Debates over the demarcation of different schools of economic thought are by no means new. Taxonomic disputes break out sporadically. Whether “mainstream”, “orthodox” and “neoclassical” economics ever have been, are, or could be synonymous is a question that has exercised several authors of a philosophical turn of mind. Lately the econ blogosphere has turned to the issue, with the focus on the identity and identification of neoclassical economics. Noah Smith made an intervention on the issue a couple of days ago.
Smith notes that the characteristics commonly associated with neoclassical economics, as defined by Wikipedia, look like this:
Neoclassical economics is a term variously used for approaches to economics focusing on the determination of prices, outputs, and income distributions in markets through supply and demand, often mediated through a hypothesized maximization of utility by income-constrained individuals and of profits by cost-constrained firms employing available information and factors of production, in accordance with rational choice theory.
But, Smith argues, there are plenty of papers appearing in prestigious economics journals that don’t have all – or, in some cases, any – of these characteristics. There are authors who have written papers clearly in the spirit of neoclassical micro, but have also written papers without such characteristics. Is it sensible for such authors, having sinned once, to be forever labelled “neoclassical” by their critics? Continue Reading →