General Theory (1936)
  • Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation (1944)
  • Paul Sweezy, Theory of Capitalist Development (1956)
  • Joan Robinson, Accumulation of Capital (1956)
  • John Kenneth Galbraith, The Affluent Society (1958)
  • Piero Sraffa, Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities (1960)
  • Johan Åkerman, Theory of Industrialism (1961)
  • Axel Leijonhufvud, Keynes and the Classics (1969)
  • Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, The Entropy Law and the Economic Process (1971)
  • Michal Kalecki, Selected Essays on the Dynamics of the Capitalist Economy (1971)
  • Paul Davidson, Money and the Real World (1972)
  • Hyman Minsky, John Maynard Keynes (1975)
  • Philip Mirowski, More Heat than Light (1989)
  • Tony Lawson, Economics and Reality (1997)
  • Steve Keen, Debunking Economics (2001)
  1. Julian Wells
    March 17, 2018 at 5:07 pm

    A special shout-out to my friend and colleague Steve Keen for being the most recent entry in this list.

  2. Juan Santarcángelo
    March 17, 2018 at 5:29 pm

    Anwar Shaikh’s Capitalism: competition, conflict, crises should be included in the list

  3. Graeme Smith
    March 17, 2018 at 5:45 pm

    Surprised not to see Godley and Lavoie “Monetary Economics” or Hyman Minsky “Stabilising an Unstable Economy” on the list

  4. March 17, 2018 at 7:04 pm

    Excellent list that saves me some work compiling my own.

  5. Rita. Addessa
    March 17, 2018 at 8:38 pm

    Great. Thanks so much.

  6. Manuel Angeles
    March 17, 2018 at 9:55 pm

    Shaikh, of course. And Nell´s General Theory of Transformational Growth.

  7. Alan Bare
    March 17, 2018 at 11:00 pm

    Unfortunately, a bookshelf of textbooks alone can’t encompass the scope of today’s heterodox economic thought, let alone it’s potential application to the contemporary “real world.” So, how about compiling and vetting an additional list of essential readings to complete the bookshelf? I have in mind provocative critical thinkers like Michael Hudson, Bill Black, the Galbraiths, Joe Stiglitz, et. al. Just thinkin’

    • March 18, 2018 at 7:02 pm

      Useful comment.

      I have discovered at age 83 that I have limited time, energy and sustained focus to read 3-400 page books on any subject, even though I read a lot and have enjoyed many good books in my lifetime. I find now that my best focus is on essays that concern the topics that interest me most and about which I write. I have nothing left for more than that.

      So I’d love to see a several-dozen list of the best heterodox articles.

      On the other hand, some might say I am too old to matter :).

      • Rob Reno
        March 20, 2018 at 9:52 pm

        I always enjoy your writing Econoclast. I believe you once said we should be explicit about our bias, by which I on understood our core philosophical assumptions.

      • Econoclast
        March 22, 2018 at 6:20 am

        Thank you, Rob. Yes I was referring to our core assumptions. I would add that Gunnar Myrdahl’s advice (to which I recall I was referring) also included philosophical positions that were relevant but outside of the model being discussed.
        So, for example, I might be discussing a model about an industry that includes both limited liability corporations and cooperatives. In addition to making my model’s micro assumptions explicit, I would also want to state clearly that I prefer the coop institutional form over the corporate.

  8. Pedro Arnal Puente
    March 18, 2018 at 1:52 am
  9. March 18, 2018 at 2:18 am

    A good list of Lars Syll’s discernment. However, the title of the list should be changed to something like Top 20 heterodox economics classics or Top 20 classics for heterodox economists / real-world economics readers.

    If this is really a Top 20 heterodox economics books, it is sad to see that the list contains only books before 1980 except for more recent three. Among the three, Mirowski (1989) is a history of economic thought written from an externalist view. Lawson (1997) is an argument on the methodology or philosophy on social sciences but it is a bit difficult to say that it is an economics book. Keen (2001) is a great book of economics and a good selection. At the side of Keen, Lars may have added Beinhocker (2006) The Origin of Wealth. I wonder why Lars did not included in the list Nelson and Winter (1982) An Evolutionary Theory of Economic Change, etc. etc. …

    Biggest trouble with this list is that, excepting Keen (2001), it conveys no recent development of heterodox economics. Did heterodox economics cease to produce new results? Are they all limited to academic specialized papers? The term heterodox economics itself became popular after 1990’s. Can Keen (2001) represent all remarkable works of heterodox economics? I hope that this list is no evidence of heterodox economics sterility. Lars Syll or some other should make a list of “must reads” of heterodx books and papers since 1990 or 2000.?

