By the mid-2000s, the heterodox economics movement was gathering steam. It received a major boost from the so-called ‘post-autistic economics’ movement in France (see also this archive), a student revolt against the stultifying climate of neoclassical economics teaching in France which opened with a public letter in Le Monde signed by over a thousand scholars, and which garnered world-wide attention. For several years, the movement produced a review which was a focus for many seeking to confront the dogmatic and religious institution that economics had become in the neoliberal era. Under the editorship of Edward Fullbrook and with the broad support of a growing world community this became the Real-World Economic Review. It was the birthplace of the World Economic Association, with a membership of 13,000 at the time of this post.
A critical issue facing the heterodox movements that preceded these new developments was that of pluralism. The heterodox economics movement was conceived of as a kind of confederation of ‘schools’ united in their opposition to orthodox, aka mainstream, aka neoclassical economics – Keynesian, Marxist, Austrian, Feminist, Social Economist, Behaviouralist, and so on. The experience of TSSI scholars in their encounter with the ‘official Marxism’ of the RRPE and of the ‘Marxism without Marx’ current in general, convinced Andrew Kliman and myself that the various schools functioned as ‘orthodoxies in waiting’ which merely acted as gatekeepers for those interpretations and representations of namesakes and doctrines which were to be allowed to represent the views of their school as a whole. They were in practice every bit as repressive, with respect to their own dissidents, as orthodoxy with respect to heterodoxy.
The conclusion we came to was that a more radical reconstruction of economics was required in which the primary requirement was pluralism – the recognition of the legitimacy of the entire range of relevant views and theories. This, over time, became the watchword of the heterodox movement. This seminal early paper by Andrew and myself was first published in Issue 40 of the post-Autistic Review, and subsequently in Edward Fullbrook’s pioneering Pluralist Economics. Fullbrook had already reached the conclusion (see for example Pluralism is Science) as had others independently, and the view that a challenge to economic dogmas would be necessarily pluralist became widely accepted – unfortunately, not infrequently, in word more than deed, the tendency to slip back into a regulatory and prescriptive theoretical practice being baked into the entire notion of ‘pure economics’ as a discipline and a field of study, and also into its institutional relations with finance and government.
This paper, our salvo into the early world of heterodox economics, trenchantly set out the conclusions we had already reached in formulating the IWGVT rules: pluralism is not just a verbal commitment but a mode of practice. To this end I have also included the ‘critical note’ which I wrote to accompany the academia version of this text.