Dear AFEEers


Randy offers a definition of "bastard" but not of "neoclassical". He notes the Joan Robinson meaning of the b-word as in "bastard theory".


But in his original email Randay was not describing theories, but people, as bastards. I mentioned the names of Lange, Lerner, Roemer, Bowles and Gintis as neoclassical theorists. Randy now responds that they were bastardizing theory in the Robinsionian sense. But these people do not develop a bastard theory in the sense of Robinson. She referred to theorists such as Samuelson who tried to combine neoclassical general equilibrium theory with Keynesian macro. Lange, Lerner, Roemer, Bowles and Gintis do nothing like that. They use versions of neoclassical theory to serve particular analytical or policy ends.


Randy does not define the term "neoclassical". He refers us to John Henry's 1990 book, saying "equilibrium and utility are diversions". Randy cites John in support of the claim that the rise of neoclassical economics was a "political project".


On page xv of his book John explained that his volume tries to show: "why the neoclassical perspective, resting on a utility theory of value, became increasingly prominent, then dominant, in the nineteenth century. The argument rests on the underlying economic change undergone by capitalist society during the period". Not only does this extract highlight the concept of utility, but it also shows that John's argument is more deep and subtle than Randy suggests.


In any case, whatever the intended meaning of "neoclassical", I do not think that the use of the term "neoclassical bastards" is appropriate or generally justified.


Best wishes



Geoffrey M Hodgson

Professor in Management at Loughborough University London

Editor in Chief, Journal of Institutional Economics

Secretary of the World Interdisciplinary Network for Institutional Research (WINIR)

Secretary of Millennium Economics Ltd

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