Marc Tool's mentor, Fagg Foster, used to say, won't it be nice when all of those isms become wasms.

On Tuesday, April 30, 2019, 3:47:44 AM PDT, Wray, Randall <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Brian: my professor, Marc Tool, used to thunder against all "isms" and if you sat in the front of the class--as I did--he put the fear of god into you. I still hesitate before adding an ism to Institutional.

However as Paul Davidson always says, categorization is essential to building an understanding. As a kid you learn animal, vegetable, mineral and it helps to make sense of the world. You go on to species and learn about cats, dogs, and gold fish. There's a lot of variability across individuals, but more similarities within groups. They mostly mate with their own kind--but a few of the more adventurous try cross-species dallying. 

Ditto with schools of thought (at the extreme, isms). Individuals might protest mightily about pigeon-holing and that of course is unfair, but to build understanding the categorization is essential. And cross-species fertilization almost never works.

When I finally went on to grad school, a few months into the program, one of my fellow students told me that I was the only one (of 24 entering first years) who had an ideology. He had never heard of a school of thought. He had thought economics is just economics. 

Or, more precisely, economics is just math. Like many of those other students, he struggled trying to make sense of what the heck economics actually is, other than special purpose sets of math equations with no apparent links among them. He and many others did rather poorly that first year; I found grad school to be very easy because I knew which ideology the neoclassical bastards were trying to feed us. I knew it at least as well as they did--probably better. Neoclassicals are by far the most likely to protest that they are not neoclassical. 

I've always taken John Harvey's approach to teaching. Schools of thought is the first lecture in any and every class I teach. I cannot imagine making any sense of economics without that.

L. Randall Wray
Senior Scholar, Levy Economics Institute

Co-editor Journal of Post Keynesian Economics
ISSN 0160-3477 (Print), 1557-7821 (Online)

New Book: Why Minsky Matters: An Introduction to the work of a maverick economist, Princeton University Press
New Book: Modern Money Theory: a primer on macroeconomics for sovereign monetary systems, Palgrave Macmillan 
Please make note of my new email address as I will be transitioning all email to:

From: AFEEMAIL Discussion List <[log in to unmask]> on behalf of Brian Eggleston <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Monday, April 29, 2019 6:34 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [AFEEMAIL] Are Sustainability and Public Choice schools of thought, per se?
I really don’t mean to be too glib here but aside from crafting a text, why/how  does this matter?  I’m reminded of  Duke Ellington’s comment.  “There are two kinds of music. Good music, and the other kind.”  Perhaps “school of economic thought” (from an internal perspective) is really not much more than a variation on this expression; and also about as useful.  (John, this is not a critique of  your text.)   Perhaps a focus on economists' (broadly interpreted) ideas rather than filiation is more fruitful.  My comment is likely a reflection of my general disdain for what my mentor (Warren Gramm) termed “camp meetings.”  (He also wasn't big into loyalty oaths.)

The above aside, I appreciate anything which challenges the deeply entrenched perspective that there's really only one "good" economics and a bunch of the other kind.   So, as I said above, I'm not seriously dissin' your text.


On Mon, Apr 29, 2019 at 9:00 AM John Harvey <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
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


Brian Eggleston, Ph.D.
Department of Economics
Augustana University
Sioux Falls, SD 57197

Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes.  You are free.      Jim Morrison (The Doors)