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Debunking Economics: The Naked Emperor of the Social Sciences [Paperback]

Steve Keen
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 July 2001
What is the score card for economics at the start of the new millennium? While there are many different schools of economic thought, it is the neo-classical school, with its alleged understanding and simplistic advocacy of the market, that has become equated in the public mind with economics. This book shows that virtually every aspect of conventional neo-classical economics' thinking is intellectually unsound. Steve Keen draws on an impressive array of advanced critical thinking. He constitutes a profound critique of the principle concepts, theories, and methodologies of the mainstream discipline. Keen raises grave doubts about economics' pretensions to established scientific status and its reliability as a guide to understanding the real world of economic life and its policy-making.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Zed Books Ltd (1 July 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1856499928
  • ISBN-13: 978-1856499927
  • Product Dimensions: 22.8 x 15.5 x 1.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 664,439 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

"'Debunking Economics... will transform the way economics is taught and thought.' - Jan Otto Andersson, Professor of Economics, Abo Akademi University, Finland"

About the Author

Dr STEVE KEEN is an economist at the University of Western Sydney, Australia. He has written widely on economics and finance in academic journals and for the Australian media. His most recent edited publication is Commerce, Complexity and Evolution (Cambridge University Press, 2000).

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
For people, like me, who had almost given up entirely on the academic field of Economics when I first started reading on the topic because of ridiculous theories and poor teaching, there is fortunately still Steve Keen. In this book, the Australian Keen shows the errors of the standard views of neoclassical (orthodox) economics.

Not just some side aspects of the theory, but the actual core views of economics as it is taught in universities everywhere unravels before your eyes. Keen masterfully applies both economic models and historical analysis to show that orthodox economists not only do not know what theories exist in their own field, but they also have no inkling of the history of economics and what this means for their approach. This, combined with a possibly even poorer understanding of the philosophy of science (Keen uses Milton Friedman as the main example, but more could have been named), leads to a series of ridiculous assumptions and even more ridiculous results. That the economists consistently ignore the way industrial managers and market analysts etc. do NOT apply their pet theories is just the icing on the cake.

The book is heavy reading for those with no knowledge of economics or maths, but certainly not impossible. A basic understanding of economics and mathematics as taught at high school level (at least in The Netherlands) goes a long way, and Keen fortunately writes well and attempts to avoid long mathematical proofs as much as possible.

The only downside to the book is that his treatment of alternative theories, especially the quite closely linked Austrian school of economics, is very short and vague, and his criticism of Marxist economics is incompetent and useless, done from a Sraffian perspective. This leads to the impression that Keen knows what's wrong with neoclassics, but not what is to be done instead. Therefore, start by reading this book, but don't end there.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Many years ago while I was studying economics, our tutor group was set an exercise framed as, "given that a firm's cumulative cost/output curve is S-shaped, show that it's average cost vurve is U-shaped". As a mathematics major I chafed at the lack of rigour in the terms "S-shaped" and "U-shaped" and set out to demonstrate that what I was asked to show was not true.

A polite request to my applied maths tutor elicited an old handbook of mathematical functions written in Polish. The Polish was no problem, since I could find what I wanted from the mathematical notation alone. Soon I found a curve based on two exponential functions, each with a parameter. By tweaking the parameters I could generate different S-shaped curves, two of which were of interest. Taking each as a cumulative cost curve, it was easy to show that one led to an average-cost curve that was downward-sloping over most of its domain while the other was upward-sloping over the same domain. Moreover, variation of the parameters enabled me to make the domains of positive or negative average cost curve slope as long as I wished. My conclusion was that what I was asked to prove could easily be false in many practical cases. This attracted the wrath of my economics tutor who duly berated me for being too cocky - and shortly after that I dropped economics as a subject.

Steve Keen's book tells me, after many years, that my scientific instincts about mainstream economics were very well founded. "Debunking Economics" is probably best read in conjunction with a single-volume standard economics textbook. (While I was reading it I referred to "Economics" 3ed by Begg Fisher and Dornbusch.) What Keen shows is that the assumptions unerlying the models used by neoclassical (i.e.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars pity sraffa is out of print 14 Feb 2002
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
interesting review, VERY readable, the guy is a very good writer, i am not an economist so i can't really be dogmatic, but i liked it and believe it would complement well paul ormerods two books (death of economics and butterfly economics)
it also left me wanting to read this guy pierro sraffa in the original, but sadly he seems to be out of print
well worth aread anyhow
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Impossibly heavy going for a "lay person" 5 Oct 2010
Format:Paperback
I bought this book on the understanding that it was written for a "educated lay person"... Educated in what? The Preface was interesting and insightful, but after that I was totally lost. I remember buying a book on economics at the age of 20, but found the subject incomprehensible. Thirty years on, and I still understand nothing of it. This book was disappointment.

If you have some understanding of neoclassical economics, then there MIGHT be SOMETHING (?) in the book for you, otherwise leave well alone (or borrow a copy). Written in 2001, before the current economic breakdown, all I can say is: I'm hardly surprised that current day economists are getting things so horribly wrong. One thing I can understand, and agree with, is Keen's statement that they all deserve the sack.

Keen's style of writing is not for me. Even basic concepts meant little to me. The book is stuffed full of jargon and poorly explained graphs. I guess the subject should stay as academic mumbo-jumbo sudo-science. An introduction to neoclassical economics is clearly an impossible task, "the proof of the pudding is in the eating" and I got a severe dose of indigestion!
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