The State and the Economic System

The State and the Economic System : Introduction to the History of Political Economy

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This study traces the history of economic thought over the past 300 years, from its emergence as a scientific discipline in the 17th century to modern times and the reaction that set in against the policies associated with the age of "economic management" that reached its climax in the period following the Second World War. The argument of the book rests on the twin themes of the economist's desire to be a scientist - seeking regularities and patterns in economic behaviour - and his desire to answer the need of central government for reliable advice on the workings of the economic system - advice which is often highly specific in time and place. The author discusses the development of the discipline with reference to the ways in which the broader context of moral, scientific and political ideas and events have influenced successive economists' vision of the operations of the changing economic system and their views of the scope for purposive state action to shape the process of change. The views of some of the thinkers in the field are summarized with short outlines of methodological problems.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 215 pages
  • 129 x 196 x 16mm | 166g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford Paperbacks
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • references, further reading, index
  • 0192891693
  • 9780192891693

Review Text

An engaging intellectual history of the "dismal science" of economics. Although Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas touched on some economic issues such as determining a "just price" and usury, comprehensive thinking about the material basis of societies really began in the 17th century, when the flowering of capitalism and the rise of centralized nation-states created the need for commercial and income statistics by national governments. Deane notes: "The search for systematic regularities in economic behaviour that motivates the scientific activity called political economy - now commonly referred to as economics - originated in response to the information needs of central government policy-makers." Economic questions engaged the attention of some great philosophers, e.g., John Locke, who wrestled with the question of usury and concluded that state attempts to set interest rates were self-defeating. Deane discusses extensively the pivotal role that Adam Smith's An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations played in the history of economics, and also details the contributions made by Rev. Thomas Malthus, stockbroker David Ricardo, the philosopher John Stuart Mill. She shows how Marx combined his distinctive brand of Hegelian dialectics with Ricardo's labor theory of value to create his theory of class warfare. Even as the first volume of Das Kapital was coming off the presses, its intellectual underpinnings, especially the labor theory of value, were being decisively undermined by what has since been called the "marginal revolution." Deane also provides a clear, brief exposition of the contemporary debates over the work of John Maynard Keynes and the U. of Chicago's monetarists. In particular, she acknowledges that Keynesian economics simply failed to predict and cannot offer any policy prescriptions for handling the "stagflation" that became endemic during the 1970's. In the end, Deane mars an otherwise evenhanded history of economics by unfairly dismissing "supply-side economics" as being merely "do-it-yourself-economics." Thorough, cogent, of value to any intelligent reader interested in the intellectual history of economics. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Table of contents

Prelude to the origins of political economy; political economy in the shadow of the scientific revolution; the search for scientific principles; the system-builders; the dismal scientists; the search for a scientific consensus; from political economy to economic science; economic science in an unstable world economy; the rise and fall of economic management.show more

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