Contending Economic Theories

Contending Economic Theories: Neoclassical, Keynesian, and Marxian

Richard D. Wolff
Stephen A. Resnick
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 424
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Contending Economic Theories
    Book Description:

    Contending Economic Theories offers a unique comparative treatment of the three main theories in economics as it is taught today: neoclassical, Keynesian, and Marxian. Each is developed and discussed in its own chapter, yet also differentiated from and compared to the other two theories. The authors identify each theory's starting point, its goals and foci, and its internal logic. They connect their comparative theory analysis to the larger policy issues that divide the rival camps of theorists around such central issues as the role government should play in the economy and the class structure of production, stressing the different analytical, policy, and social decisions that flow from each theory's conceptualization of economics. The authors, building on their earlier book Economics: Marxian versus Neoclassical, offer an expanded treatment of Keynesian economics and a comprehensive introduction to Marxian economics, including its class analysis of society. Beyond providing a systematic explanation of the logic and structure of standard neoclassical theory, they analyze recent extensions and developments of that theory around such topics as market imperfections, information economics, new theories of equilibrium, and behavioral economics, considering whether these advances represent new paradigms or merely adjustments to the standard theory. They also explain why economic reasoning has varied among these three approaches throughout the twentieth century, and why this variation continues today--as neoclassical views give way to new Keynesian approaches in the wake of the economic collapse of 2008.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-30536-5
    Subjects: Economics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Detailed Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. To Our Readers
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvi-xviii)
  6. 1 Three Different Theories
    (pp. 1-50)

    This book contrasts three very different and clashing kinds of economics. One is usually called neoclassical (or micro) economics, another Keynesian (or macro), and the third Marxism. Each is a distinct way of understanding how economies work and how they interact with the larger societies around them. In other words, these are three differenttheoriesabout the economic part of society. This book introduces you to all three and to their differences since they compete for our attention as well as shape today’s actions of governments, enterprises, unions, and others. In short, these different theories impact our lives in basic...

  7. 2 Neoclassical Theory
    (pp. 51-104)

    This chapter presents the logical structure of neoclassical theory in terms of its distinctive objects, logic, and conclusions. We will do likewise for Keynesian theory in chapter 3, Marxian theory in chapter 4, and so-called late neoclassical theories in chapter 5. We begin this chapter by specifying the initial objects of neoclassical theory. These are the objects with which the theory begins to construct its analysis and around which it focuses its analysis. As explained in chapter 1, we call these the conceptualentry pointsof neoclassical theory: how it enters into its theorization of the economy. Next we discuss...

  8. 3 Keynesian Theory
    (pp. 105-132)

    Ever since 1936, when John Maynard Keynes (1883–1946) publishedThe General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money, there has been controversy over its meaning and its specific implications for neoclassical theory. To date, it has more or less split non-Marxian economic theory into two branches: microeconomics and macroeconomics. The former deals with the formal structure of neoclassical theory; the latter typically deals with the Keynesian contribution, although this has been changing as we will see in this chapter when we discuss post-Keynesian and new-Keynesian economics. Despite the latter developments, non-Marxian economic theory is generally taught today in terms of...

  9. 4 Marxian Theory
    (pp. 133-250)

    Marxian theory is a class theory. Its originality lies not in claiming that classes exist; people have said that for thousands of years and used class to understand their societies. Marx’s originality lies in how he understands and defines class, then derives his notion of exploitation, and finally shows how class and exploitation influence people’s conceptions, perceptions, and actions. Marxian theory concludes that class exploitation occurs at multiple sites in modern society and that our politics, literature, family structures, sports, television programing, religions, and incomes are all complexly shaped by exploitation. Of particular relevance to this chapter, we will explain...

  10. 5 Late Neoclassical Theory
    (pp. 251-310)
    Yahya M. Madra

    This chapter introduces some interesting recent developments in and extensions of neoclassical theory. We do this for two reasons. First, some economists claim that these changes effectively refute several basic criticisms of standard neoclassical theory, and many of these changes have been sufficiently integrated into that theory to be frequently included in introductory microeconomics textbooks. Second, a smaller number of economists also claim that certain recent extensions and developments represent more: a break from neoclassical economic theory that inaugurates a new and different kind of economic theory. If the second of these claims were persuasive, then we would need to...

  11. 6 Oscillations in Capitalism and among Economic Theories
    (pp. 311-346)

    Capitalism has always varied from economies with more to those with less competitive markets, from economies with relatively more private-than state-operated enterprises to those with the reverse balance, and from economies with more democratic to those with more autocratic politics. Mixtures of these different characteristics have defined different kinds or forms of capitalism throughout its history. Because of these variations, we might more accurately use the plural term “capitalisms” when referring to this kind of changeable economy. Of course, that is not how many, if not most, economists and others understand capitalism. In their view, capitalism is a society with...

  12. 7 The Importance of Theoretical Differences
    (pp. 347-378)

    This book has examined the three most important economic theories contesting in the world today. Earlier chapters described each theory and suggested some of the different consequences that flow from each. In this concluding chapter we have two purposes. The first is to summarize how these theories differ systematically. The second is to explain and compare their different impacts upon our lives. We aim to show how alternative ways of thinking in general, and these three economic theories in particular, shape societies in very different ways.

    Let us recall that each theory has a unique structure. Each theory uses different...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 379-382)
  14. References
    (pp. 383-386)
  15. Index
    (pp. 387-406)