Economists are arguably the most powerful scientists at work today. Their theories and techniques lead directly to recommendations about how people should be governed and how businesses should be run. And economists are in a position to put these recommendations into practice, whether as advisers to politicians, as reseachers at international organisations such as the World Bank, or as academic celebrities such as Thomas Piketty and Yanis Varoufakis. This week we explore how this came to be by looking at three key episodes in the evolution of economics. These are the creation of a discipline of political econony in Britain c. 1800-1850, in the midst of the first industrial revolution; the proliferation of new approaches to the economy in c. 1910-1950, in response to two world wars and a Great Depression; and the global spread of neoclassical economics in the pressure-cooker of the Cold War. Each of these episodes involved rival answers to a crucial question: what is economics about?
How did conceptions of the economy change between 1800 and 2000?
How have these conceptions been shaped by ideas about what counts as 'scientific'?
What is the relationship between conceptions of the economy and the economy itself?
Roger Backhouse, 'Economists and the rise of neo-liberalism', Renewal, vol 17, no. 4, 2009 - available on line here.
Note: this article is from a political magazine, not a scholarly journal. It is included here because a) the author is a distinguished historian of economics, b) the article resembles a chapter in a scholarly book, and c) the article is shorter and more accessible than the scholarly chapter.
Morgan, Mary. 'Economics [in the 20th century].' In Porter and Ross, ed, Cambridge History of Science, vol. 4: Modern Social Science.
The industrial revolution and political economy, 1800-1850
Berg, Maxine. The Machinery Question and the Making of Political Economy, 1815-1848. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980. See especially the chapter 'The Advent of Political Economy.'
Cowherd, Raymond G. Political Economists and the English Poor Laws: A Historical Study of the Influence of Classical Economics on the Formation of Social Welfare Policy. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1977.
Hilton, Boyd. Corn, Cash, Commerce: The Economic Policies of the Tory Governments, 1815-1830. Oxford University Press, 1977.
Langer, Gary F. The Coming of Age of Political Economy, 1815-1825. New York: Greenwood Press, 1987. [to order for Warwick library]
Tribe, Keith. 'Continental Political Economy From the Physiocrats to the Marginal Revolution.' In Porter and Ross, eds, The Cambridge History of Science, vol. 4: Modern Social Science.
The marginal revolution, 1850-1900
Black, R. D. Collison, A. W. Coats, and Craufurd D. Goodwin, eds. The Marginal Revolution in Economics: Interpretation and Evaluation. Durham, N.C: Duke University Press, 1973
De Marchi, Neil, ed. Non-Natural Social Science: Reflecting on the Enterprise of ̀’More Heat than Light’. History of Political Economy: Annual Supplement, vol. 25. London: Duke University Press, 1993.
Mirowski, Philip. More Heat than Light: Economics as Social Physics, Physics as Nature’s Economics. Historical Perspectives on Modern Economics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.
Schabas, Margaret. A World Ruled by Number: William Stanley Jevons and the Rise of Mathematical Economics. Princeton University Press, 2014.
———. “Victorian Economics and the Science of the Mind.” In Victorian Science in Context, edited by Bernard V. Lightman. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1997.
War, depression and the welfare state, 1900-1960
Backhouse, Roger, ed. Liberalism and the Welfare State: Economists and Arguments for the Welfare State. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2017.
Backhouse, Roger E., and Tamotsu Nishizawa, eds. No Wealth but Life: Welfare Economics and the Welfare State in Britain, 1880–1945. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.
Barber, William J. From New Era to New Deal: Herbert Hoover, the Economists, and American Economic Policy, 1921-1933. Historical Perspectives on Modern Economics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985.
Eichengreen, Barry. 'The Keynesian Revolution and the Nominal Revolution: Was There a Paradigm Shift in Economic Policy in the 1930s?' Working paper, 1999. Available online here.
Hall, Peter A., ed. The Political Power of Economic Ideas: Keynesianism Across Nations. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 1989.
Lavoie, Don. Rivalry and Central Planning: The Socialist Calculation Debate Reconsidered. Historical Perspectives on Modern Economics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985.
Morgan, Mary S. The History of Econometric Ideas. Historical Perspectives on Modern Economics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
Rutherford, Malcolm. “Understanding Institutional Economics: 1918-1929.” Journal of the History of Economic Thought 22, no. 3 (September 2000): 277–308.
Supple, Barry, and Mary O. Furner, eds. The State and Economic Knowledge: The American and British Experiences. Cambridge University Press, 1990.
Neoclassicism, neoliberalism and the Cold War, 1960-2000
Backhouse, Roger. The Puzzle of Modern Economics: Science or Ideology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.
Bockman, Johanna. Markets in the Name of Socialism: The Left-Wing Origins of Neoliberalism. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2011.
Harvey, David. A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.
Jones, Daniel Stedman. Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics. New edn. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014.
Klamer, Arjo, ed. The New Classical Macroeconomics: Conversations with the New Classical Economists and Their Opponents. Brighton: Wheatsheaf, 1984.
Mirowski, Philip. Machine Dreams: Economics Becomes a Cyborg Science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
Mirowski, Philip, and Dieter Plehwe, eds. The Road from Mont Pèlerin: The Making of the Neoliberal Thought Collective. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2009.
Morgan, Mary S., and Malcolm Rutherford, eds. From Interwar Pluralism to Postwar Neoclassicism. History of Political Economy. Annual Supplement, vol. 30. Durham ; London: Duke University Press, 1998.
Reinhoudt, Jurgen, and Serge Audier, eds. The Walter Lippmann Colloquium: The Birth of Neo-Liberalism. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.
Roger Middleton. “The Post-1945 Internationalization of Economics: Annual Supplement to Volume 28 of History of Political Economy A. W. Coats.” The Economic Journal, no. 459 (1999): F787.
Slobodian, Quinn. Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2018.
Solow, Robert M. “How Did Economics Get That Way & What Way Did It Get?” Daedalus 134, no. 4 (2005): 87–100.
Valdes, J. G. Pinochet’s Economists: The Chicago School in Chile. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.
Van Horn, Robert, Philip Mirowski, and Thomas A. Stapleford, eds. Building Chicago Economics: New Perspectives on the History of America’s Most Powerful Economics Program. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.