Dear AFEE Community,

What constitutes a school of thought?  Very interesting question, one that I grapple with every term when attempting to introduce my students to economic pluralism.

For what it is worth, here is how I approach the subject with my students.  Schools of thought are distinguished between one another by virtue of three main points:

  1.  The questions theorists are asking.
  2.  The phenomena theorists are seeking to explain.
  3.  The method or approach theorists utilize to answer questions or explain phenomena.

If a group of theorists share any one, two, or all three of the above, then those theorists can potentially be categorized as belonging to a school of thought.

Obviously there is a tremendous amount of room for nuance that could be applied to the above framework.  That said, based on the above, I would argue that ecological economics could be categorized as belonging to its own school of thought.

Warm Regards,

Justin A. Elardo, PhD
Portland Community College

From: AFEEMAIL Discussion List <[log in to unmask]> on behalf of John Harvey <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Monday, April 29, 2019 1:51 PM
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Subject: Are Sustainability and Public Choice schools of thought, per se?

Dear All,

I am working on revisions to my Contending Perspectives in Econ book and one chapter that I originally intended to write was on ecological economics or econ of sustainability. The existing chapters cover Neoclassicism, Marxism, Austrianism, Post Keynesianism, Institutionalism, New Institutionalism, and Feminism.

Do you consider ecological econ/sustainability a school of thought , per se along the lines of those others or is it a topic area?

Similarly, I have a colleague who uses my book and she's very keen that I add a Public Choice chapter. Same question: school of thought or subject area?

Incidentally, she is an Austrian and yet there is no one in the department whose overall philosophy regarding pedagogy and curriculum matches mine more completely. She's a wonderful person. Who would have thought?!


John T. Harvey
Professor of Economics
Texas Christian University<>

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