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Economics and Political Economy Today: Introduction to the Symposium on Fine and Milonakis

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Abstract Economics has long been the ‘dismal science’. The crisis in classical political economy at the end of the nineteenth century produced radically differing intellectual responses: Marx’s reconstitution of value theory on the basis of his dialectical method, the marginalists’ development of subjective value theory, and the historical school’s advocacy of inductive and historical reasoning. It is against this background that economics was established as a discrete academic discipline, consciously modelling itself on maths and physics and developing its focus on theorising exchange. This entailed extraordinary reductionism, with humans regarded as rational, self-interested actors, and class, society, history and ‘the social’ being excised from economic analysis. On the basis of this narrowing of its concerns, particularly from the 1980s onwards, economics has sought to expand its sphere of influence through a form of imperialism which seeks to apply mainstream economic approaches to other social sciences and sees economics as ‘the universal grammar of social science’. The implications of this shift are discussed in Ben Fine and Dimitris Milonakis’s two volumes, where they analyse the fate of the social, the political and the historical in economic thought, and assess the future for an inter-disciplinary critique of economic reason.

Affiliations: 1: University of Johannesburg


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