Defending the History of Economic Thought on e-books

You can get my Defending the History of Economic Thought as an e-book at this link. It is the first ever book length defence of HET and was written because the History of Economic Thought was, and still is, under threat of exile from amongst economists to the History and Philosophy of Science. It thus is not just an examination of why economists must study HET to become better economists, but why economists must preserve HET if economics is itself to become a better study of how economies work. This is from the link to the e-book:

This book explains the importance of the history of economic thought in the curriculum of economists, whereas most discussions of this kind are devoted only to explaining why such study is of value simply to the individual economist. Steven Kates reaches out past the individual to explain the crucial importance of the history of economic thought in the study of economics itself; without its history at the core of the curriculum, he contends, economics is a lesser subject, less penetrating, less interesting and of much less social value.

The book has had a number of reviews which reminded me just how useful this book is, not because they agreed with me, but because they didn’t. Not that any of them disagreed with me over the importance of the subject itself, only about whether my approach to teaching HET was a sensible one or whether I had overstated the opposition to HET amongst the profession in general. But twice in five years, major societies were faced by attempts to remove HET from within the economics classification and only rearguard action by a handful of historians of economics was able to reverse these already taken decisions.

I will be speaking about the book at the History of Economic Society meeting in Montreal in June and then, at the Australian Society meeting in Auckland, there will be a symposium on the book and its message. Economists have shifted away from being part of the humanities into becoming, not just a social science but social-physics. It is mathematics and pseudo-rigour that now drive the way in which economic theory is designed. Economics cannot be mathematical since there are no data for most of the important questions economics tries to answer. One of the reasons Keynesian economics will not die is that there is a belief that you can measure the things that need to be measured since the national accounts – a set of identities, for heaven’s sake – can be used as a proxy for economic relations. The History of Economic Thought at least reminds economists that their subject once was part of the humanities and some even begin to realise it still needs to be if it is to be any use to society.

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