Unhistorical economics?

It’s a university day for me and I was chatting over tea with my economic historian colleague Chris Godden about the new interest in economic history, as people try to understand the turbulent post-crash, perma-crisis times we seem to live in. We got to wondering, though, why there was less interest – including or especially among economists – in the history of economic thought. One might have expected reflection on what had gone wrong with economics, crisis-wise, to lead people to ask some questions about how we got here.

We got on to what books eager undergraduates should be pointed to. Reading the originals is sometimes heavy going – I wouldn’t point anyone to [amazon_link id=”0486434613″ target=”_blank” ]Ricardo[/amazon_link], for example. There are some excellent books around. Robert Heilbroner’s [amazon_link id=”0140290060″ target=”_blank” ]The Worldly Philosophers[/amazon_link] is still the best introduction, I think. An older book is Eric Roll’s [amazon_link id=”0571165532″ target=”_blank” ]A History of Economic Thought [/amazon_link](1st pub. 1956), which is better at rooting the individuals in the context of the intellectual currents of their time. More recent is Sylvia Nasar’s [amazon_link id=”1841154563″ target=”_blank” ]Grand Pursuit,[/amazon_link] a very accessible read. There’s also the more scholarly (and very good) [amazon_link id=”0691148422″ target=”_blank” ]Economics Evolving[/amazon_link] by Agnar Saandmo. There are also plenty of books about Keynes, notably Robert Skidelsky’s [amazon_link id=”0141043601″ target=”_blank” ]Return of the master[/amazon_link], and other individuals – there’s Thomas McCraw’s[amazon_link id=”0674034813″ target=”_blank” ] Prophet of Innovation[/amazon_link] on Schumpeter, Nicholas Wapshott’s [amazon_link id=”B005LW5K6G” target=”_blank” ]Keynes – Hayek[/amazon_link]. And more.

[amazon_image id=”068486214X” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times, and Ideas of the Great Economic Thinkers[/amazon_image]   [amazon_image id=”0571165532″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The History of Economic Thought: Fifth Edition[/amazon_image]   [amazon_image id=”1841154563″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Grand Pursuit: The Story of the People Who Made Modern Economics[/amazon_image]  [amazon_image id=”B00DT696Q6″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Economics Evolving: A History of Economic Thought 1st (first) Edition by Sandmo, Agnar [2010][/amazon_image]   [amazon_image id=”B002RI99FU” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Keynes: The Return of the Master[/amazon_image]   [amazon_image id=”B00MMQTSQC” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ][(Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction)] [ By (author) Thomas K. McCraw ] [November, 2009][/amazon_image]   [amazon_image id=”B00GSCVZX0″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Keynes Hayek: The Clash That Defined Modern Economics by Wapshott. Nicholas ( 2012 ) Paperback[/amazon_image]   [amazon_image id=”0486434613″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Principles of Political Economy[/amazon_image]

But the striking thing about all this is how long ago the history of economic thought ends. So my question is which economists since the 1930s would have to feature in an update of any of the above books? Some names are obvious – Samuelson, Friedman, Becker. Are there others? Who post-1970s who has clearly influenced the direction of economic thinking?

6 thoughts on “Unhistorical economics?

  1. Some obvious ones to throw into the pot post 1970 would be Lucas, Kydland, Prescott, Taylor, Gali, Woodford, Piketty, Fama, Mirrlees, Thaler, Kahnemann. Earlier, but since the 1930s earlier, Nash would tower over most. Honorary mention for Baumol.

  2. Pingback: Unhistorical economics? | Homines Economici

  3. Hurwicz, Arrow, Arrow, Arrow (ha ha), McKenzie, Debreu, Myerson, Maskin, Amartya Sen. Did I mention Arrow? Also, Roth, Sonmez, Abdulkadiroglu for apparently abstract research that actually saved live (see kidney exchanges for example). Also, Rabin, Fehr, Colin Camerer for the awfully misnamed Behavioral Economics (that ought to be psychology and economics).

  4. Pingback: The Worldly Philosophers 2.0 | The Enlightened Economist

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  6. Pingback: History of Postwar Economics: suggested readings (in progress) | The Undercover Historian

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