    • Rob Reno
      March 18, 2018 at 6:18 pm

      In her call for economists to pay attention to the metaphors and narrative structures that comprise economic argument not less than they do the intellectual output of the humanities, McCloskey (1998A, 1990, and 1994) has clearly identified and criticized the tendency in modernist economics to fetishize so-called scientific ways of constructing discourse. Her criticism focuses primarily on the related points that scientific, in any field, and without question in economics, relies on standard recognizable literary and discursive forms of persuasion and that the preference for what passes for science should not be grounded in the presumption that economists do something called theory that somehow is not a function of the forms of rhetoric and literary construction. (Ruccio et. al. 2003, 253-254)

      As noted above historically the externalist-internalist bipolar rhetoric (EIBR) dates to the 1930s going back to Bukharin and Hessen in the Soviet Union and were used as an instrument of rhetoric and political propaganda; more about dismissing truth from other domains of knowledge than about shedding light upon some specific domain. Slava Gerovitch (1996) in Perestroika of the History of Technology and Science in the USSR: Changes in the Discourse provides a history of EIBR that sheds light on the usage of these terms. Further insights are found in Ernest B. Hook (2002) in Prematurity in Scientific Discovery. John Henry (2008) in The Scientific Revolution and the Origins of Modern Science notes “In fact, neither position seems to have been properly established as valid or viable.” Gerovitch and Hook are in agreement; there is a middle way, which both Gerovitch and Henry note; i.e., Gerovitch’s contextual history and Henry’s new eclectics. The Soviet history is illuminating as well as Hook’s analysis. It is not an either or in my view, but simply the recognition of the limitations (i.e., relevance and range of validity) of theoretical model building in relation to real-world outcomes and contextual histories.

  10. March 18, 2018 at 9:25 am

    ‘Top 20 heterodox economics classics.’ Good suggestion. Thanx :)

  11. March 18, 2018 at 7:23 pm

    Perhaps, maybe now one can understand why RWER’s 26,000 subscribers and 340 million Americans ‘do not know- “The Role Of Money” and What Money Is? .The Role Of Money” 1934) by Frederick Soddy,”I feel for you and others in that you are not aware of being victimized.”

    “There never was an idea stated that woke men out of their stupid indifference
    but its originator was spoken of as a crank.” — Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
    (1809-1894) American Poet

    “The Role Of Money”

    ******Excerpt from wikipedia
    “In four books written from 1921 to 1934, Soddy carried on a “quixotic campaign for a radical restructuring of global monetary relationships”[this quote needs a citation], offering a perspective on economics rooted in physics—the laws of thermodynamics, in particular—and was “roundly dismissed as a crank”[this quote needs a citation]. While most of his proposals – “to abandon the gold standard, let international exchange rates float, use federal surpluses and deficits as macroeconomic policy tools that could counter cyclical trends, and establish bureaus of economic statistics (including a consumer price index) in order to facilitate this effort” – are now conventional practice, his critique of fractional-reserve banking still “remains outside the bounds of conventional wisdom”[this quote needs a citation]. Soddy wrote that financial debts grew exponentially at compound interest…”

    *******Excerpt from “The Role Of Money”

    As Soddy stated,
    So elaborately has the real nature of
    this ridiculous proceeding been surrounded with
    confusion by some of the cleverest and most
    skilful advocates the world has ever known, that
    it still is something of a mystery to ordinary
    people, who hold their heads and confess they
    are ” unable to understand finance “. It is not
    intended that they should.”(The Role Of Money)

    READ IT FREE – then;

    ***** “Believe nothing merely because you have been told it…But whatsoever, after due examination and analysis,you find to be kind, conducive to the good, the benefit,the welfare of all beings – that doctrine believe and cling to,and take it as your guide.”- Buddha


  12. March 19, 2018 at 12:56 pm

    Why not add Marshall Sahlins’ Stone Age Economics to the list? The anthropological perspective seems missing …

  13. robert locke
    March 22, 2018 at 10:37 am

    In my paper on The Effect of German and American Academic Business Studies in the Modern Era, which is being published in this month’s rwer, I note that German Academics have been publishing book on their subject for over 100 years. But I find not one of these works cited in this literature. That’s a lot of overlooked books and articles, since publish or perish is the motto we inherited from them. I remember when I assessed the membership of German Social and Economic Professors’ Society that the average publications, was 19+ items per member in 1938. Who could list the top 10 books published in economics in German the past one hundred years. Has anyone heard of Eric Gutenberg, or for that matter Eugen Schmalenbach. They were concerned with the “Technology” of economic activity, getting things done in the real world.

  14. April 1, 2018 at 11:04 pm

    Missing is “Free Trade Doesn’t work” (or if you want more economic scholarship as opposed to historical context possibly Ha-Joon Chang or List?)

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